Our Grand Project 28th April 2018

Our grand project…

The Brooklyn Bridge, the spectacular engineering project that people at the time though impossible, opened to great fanfare in May 1883. The names of John A. Roebling, Washington Roebling, and Emily Warren Roebling are inscribed on the structure as its builders. It was initially designed by German-born John Augustus Roebling in Trenton, New Jersey. Roebling had earlier designed and constructed other suspension bridges, such as Roebling's Delaware Aqueduct in Lackawaxen, PA, and the John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge in Cincinnati, OH, that served as the engineering prototypes for the final design.

During surveying for the East River Bridge project, Roebling's foot was badly injured by a ferry, pinning it against a piling. This badly crushed his toes, causing those toes to be amputated, leaving him incapacitated; he died shortly afterward of a tetanus infection caused by his injury and leaving his son, Washington Roebling, in charge of the bridge.

Construction began on January 3, 1870, under the supervision of the younger Roebling. Not long after taking charge of the bridge, Washington Roebling suffered a paralyzing injury as well, the result of decompression sickness. This condition plagued many of the underwater workers, in different capacities, as the condition was relatively unknown at the time and in fact was first called "caisson disease" by the project physician Dr. Andrew Smith. The occurrence of the disease in the caisson workers caused him to halt construction of the Manhattan side of the tower 30 feet (10 m) short of bedrock when soil tests underneath the caisson found bedrock to be even deeper than expected. Today, the Manhattan tower rests only on sand.

Roebling's wife Emily Warren Roebling stepped in and provided the critical written link between her husband and the engineers on-site. Under her husband's guidance, Emily had studied higher mathematics, the calculations of catenary curves, the strengths of materials, bridge specifications, and the intricacies of cable construction. The couple developed a code through which, by tapping on his wife’s arm, Washington was able to communicated his instructions for the bridge’s ongoing construction. She spent the next 11 years assisting Washington Roebling helping to supervise the bridge's construction.

The Brooklyn Bridge was completed thirteen years after work first began and was opened for use on May 24, 1883. Roebling was unable to attend the ceremony (and in fact rarely visited the site again), but held a celebratory banquet at his house on the day of the bridge opening. Further festivity included the performance of a band, gunfire from ships, and a fireworks display. On that first day, a total of 1,800 vehicles and 150,300 people crossed what was then the only land passage between Manhattan and Brooklyn. Emily Warren Roebling was the first to cross the bridge. The bridge's main span over the East River is 1,595 feet 6 inches (486.3 m). The bridge cost $15.5 million to build and approximately 27 people died during its construction.

At the time it opened, it was the longest suspension bridge in the world—50% longer than any previously built—and it has become a treasured landmark. For several years the towers were the tallest structures in the Western Hemisphere and the bridge was commonly referred to as “The 8th  Wonder of the World.”

I know that a number of you are concerned by recent events at school, especially in relation to our staffing. I look forward to hearing your views represented by your CPR’s at the meeting next Thursday. However, I would encourage us all to keep our eyes on the big picture. Our project to build the best international school in the east Africa region has had its challenges it is true. I know there are choppy waters below us and unforeseen challenges have presented themselves. However, we continue undaunted. As I write to you our Volleyball teams are carrying all before them in the Sports Hall. We continue to have healthy interest from potential new families and student numbers are rising. Yesterday our DP2 students commenced their IB examinations – they admitted to being nervous of course, but did they feel well-prepared for the papers they sat?  Most certainly! I am making good progress on the work of employing new teachers for next year who I believe will add great value to our school.  In the meantime, through the remarkable resilience and commitment of our teachers, we continue to deliver a world-class education to your children……if you don’t believe me- ask them!