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  #1  
Old 03-09-2004, 09:57 AM
Casey1505 Casey1505 is offline
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Buried alive during bridge construction

Are there instances of people being buried alive during bridge construction? Specifically, buried during the concrete pouring, and just left there.
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  #2  
Old 03-09-2004, 10:16 AM
Philster Philster is offline
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This myth was popularized with the Hoover Dam as the place that workers got buried in the concrete, and it is a common story about bridges and other big projects.

Essentially, if true, it might be catastrophic in terms of the integrity of the concrete. Pouring, setting and curing concrete is a science. All conditions must be handled or it is severly weakened. Even the amount you pour at once is important, and it is done with precision. If the dam was poured without regard to the science of concrete, parts would never have cured to this day.

And what do you know, Snopes covered this legend as well:

http://www.snopes.com/horrors/freakish/hoover.htm
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  #3  
Old 03-09-2004, 10:17 AM
Bear_Nenno Bear_Nenno is offline
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I think concrete with people in it would be pretty structurally unsound. If I was building a bridge, I'd want to make sure all the clumsy and dead people stayed out of the foundation.
Unless I was in the Mafia or something.
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Old 03-09-2004, 10:30 AM
Q.E.D. Q.E.D. is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Philster
If the dam was poured without regard to the science of concrete, parts would never have cured to this day.
I saw on a documentary that the concrete in Hoover Dam has not yet fully cured, and won't be for something like another 150 years. I can't find a cite online for it--all I've turned up thus far are a bunch of less-than-believable sites all quoting the same bit of (wrong) trivia about it not curing for another 500 years.
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  #5  
Old 03-09-2004, 10:45 AM
jjimm jjimm is offline
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I recall from visiting the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct many years ago that the one worker who died during construction did so by falling inside one of the hollow piers from the very top; the pier was so deep that retrieval of his body was impossible, so he was left there. Disclaimer: I can't remember where I heard this or if I read it or what.
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  #6  
Old 03-09-2004, 10:45 AM
Philster Philster is offline
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The documentary referred specifically to an 'if'...Summary: If the Hoover Dam was poured as oe big block of concrete....

1. the heat would cause crumbling and fracture
2. it would take a long time to cool (hundreds of years to cool)

Bureau of Reclamation: engineers calculated that if the dam were built in a single continuous pour, the concrete would have gotten so hot that it would have taken 125 years for the concrete to cool to ambient temperatures. The resulting stresses would have caused the dam to crack and crumble away.


Now, there might be some technical definition to 'cure', but in building and construction, 'cured' means the shit is ready. So, effectively, the concrete is cured.
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Old 03-09-2004, 10:54 AM
Philster Philster is offline
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Well, while we're at it Q.E.D., the Hoover Dam concrete had coling rods set in place to delay the curing. All that concrete and heat would weaken the concrete by curing it too fast.

So it is highly unlikely that we should conclude that any rumor you heard about the dam still curing is true.
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  #8  
Old 03-09-2004, 11:02 AM
Philster Philster is offline
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And according to an sructural engineer at an engineering forum, the damn is cured.

http://www.eng-tips.com/gviewthread..../194/qid/84336
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  #9  
Old 03-09-2004, 11:08 AM
Casey1505 Casey1505 is offline
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Far be it from me to dispute structural engineers and other experts, but it seems to me that if someone were to fall into a pillar, that the weight of the concrete would compact the body, all the fluids would absorb into the still wet concrete, and the concrete would cure normally around the corpse. And with the mimimal salaries I imagine they paid workers back in the day, that it would be far less expensive to just continue pouring, rather than suspend operations, wasting what the guy in charge would see as valuable time and money, to try and fish the guy out. These are just random thoughts, and I have no problems at all being proved wrong. In fact, I expect to be. It's interesting to see if my logic is way off base.
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  #10  
Old 03-09-2004, 12:28 PM
Philster Philster is offline
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Casey1505

So you just discount out of hand any expert advice from people who built the dam and people who build bridges and set concrete?

Concrete pouring is not an arbitrary rough job. It's requires precision! The joints would be thrown way off, especially in a precision job like a bridge/dam/etc, if people were buried in them. And that's just one problem!

So, if you are building a cinderblock wall, and someone was stuck in between the blocks, you think that would not affect the construction?

You are carelessly disregarding experts why? Because cement is liquid and seems arbitrary?

You're making a mockery of the GQ forum.
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  #11  
Old 03-09-2004, 12:51 PM
Mr. Matthew Mr. Matthew is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Philster
Well, while we're at it Q.E.D., the Hoover Dam concrete had coling rods set in place to delay the curing. All that concrete and heat would weaken the concrete by curing it too fast.

