Posts Tagged ‘tunnel’

Photo: Adrian Dennis/AFP/Getty.
As construction for a tunnel under Stonehenge begins, archaeological surprises are turning up.

Do you ever wonder about the layers of civilization buried deep beneath your feet? John Hanson Mitchell wondered about my region’s layers back in a 1980s book, here. He got himself into a kind of trancelike state in which he believed he could sense the presence of indigenous tribes living their lives beside what is now Interstate 495.

More recently, as Steven Morris reports at the Guardian, “Bronze age graves, neolithic pottery and the vestiges of a mysterious C-shaped enclosure that might have been a prehistoric industrial area are [being] unearthed by archaeologists who have carried out preliminary work on the site of the proposed new road tunnel at Stonehenge.

“One of the most intriguing discoveries is a unique shale object that could have been part of a staff or club found in a 4,000-year-old grave. Nearby is the resting spot of a baby buried with a small, plain beaker. Ditches that flank the C-shaped enclosure contain burnt flint, suggesting a process such as metal or leatherworking was carried out there thousands of years ago.

“Just south of the site of the Stonehenge visitor centre, archaeologists came upon neolithic grooved ware pottery possibly left there by the people who built the stone circle or visited it.

“ ‘We’ve found a lot – evidence about the people who lived in this landscape over millennia, traces of people’s everyday lives and deaths, intimate things,’ said Matt Leivers, A303 Stonehenge consultant archaeologist at Wessex Archaeology. …

“The plan to drop the A303, which passes close to the stones, into a two-mile tunnel is hugely controversial, with many experts having said that carrying out such intrusive construction work would cause disastrous harm to one of the world’s most precious ancient landscapes and lead to the loss of hundreds of thousands of artefacts. A legal challenge was launched against the £1.7bn plan late last year.

“Highways England and Wessex Archaeology, which is leading the exploration of the tunnel corridor, said they were working on the project systematically and sensitively. …

“Close to the western end, two burials of Beaker people, who arrived in Britain in about 2,500BC, were found. One was an adult, buried in a crouched position with a pot or beaker. Also in the grave was a copper awl or fragment of a pin or needle and a small shale cylindrical object, of a type that is not believed to have been found before.

“ ‘It is an oddity,’ said Leivers. More detailed work will be carried out to find out what it is, but one theory is that it could be the tip of a ceremonial wooden staff or mace. Also found in the same area was a pit dating to the age of the Beaker people containing the tiny ear bones of a child and a very simple pot – a sign that this too was a grave. Usually Beaker pots are ornate but this one is plain, probably to reflect the age of the person who died.

“A little farther south, the C-shaped enclosure was found. ‘It is a strange pattern of ditches,’ said Leivers. ‘It’s difficult to say what it was, but we know how old it is because we found a near-complete bronze age pot in one of the ditches.’ …

“Another find was a group of objects dating to the late neolithic period – when the stone circle was built – including grooved ware pottery, a flint and red deer antlers. …

“Highways England said the amount of survey work that had been carried out was unprecedented because of the significance of the site. David Bullock, A303 project manager for Highways England, said: ‘There has been a huge amount of investigations so that this route can be threaded through so as to disturb as little as possible.’ ”

What mysteries will your everyday items pose for archaeologists of the future? What will more advanced people with no need for mouth guards or braces, say, make of gizmos like that?

More at the Guardian, here.

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Who knew the Swiss were so jolly? The headline said they celebrated the opening of the world’s longest, deepest tunnel with alphorns and modern dance. I pictured Thorin Oakenshield joining a conga line.

Here’s what Camila Domonoske had to say at Rhode Island Public Radio/NPR.

“Swiss engineer Carl Eduard Gruner first imagined it in 1947: a massive tunnel, unprecedented in length, buried a mile and a half under Switzerland’s symbolic Gotthard mountain range.

“Nearly seven decades later, after redesigns, political disagreements and the long, slow work of drilling beneath the Gotthard massif, as it’s called, Gruner’s dream is complete.”

We pause here to remember John as Grumpy in Snow White singing, “We dig dig dig dig dig dig dig in our mine the whole day through …”

Back to Domonoske: “The Gotthard Base Tunnel — a record-setting 35.4 miles long, and farther below ground than any other tunnel — was inaugurated [June 1]. The occasion was marked with a celebration that promoted ‘Swiss values such as innovation, precision and reliability,’ as the tunnel’s website puts it.

