Hoover Dam

The first stop on our week-long trip was Hoover Dam.

Hoover Dam VI

To say it’s awe-inspiring is an understatement. Things of that scale are almost frightening, both its size and its implications.

Hoover Dam III The enormity of the structure is almost as breathtaking as that of the Grand Canyon. Approaching it, you know it’s going to be big, but once you see it, you think, “I didn’t think it would be quite that big.” And it’s not just the dam that’s huge — everything connected to it is enormous: Lake Mead is the largest man-made lake in America; the overflow tunnels, with a diameter of 50 feet, are big enough to drive a truck through.

Hoover Dam VIIIBut it’s the implications that are frightening. Built from 1931 to 1935, Hoover Dam was completed two years ahead of schedule and under budget! Six companies, from Idaho, Oregon, Utah, and California, pooled their resources to create a structure so complicated that procedures and tools had to be invented to complete it.

Hoover Dam XIIIFor instance, the heat created by the chemical reactions of concrete drying would have stretched the process of the concrete setting and drying to 125 years. To combat this, engineers designed a system whereby tubes were run through the concrete and cool water pumped throughout the whole structure. But a refrigeration unit that had such a cooling capacity? It didn’t exist. Yet.

So here’s all this innovation and creation and genius going into one of the most complicated structures in history at a time when a significant part of our population was treated like animals and a psychopath in Europe was laying plans to slaughter six million people because of their religious/ethnic heritage.

Hoover Dam VIIHumans can’t be manipulated as easily as concrete, I suppose. Well, I take that back. Humans can be manipulated just as easily as anything else, but most of the time, it’s manipulation towards evil.

More implications: Can anyone imagine an enormous project like Boston’s “The Big Dig” project going under budget and well within the projected time frame? Can anyone imagine Haliburton delivering its services on budget, let alone under?

Still, all these thoughts passed quickly through my mind: we spent most of the time in gaping-mouth awe.

3 thoughts on “Hoover Dam

  1. When you look at the possible accomplishments of mankind by cooperation with each other – Hoover Dam, the Chunnel, the pyramids and World Trade center – you can only wonder about the obvious stupidity of competition – of politics, of societies, of religions, of nationalities, of races, of creeds, of…you name it.

  2. This, like much of our large infrastructure, was built back when we thought government could improve people’s lives. FDR’s dedication speech is interesting in this regard.

    Projects like The Big Dig get out of hand because our obsession with financial prudence combined with an almost religious belief that for-profit industries work better than federal employees have created a contracting system where fraud and waste and incompetence are the norm. We lost faith in the government’s ability to do anything right, so we don’t demand that the government does. When something like the Big Dig happens, most of us just shrug our shoulders and say “government spending, what can you do?”

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