Saturday, January 03, 2009

Have You Ever Seen the Golden Gate Bridge from Underneath?

Of course you’ve seen photos of the Golden Gate Bridge; walk across it any day of the week, in any month in the year, and you’ll see photographers clicking digital cameras or trying to steady themselves for YouTube-worthy video footage. Add those images to magazine, newspaper, movie and television coverage of the bridge’s orange towers, sweep of cables and suspender ropes, and just try not to hum “I left my heart in San Francisco”. Surely, you are acquainted with the great bridge.

Yes, you can close your eyes and still see the Golden Gate Bridge from on-high, but have you ever been under the bridge? I think the underside of the bridge is beautiful and every bit as photogenic as topside.

Moreover, the underside (call it the ‘working-side’) of the bridge seems to more readily conjure up the brave men who built the bridge between 1933 and 1937.

Come aboard an SF Bay Whale Watching trip and bring your camera because there is much to marvel at and record as you travel under the bridge on your way to the whales.

If you like rivets the size of walnuts (each riveter “endured noise, discomfort and a pitiless production quota. We riveted 8 hours a day, 350 rivets a shift.”), you’ll love all that riveted geometrically-patterned steel holding up the roadbed.

There’s never a time when I pass underneath the Golden Gate Bridge on an SF Bay Whale Watching excursion that I don’t think about what it must have been like to be up there actually building the bridge. Maybe that’s why each and every hand-set rivet seems like an introduction to the man behind the rivet gun.

Any glimpse of a whale is fantastic, but an opportunity to see whales is the icing on the SF Bay Whale Watching cake - we give you the Golden Gate Bridge too! Up close, from underneath, as you’ve never seen it before.

For photos and stories of the bridge under construction I urge you to see Spanning the Gate/The Golden Gate Bridge by Stephen Cassady. Meanwhile, I’ll let riveter George W. Albin have the last words (as reported in Mr. Cassady’s book): “You had to make sure the rivets were the right size- they changed with the plate thicknesses of the metal you were working on - and you had to make sure you were sticking it in the right hole."

"If you screwed up, it would only screw everybody up - the heater, because once you fire up a rivet you can use it only once, and the rest of us, because you would lose time and get behind. It was pitch black inside those cells (in the towers), and the ventilation was poor. You couldn’t hear a thing except the noise of the riveting guns and the echoes. And there was many a time the light in your hard hat would go out.”

I’ll thank George the next time I pass underneath his bridge...

Photos and text by Kathleen Jacques.

1 comment:

Margaret Cloud said...

I seen a special on the Golden Gate Bridge a couple years ago. They showed the bridge from top to bottom and they gave a reason for the orange paint. Your photos are very nice, the picture of the whales tail is very close to the boat, thank you for sharing.