So it is highly unlikely that we should conclude that any rumor you heard about the dam still curing is true.
Maybe I've got it backwards but I thought that crystallization was an exothermic process (i.e. sodium acetate heat packs). The cooling rods would actually increase the rate at which the concrete cools down by carrying away all that waste heat. Isn't that why they frequently cover freshly poured concrete slabs with insulated pads in cold weather; to keep them from curing too fast due to the low temperature?
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  #12  
Old 03-09-2004, 12:52 PM
Q.E.D. Q.E.D. is offline
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One possible source for this myth:
Quote:
The closest any worker came to being buried was on November 8, 1933 when the wall of a form collapsed sending hundreds of tons of recently-poured concrete tumbling down the face of the dam. One worker below narrowly escaped with his life, however W.A. Jameson was not so lucky and was covered by the rain of debris. Jameson was the only man ever buried in Hoover Dam, and he was interred for just 16 hours before his body was recovered. His remains were shipped to Rock Hill, South Carolina, where a brother and sister lived.
From here..
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  #13  
Old 03-09-2004, 12:54 PM
Jake4 Jake4 is offline
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I recently saw the History Channel's 1-hour look at concrete. If they don't know what they're talking about, who does? hmm.....

Anyway, the good folks at HIST claim that during construction of the Hoover Dam, large pipes were built into the dam, through which cold water was pumped to counteract the exothermic effect of curing the concrete. They gave the figure that if the entire dam had been poured without this extra cooling, it would have/would be taken/taking 2000 yrs. to cure.

Just another data point of questionable validity.
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  #14  
Old 03-09-2004, 12:59 PM
Casey1505 Casey1505 is offline
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Philster

Call off the dogs, man. I was using the thread to compare my assumptions (obviously wrong) with facts. Isn't that what this board is for? If there's any mockery in this thread, it's comparing my cinderblock wall to the Hoover Dam or Brooklyn Bridge. Those were incredible feats of engineering on a grand scale. My cinderblock wall in the back yard is not.

My assumptions were proved wrong. OK, fine. Maybe that's why I'm sitting in an office and not out designing and building something like the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway. Philster 1, my ignorance 0.

As I alluded to before you released the hounds, I expected my reasoning to be proven wrong. I wanted to see where it was wrong. I did not consider certain things, and you were right there to ram them down my throat. As Clerks' Randall would say, "There's nothing more exhilerating than pointing out the shortcomings of others, is there?"
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  #15  
Old 03-09-2004, 12:59 PM
kellner kellner is online now
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According to a 19th century book on mythology* there was a superstition from germanic times to the middle ages that a human had to be sealed into the wall of a new castle or one of the pillars of a bridge.
I can't provide a cite for the verification of a particular case but it is presented as undisputed fact by a historian of the time (but keep in mind that this was also the time when the "right of the first night" was treated as historical fact.)
So the overall idea is very old and that could explain why this story comes up again and again.

* Paul Herrmann: Deutsche Mythologie (1st edition 1898)
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  #16  
Old 03-09-2004, 01:33 PM
gotpasswords gotpasswords is offline
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[QUOTE=Philster]And according to an sructural engineer at an engineering forum, the damn is cured.[QUOTE]

I've been deep inside Hoover Dam back when they were running the "Hard Hat" tours, and it's cool in there. So as a concrete neophyte, I'd also say it's cured.

I don't have the exact dimensions, but the dam was done as a series of thousands of individual pours, each about six feet thick. (Don't rag on me if it's really four feet or eight feet - the point is it was done as a bejillion relatively tiny "bricks" rather than one gi-freakin-normous lump.) Because the dam is so huge, they were able to lay out the pours so they'd have a chance to set up and not do anything nearby for a few days.
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  #17  
Old 03-09-2004, 01:43 PM
grayhairedmomma grayhairedmomma is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Philster
Concrete pouring is not an arbitrary rough job. It's requires precision! The joints would be thrown way off, especially in a precision job like a bridge/dam/etc, if people were buried in them. And that's just one problem!

So, if you are building a cinderblock wall, and someone was stuck in between the blocks, you think that would not affect the construction?

You are carelessly disregarding experts why? Because cement is liquid and seems arbitrary?
Philster, I'm confused as to why something (not necessarily a person) falling into a container that concrete is being poured in, would cause the joints to be off?

Pouring concrete, to me, doesn't seem to be analogous to building a cinderblock wall. The cinderblock, being non-malleable, would have to sit on top of the item and therefore higher than originally planned.

However with liquid concrete, I'm assuming the container would be a set size, and there would already be a predetermined level at which the concrete would cease being poured. The concrete wouldn't already be a solid item being placed on top of something else; it would flow around and incorporate the item into the concrete block.

Unless of course, the foreign item landed in a spot in which a joint was to be placed, I don't see how it would cause joint placement to be off.