“The $12 billion project was completed on time, The Associated Press notes.

“The most eye-catching part of Wednesday’s ceremony was an extended modern dance sequence — featuring stony-faced dancers dressed in orange construction gear and boots, dancing on and around a flatcar.

“Another sequence featured dancers in white briefs and one figure with wings and an oversize head, while yet another sequence had people covered in suits resembling a cross between a pompom and a hay bale. …

“The inauguration of the tunnel also featured alphorns, an interfaith blessing of the tunnel and a tunnel theme song. Leaders from across the EU — including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, according to the AP — were in attendance.” More here.

So, I’m looking at this picture and realizing the Swiss aren’t so jolly after all. But then again, Thorin Oakenshield was about as jolly as Grumpy. But I’m sure they would both have liked the deepest. longest tunnel.

Photo: Peter Klaunzer/AFP/Getty Images

Artists perform in Erstfeld, Switzerland, at the opening of the Gotthard rail tunnel. The show was directed by German director Volker Hesse.

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When I first read about the discovery of a snug getaway in a Toronto tunnel, I thought, of course, of Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man. You remember the black man who finally gave up hope of being treated like a regular human and, realizing he was already invisible to most people, established a hidden pied sous terre, lavishly draining off electric power to light his home underground.

The Toronto story turned out a bit different.

The NY Times had the first episode. “It was a baffling discovery,” Ian Austen wrote, “a hand-dug tunnel just over 33 feet long, tall enough for an adult to stand inside, fed with electricity, drained by a water pump and expertly reinforced with lumber and plywood. It started in dense woods near a tennis stadium — and it did not lead anywhere.

“After more than a month of investigation by the Toronto police, the identities and motives of whoever built the tunnel remain as mysterious as they were the day it was found. So … the police turned to the public for help. …

“The news of the tunnel prompted swift speculation on cable television that it might be part of a plan for a terrorist attack on the Pan American Games, which will be held in Canada this summer. The stadium, located on the York University campus, is scheduled to host tennis for the games. But [Deputy Chief Mark] Saunders said repeatedly … that there was no evidence to support that theory or to indicate that the tunnel was intended for anything illicit at all.

“ ‘There’s no criminal offense for digging a hole,’ he said. …

“Chief Saunders said that the tunnel was equipped with ‘a moisture-resistant lighting system’ and that, despite the bitter January weather, ‘it was very comfortable inside,’ with a temperature between 70 and 75 degrees. A 12-foot aluminum step ladder gave access to the tunnel, and a small pit near the entrance held a Honda generator and an air compressor. The pit was lined with thick foam, apparently meant to muffle the sound of the machinery.” More.

A US News & World Report follow-up story is here. Can you guess? It was nothing nefarious — just a comfy man cave that a couple buddies built to get away from it all.

Photo: USNews.com
Toronto’s Deputy Police Chief Mark Saunders explains evidence photos as he speaks to the media about solving the tunnel mystery.


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Hurricane Sandy was terrible for many communities in its path, and the devastation has given urgency to climate concerns and innovative solutions.

Henry Fountain writes about one such solution in the NY Times, “With a few dull thuds, the one-ton bag of high-strength fabric tumbled from the wall of the mock subway tunnel and onto the floor. Then it began to grow. As air flowed into it through a hose, the bundle inflated until it was crammed tight inside the 16-foot-diameter tunnel, looking like the filling in a giant concrete-and-steel cannoli.

“The three-minute procedure, conducted on a chilly morning this month in an airport hangar not far from West Virginia University, was the latest test of a device that may someday help guard real tunnels during disasters — whether a terrorist strike or a storm like Hurricane Sandy, whose wind-driven surge of water overwhelmed New York City’s subway system, shutting it down for days.

“ ‘The goal is to provide flooding protection for transportation tunnels,’ said John Fortune, who is managing the project for the federal Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate.

“The idea is a simple one: rather than retrofitting tunnels with metal floodgates or other expensive structures, the project aims to use a relatively cheap inflatable plug to hold back floodwaters.

“In theory, it would be like blowing up a balloon inside a tube. But in practice, developing a plug that is strong, durable, quick to install and foolproof to deploy is a difficult engineering task, one made even more challenging because of the pliable, relatively lightweight materials required.”


Photograph: NY Times

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