Friday, 15 June 2012

Jane's 80th Birthday Lesson

Jane will love this title when she reads it!  No, she isn't anywhere near 80 years old.  However, on the day The Quilt was presented, I stayed to watch as she gave her ESL (English as a Second Language) lesson.   I thought it was a clever lesson in that it discussed a current event and also told her students something about herself and her homeland.

She asked if they knew what 80th 'birthday' was approaching.  Several of them knew that the 80th anniversary of the completion of the Sydney Harbour Bridge was around the corner.  Jane showed them a photo from the local newpaper.

Sydney Harbour Bridge (1932)
Then she showed a photo from the internet and asked them what it was - they all answered, 'Sydney Harbour Bridge'.  However, it was not.  It was the Tyne Bridge, located in her home town, built around the same time as the Sydney Harbour Bridge, but completed a few years earlier.  She went on to explain that Newcastle-upon-Tyne in England was where she grew up.

Tyne Bridge, Newcastle (1928)
Now I always believed that the Tyne Bridge was sort of a trial run for the much larger Sydney bridge, but it turns out that they were both designed based on the even earlier Hell Gate Bridge in New York.

Hell Gate Bridge, New York (1916)

If one starts reading about 'through arch bridges' it turns out there is an even older one in Vermont, simply called Arch Bridge.  However, while this was quite an innovation in the US at the time, the through arch is an improvement on a Roman design.  The Romans built Newcastle's first bridge, called Pons Aelius, near the site of the present Tyne Bridge in about 122.

Getting completely carried away with through arch bridges, it turns out that Sydney Harbour is not the largest either.  That distinction is currently held by the Lupu Bridge in Shanghai.

I'm pretty sure Jane didn't get quite this carried away in her lesson, but I must admit that I slipped out before I had to talk English with her students as I figured my American accent would just confuse them.

Arch Bridge, between Vermont and New Hampshire (1905)


Boywilli said...

To be pedantic, this is where the modern wrought iron through arch bridge started in 1876
I am pleased to say that it brings the credit right back to Geordie land

Jane said...

Yes I did enjoy it! And you know a great deal more than I even thought possible about that type of bridge!

Anonymous said...

Bridges always leave me dumb-struck. The engineering behind them staggers my mind. This is a very pretty bridge. Our little podunk town is known for its Iron Bridge built in the 1880s.

Anonymous said...

Is that Hells Gate Bridge still standing? I'm fascinated by bridges myself. We came across one in the Yukon that was suspended from one side only--we had crossed it and only learned about its design after...a little scary.

Shelley said...

Willi - I didn't find the Wylam Bridge in my explorations, but I'm happy to bring credit back 'home'.

Jane - I certainly didn't know this when I was there with you! This is what I love about writing, that it gives me the motivation to look up such things. Sadly, I don't remember it all.

Bliss - I agree, the engineering and design are way beyond my understanding.

Terri - Since you asked, I went back and checked. Yes, Hell Gate is still standing and in use, as a railway bridge - where Sydney's and the Tyne Bridge are used by cars and pedestrians.

Carolyn said...

How interesting! I'm fascinated by bridges too, but I find really high ones a little scary. I went to the link you provided for the Lupu bridge, which actually states that it is the 2nd largest bridge in the world, the largest is now another one in China built subsequently to the Lupu :)

BigLittleWolf said...

Not only is the metaphor of the bridge powerful (in so many aspects of human relationships), but actual bridges still remain baffling and somewhat awe-inspiring to me, as feats of engineering.