Of course having a foreign item stuck in the concrete would lessen the amount and, maybe the integrity of the concrete, which could have structural implications.
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Old 03-09-2004, 02:23 PM
Philster Philster is offline
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The Hoover dam concrete was deliverd in buckets that just dropped the load all at once and the dam concrete was delivered very dry and set up with almost immediate. The dam was made block by block, with each block fitting nicely with the next, with the cure rate and consitency maintaining the integrity of each block. Any extra material, or any extra voids would be a huge problem(even a perceived problem). Pouring the blocks was choreographed with precision. Concrete wasn't just poured while someone scraped off the extra. A body or other object in the concrete it was believed would hurt the integrity and curing, creating a variable that would risk the fit of each block to each block. So, whether we would 'guess' that it could be tolerated, the engineers and builders would never tolerate it if it were to happen.

I lost the link, but a former tour guide explains how it would be difficult to find yourself under the concrete pour (the max height of which was 5'), how you would be in almost no risk if you fell (you'd float), and why it would never be tolerated (because the firmly believed they needed to exacting control and no variables.
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  #19  
Old 03-09-2004, 02:35 PM
Philster Philster is offline
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The lost link from the guide

http://www.usbr.gov/dataweb/dams/hoover_fatalities.htm
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  #20  
Old 03-09-2004, 03:10 PM
Rocketeer Rocketeer is offline
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When they built the spectacular steamship Great Eastern, there was a rumor that one of the rivetters got trapped between the double hull sides and died; his ghost was heard tapping on the hull.

I think there's some compulsion present in big projects to dramatize the human cost by creating a legend about someone entombed within....
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  #21  
Old 03-09-2004, 03:20 PM
vl_mungo vl_mungo is offline
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Not a bridge, but there is an urban legend about the ship The Great Eastern (Snopes seems undecided) having had workers sealed up in the hull by mistake.
Quote:
When the ship was eventually scrapped, there was a story that two bodiesóone an adult, and the other a childówere discovered walled up between the hulls. The story was that they were bashers who got trapped, and that their deaths put a curse on the ship.
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  #22  
Old 03-09-2004, 06:09 PM
GreyWanderer GreyWanderer is offline
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One thing I've wondered for a long time. How do you _start_ building a dam? How do you keep the water away while you're building?
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  #23  
Old 03-09-2004, 06:17 PM
Alto Alto is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kellner
According to a 19th century book on mythology* there was a superstition from germanic times to the middle ages that a human had to be sealed into the wall of a new castle or one of the pillars of a bridge.
I can't provide a cite for the verification of a particular case but it is presented as undisputed fact by a historian of the time (but keep in mind that this was also the time when the "right of the first night" was treated as historical fact.)
So the overall idea is very old and that could explain why this story comes up again and again.

* Paul Herrmann: Deutsche Mythologie (1st edition 1898)
In Iona and Peter Opies book of Nursery Rhymes, they mention the superstition in their discussion of "London Bridge Is Falling Down," speculating that "We'll set a man to watch all night" might refer to this. According to the Opies, a medieval bridge in England was found to have the skeleton of a child bricked up inside.
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  #24  
Old 03-09-2004, 07:01 PM
gotpasswords gotpasswords is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GreyWanderer
One thing I've wondered for a long time. How do you _start_ building a dam? How do you keep the water away while you're building?
With great difficulty approaching, if not equalling, that of the dam construction itself. The high points:

Decide where to put dam.
Dig huge tunnels through surrounding rock on both banks to re-route river.
Build cofferdams (temporary dams) upstream and downstream of dam site to keep any remaining river flow out.
Build dam.
Remove cofferdams.
Close tunnels.
Watch Lake Mead appear.
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  #25  
Old 03-09-2004, 07:05 PM
ltfire ltfire is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GreyWanderer
One thing I've wondered for a long time. How do you _start_ building a dam? How do you keep the water away while you're building?
Diversion.
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  #26  
Old 03-09-2004, 07:50 PM
BoringDad BoringDad is offline
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Looks like this one hasn't been answered yet

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr. Matthew
Maybe I've got it backwards but I thought that crystallization was an exothermic process (i.e. sodium acetate heat packs). The cooling rods would actually increase the rate at which the concrete cools down by carrying away all that waste heat. Isn't that why they frequently cover freshly poured concrete slabs with insulated pads in cold weather; to keep them from curing too fast due to the low temperature?
The curing of concrete IS an exothermic process. The chemical reaction gives off heat, the heat is the result of curing.

However... as curing is a chemical reaction, it is sped up by higher temps, just like most chemical reactions. In a huge monolithic pour, the heat generated in the center of the pour causes the center to cure faster than the outside. This differential curing will cause lots of nasty stresses in the concrete leading to the problems mentioned by others. Removing the heat slows the chemical reaction of curing. If I remember properly, for a given concrete mix, too rapid curing also makes weaker concrete because all the cement in the concrete is reacted before each individual crystal can grow very long. More but shorter crystals are weaker.

In cold weather the isulating blankets are used to retain the heat generated by the concrete, increasing the reaction rate, and allowing it to cure in a reasonable amount of time.
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