The first stop on our week-long trip was Hoover Dam.
To say it’s awe-inspiring is an understatement. Things of that scale are almost frightening, both its size and its implications.
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.
But 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.
For 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.
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.