June 27, 2014

Horse 1704 - Burying Boring Things

Approval was given several months ago for an tower with sixteen apartments in it, on Military Road in Mosman and work started with a great big hole being dug for the carparks and elevator services.
Somewhere at the bottom of the hole is a bobcat of some sort and I was speaking to a workman who looked like a foreman or something, about what would happen to the bobcat. He said that a deeper hole would be dug at the bottom of the building site, that the bobcat would be pushed into the hole and then backfilled.
Quite frankly I find the idea that you'd take a perfectly useful bobcat and merely bury it to be grossly wasteful but I suppose that as this is purely a commercial decision, that it must somehow be cheaper to do that than to retrieve it and reuse it. The entire cost of the bobcat must somehow be written into the construction budget and be as easily written off as say the cost of concrete or steel reinforcement rods which go into the construction of the building.

I had heard of this sort of thing before though. I remember reading that the tunnel boring machines for the new  North West Rail Link which is being driven into the ground at Bella Vista in October later this year, will go along its merry way; in principles of tunnel boring which remain virtually unchanged since Isambard Kingdom Brunel used a shield method to excavate the Thames Tunnel, and later improved on by James Henry Greathead for the  City & South London Railway in 1884.
The boring machines will travel along quite slowly in front of a shield whilst the tunnel walls are being built behind it. This means of course that the width of the hole which is being bored through the ground, must by definition become smaller as the walls of the tunnel are built; so the boring machine, can not be reversed.
Since the machine can not be reversed, when it gets to the end of its job, it does a sharp turn and bores a hole big enough to bury itself underground and is simply just left there.

What I find both mind-blowingly bonkers and interesting to ponder, is that for every major city in the world, there must be thousands of bobcats, power shovels and other hardware which is left as discarded rubbish underground. All of that stuff is kind of like the industrial equivalent of detritus, left behind by the rotting carcasses of animals.
This concept of leaving building equipment behind, even found its way into children's literature. The picture book Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton and published in 1939, has Mike Mulligan's steam shovel Mary Anne, left behind at the bottom of the cellar pit that they dug for the new town hall. Rather than dig out a ramp,  Mary Anne is converted into the boiler for the town hall's central heating system.

I suppose that archaeologists in the year 4014 will probably get really excited when they find all of our rubbish and discards as they write their history pieces on twentieth and twenty-first century commercialism but I worry about people whose job it is to provide underground services like stormwater, electric and gas conduits, or even underground railways. They'll have to know where all this sort of rubbish is buried and I seriously doubt whether these sorts of records are being kept.
I wouldn't for instance like to be part of a tunnel excavation team for the brand new Abbott Line with its proposed nine car underground trains running every 7 minutes and have a 200 year old bobcat suddenly break through the ceiling.

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