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upon them; and so on, pile after pile, beam after beam, to the full extent of the work, and 150 feet in width. Rails are laid on the beams, and while the stage advances, locomotives follow with wagons over the finished portion, and, dropping the stone, build up the Breakwater and strengthen the foundation of the stage at the same time. When the ridge of stone is in place, the piles are sawn off even with its surface, as it would not then be possible to withdraw them.
Being a public work, the Breakwater is of course open to the public within certain limits; but having a letter of introduction to Mr. Coode, I was permitted to see every part of the works under the guidance of his chief boatman. We walked down one of the floored divisions of the stage, while laden and empty trains were continually passing and repassing on either side of us, making the massive framework quiver again. This first arm of the Breakwater is above water for nearly its whole length; the lumps of stone of all sizes lying as they fell. Some of them are already fringed with weeds, or covered with that green coat which shows the beginning of marine vegetation. Even thus incomplete, the protection afforded is such that vessels can now ride out a gale where formerly they would have been driven from their anchors; and the Admiralty recognise its value in having ordered a "set of first-class moorings" to be laid down inside. During the heavy gale of January, 1854, the Magdalena steamer put in, landed her mail and coaled, followed
by the Bosphorus from the Cape a few hours later, which neither could have done had there been no Breakwater.
Beyond the limit assigned to general visitors, the flooring ended, and, pointing to the unprotected beam, my conductor asked, "Are you nervous? there's the circular head;" some sixty yards farther. I followed along the narrow timber, though not without apprehension, the height being thirty feet above the sea, and presently stood looking down on the great white circle of masonry, that had a strange, unearthly gleam, seen through the green water. The appearance single block of the outer course a few inches above the surface, was hailed as an encouraging sign of progress, and had been made the occasion of a feast for the workmen a few days previously. The divers were busy with their labours, too deep down to be visible, supplied with air from the pumps, kept incessantly going in the boats moored above the spot. Not once did the men pause in their task, notwithstanding the uneasy rocking which jerked the boats about like walnut-shells; and he who held the line fastened to the diver's arm, failed not to give it the half-minute tug, which signified-Is all well? A few months ago the air-pipe burst, and though the diver gave an immediate signal to be hauled up, he was recovered with difficulty. Another, not answering the tug, was found to be dead: he had, as was supposed, stooped too far forward while intent on his work, and the water running in under the joint
And these divers
of his helmet had drowned him. work for two-and-sixpence a tide! The water here is seven fathoms deep; yet the bed of rubble laid as a foundation for the circular head, 200 feet in diameter, was levelled with such accuracy, that when the first course of stones came to be placed, the difference was not more than two inches.
We were standing 1800 feet from the shore, and a long distance it looked, with nothing but a timber-work to trust to, which you could not help fancying must become weaker the farther it stretched from the land. But the total length will be four times as much, and towards this the stage is already far advanced, curving round to the north from the straight line, which for the first 2000 feet it keeps to the east.* There seemed something presumptuous in carrying such a structure more than a mile into the sea; and that it can be done inspires a proud idea of the daring and spirit of modern engineering: a daring that ensures its own success.
"Now," said my conductor, after a time, "we'll go
* Since the above was written, the Report has been published of the progress of the works up to the end of March, 1855, at which date the Breakwater was extended to a distance of 3860 feet, its outer end being in a depth of 63 feet at low water. The quantity of stone dropped during the preceding twelve months was 505,000 tons, making a total of 1,743,437 tons since the commencement of the works. The first circular head was five feet above high water, and three courses of the second had been laid. Three hundred vessels had put in for shelter in the first quarter of the present year, many of them engaged in the transport service for the Crimea. All rode out the gales in safety. The total amount of money expended was 469,8007.
out and see them drop the stone." I hesitated; for to walk a quarter of a mile farther on a single beam, away from all protection, was, for one rather timid than adventurous, perhaps to risk a fall. Seeing this, the other pointed to a planked gangway on the opposite side of the stage, which I had not before seen, and retracing our steps we walked down it to the very extremity. The uninterrupted sweep of the sea through the 400 feet gap, which we first passed over, showed, by contrast with the contiguous calm, how great was the protection afforded by the Breakwater even in its unfinished state. The foundation of the second circular head was being laid, but nothing could be seen; then there was the rugged embankment again, dividing the waters for a space, and beyond it the stage still encroaching on Neptune's dominion. When we were near the end a train pushed by the locomotive came up; the speed was slackened, two men, one on each side the foremost truck, jumped off, and running along on the edge of the timber, knocked out the bolts that held the iron levers, these in turn striking against the "chocks" screwed to the beams, let go their hold, and the bottom of the truck, balanced as a seesaw, falling suddenly at one end, dropped the whole load into the water. The shock and splash are tremendous! Seven tons of stone, lumps from four or five tons' weight down to a pound, let fall from a height of thirty feet, produce an astounding effect. Sometimes a vast circular jet is thrown up twenty or thirty feet higher than the stage,
giving an uncomfortable shower-bath to all within reach; or narrow streams burst out horizontally with a furious hiss; or you hear a loud slap, followed by a hoarse rushing gulp, and a mound of discoloured water boils up for a few seconds. But before you have recovered from the first surprise, the train, all the while creeping forward, has advanced a few feet, the two men repeat the operation of striking out the bolts, and the second truck drops its load, then the third, then the fourth, and so on to the sixth, and all with the same terrific plunge. Not a moment is lost; for by long practice the "tippers" have become expert and fearless, and away speeds the panting locomotive, soon to reappear with another laden train. But immediately the whiz and rush are behind you, and, looking round, you see a similar train on the outer line of rails on the opposite side of the stage, the mighty splashes follow, and before the water has cleared comes a third train down one of the inner lines, and discharges its load in the same unceremonious way. So it goes on all day along the five lines of rails, first one, then the other; and every day 2500 tons of stone are thus flung into the engulfing waters. A truly rapid process! What would the builders of the Plymouth Breakwater, who spent forty years over their work, say to it?
The trucks are made of iron, and carry from six to seven tons. Sometimes it happens that one of the six will not "tip," and the men have to bring their crowbars into play to induce the fall, and not always