March 18, 2007

Why Go 'Round?

Now this, this is cool. Just when you thought Ontario Power Generation used all of our hydro dollars to pay salaries to CEOs that no longer work there, we discover this.

They are building a huge tunnel at Niagara Falls. The biggest boring machine in the world (no, not me) is being used for the job. It is carving a hole 10 km long, and 14 and a half metres in diametre. The billion dollars is to better access our share of water from Niagara Falls for power generation.

There's a bigger tunnel underway in Switzerland (Bill Taylor explains that, here), a 57 km railway tunnel. That project is being hailed as a wonder of the century. When I was younger, I went to Switzerland. What a glorious, wondrous, expensive place that was. I loved it. Soaring alps, fabulous churches, cobblestone roads high up in the mountains, unbelievable. And those tunnels? Totally freaked me out every time. I get a little claustrophobic. Okay, a lot. The Swiss have carved tunnels through most of the alps, and to get anywhere, you have to go through them.

The second you make the first turn and lose the daylight behind you, your heart starts pounding and you get all sweaty. Some of you may even scream, ever so quietly, to the man who ended up marrying you anyway. I used to hold my breath until we came out the other side. Some of these tunnels are long. My now-ex probably wishes they were just a little longer.

Tunnels freak me out at the same time they draw me in. The concept of the tunnel under the English Channel, the Chunnel (gee, who won that prize?), connecting England and France is even creepier, because I just imagine all that water over top. Nope, not for me.

Look at the graphics in the article. This thing has 85 teeth that weigh as much as a male gorilla, needed to eat through rock 430 million years old. I'm dying to go peak into the mouth of this thing, and stare gobsmacked at the men who go into this machine each day (there are 30 guys in 3 shifts).

These days, of course, all of the engineering is done by computer. The precision is near-unbelievable. The Swiss tunnel is being bored from both ends, and the two will meet in the middle of a 57 km run with less then 20 cm of error.

I say let the Swiss run the Olympics every time.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow. Read this to my hubby , and we're in awe. Sounds promising....though one can never truly trust OPG or our's hoping this truly does allow us to use OUR SHARE of that great water supply....and ick to the creey descriptions of the tunnels....hope those guys are paid well!

March 18, 2007 2:16 PM  

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