1. Macdonald Bridge
Local Xpress columnist Paul Schneidereit and photojournalist Tim Krochak have produced an explainer for the Macdonald Bridge rebuild.
I’ve never liked “The Big Lift” moniker — it doesn’t adequately describe what is being done. As I understand it, the bridge is being almost entirely rebuilt: with the exception of the two giant towers, the two big orange cables stretching across the harbour, the “cable bents” and the concrete piers on either end, every other bit of the bridge is being replaced. Although the new deck will be about a metre higher than the old deck, it’s not just a “lift.” And “redecking” implies a much smaller project than what’s being done. What’s wrong with just calling it the Macdonald Bridge rebuild?
Anyway, Schneidereit gets into many details in a degree that’s been lacking heretofore. He explains the cable crawlers, answers the question about whether the new deck sections are already eroding, and — to my read anyway — tells us the potentially alarming reason for the long delays in the initial work:
After work to replace the old bridge span had begun last fall, what happened next surprised [chief bridge engineer Jon] Eppell and his team. That’s because the Angus L. Macdonald Bridge structure reacted slightly differently than expected.
They knew the extra weight of the lifting gantry (LG) and temporary deck connections (TDCs), as well as the reinforcing for the old stiffening trusses, would pull down on the main cable above the Dartmouth side span. They also knew that would pull the main cable up slightly on the main span.
But, said Eppell, “our prediction of how much it would dip was off a bit. It dipped a little bit more, but the interesting thing was it rose up on the other end more than we had anticipated.”
That caused the deck itself to pull away from the expansion joint at the Halifax-side bridge tower.
“It wasn’t a problem until we (would have) got into the cold of winter, because with temperature (dropping) the bridge also shrinks.
“If you take into account the deck was lighter than we anticipated, and it went down more here (on the Dartmouth side) and up more over here (on the Halifax side), combined with the cold temperatures, then it became a concern.”
The worry was that if the deck pulled away from the Halifax tower more than the expansion joint was designed to handle, an uncomfortable dip — though not dangerous, says Eppell — could have been created in the roadway there.
Thanks to the extra load from all the equipment — the LG and TDC alone weigh about 90 tonnes — the Halifax tower expansion joint had opened up by about 50 millimetres, close to two inches, more than normal.
I’ll just trust Eppell on the “not dangerous” part, but evidently workers had to scurry to prepare for the worst:
A solution — additional supports under the expansion joint — was designed last fall and installed at the end of December, said Eppell.
That would explain why there were agonizing delays after the installation of the first few new bridge segments.
2. Grassy Narrows
My friend and former colleague Hilary Beaumont moved to Toronto last year to join the Vice team, and she has been producing good work ever since. Yesterday, she published a piece about the deaths of two indigenous girls from the Grassy Narrows Reserve in Ontario:
Azraya Kokopenace writhes on the grass, trying to free herself from the grip of a male police officer. The cop struggles to subdue the slight 14-year-old, grabbing her hands and holding them together as she cries out.
The man recording the incident on his phone calls out repeatedly for the cop to get a female officer. According to family members, someone called police because the girl appeared intoxicated.
The video viewed by VICE News shows the officer pin the girl down with his knee, before a female colleague appears to help him. Then another male officer moves between them and the camera. That’s when the video ends.
Three weeks after the video was recorded, Azraya’s body was found directly across the road from the hospital where police had, according to family members, checked her in two days earlier.
She had hung herself from the branches of a tree. The roof of the hospital is visible from the foot of the tree where she died.
Following the death of the teenager in mid-April, the video is now making the rounds on the Ontario reserve of Grassy Narrows.
1. Cranky letter of the day
May 9, 1992 was vivid for those who gathered at the Westray monument on Monday to mark the day when 26 miners died in a local coal mine explosion.
Nearly 30 people observed the 24th anniversary at the informal gathering, although people can express their sentiments without travelling to the monument site.
Glen Matheson, the retired minister who was among clergy assisting those affected by the explosion, has noted how people are considerate about keeping the event respectful and low-key in non-milestone years.
That was evident in remarks shared on Monday by Colleen Bell, whose brother-in-law Larry Bell was among the fatalities.
Past fatalities have made people mindful of the hazards of underground coal mining before the Westray mine opened in 1991 in Plymouth.
Fewer of those people who experienced the disaster and its aftermath on that Saturday morning in 1992 are either thinking about it today, or are no longer with us. The following for the observance rises and subsides with the calendar.
The 25th anniversary observance in 2017 will likely be a more significant event, as the 20th anniversary one was.
Much discussion about the monument site and its location has taken place over the years. It is located in a park at the junction of Park Street and Walkerville Road in New Glasgow and features lush green grass with trees and shrubs that have been maturing at the memorial site.
It is located where it is for a reason, directly above the underground workings where the explosion killed most of the miners.
Efforts to keep the place tidy have been challenging. It’s in the way for some people who live or frequent the area, but it belongs there.
Students and staff attending North Nova Education Centre that is located nearby have had the best opportunity to take solace and ownership of the site, alongside those who stop by on May 9 and other days to pay tribute to the 26 miners whose names adorn the monument.
Remembering Westray matters. Every time there is a mine disaster elsewhere, there is a connection with Westray.
Real change leading to safer mining practices remains elusive. An inquiry following the disaster found that the owner and managers were responsible for dangerous conditions at the mine, but the Crown’s attempt to prosecute any of the employers did not go well.
Legislation designed to direct blame where it belongs has been of relatively little consequence.
Until those days come, the least we can do is apply the remembrance that leads to resolve to make things right.
I haven’t had much to say about the Cornwallis issue because I find the whole thing so god damned dispiriting.
Before moving to Halifax, I lived in northern California. In the 1860s and 1870s, along the western flank of the Sierra in Tehama County, white settlers completely eradicated the local Yahi people. Because every detail was recorded in the half-dozen competing newspapers published in the Sacramento Valley towns, it is very likely the best documented instance of genocide in North American history. I would sit in the library at Chico State, pull up the microfilm for the Red Bluff News or the Chico Record, and read first-hand accounts of the posses, often led by a maniacally murderous madman from Ohio named Hi Good, who would head up into the hills in search of blood. These were not battles, but simple slaughter — 70 or 80 people killed at one village, 25 gunned down while hiding in a cave, like that. And there were dozens and dozens of such “raids.”
The men would justify the murder of children with the oft-repeated phrase “nits will become lice,” and so I spent a couple of weeks tracking that particular line down. I learned that it had originated at least 300 years before, used to justify killing indigenous children on the east coast, and that it had been carried across the continent, generation after generation for three centuries, a moving linguistic line of perversity.
When I was reading about the genocide of the Yahi, I found advertisements in the Sacramento Valley papers for scalp bounties. The ads promised $10 for the scalps of “braves,” $5 for the scalps of “squaws,” and $2 for the scalps of “papooses.” In my mind, I envisioned another horrific line moving across the continent, a 300-year advance of scalp collection. I mentioned this to an older friend, and was told that as late as the 1960s there was an American Legion hall in Quincy that displayed scalps behind the bar. I never verified that, but it didn’t strike me as implausible.
The conquering of a continent is one ugly business. Which brings me to Edward Cornwallis.
As elsewhere, in Nova Scotia the indigenous population was used as a proxy in the wars of two colonial powers jockeying for position. Whatever ill fates happened upon the English or French paled in comparison to the horrors inflicted on the locals — by 1749 the science and mechanics of genocide, having been honed for centuries, were well understood. There was nothing new about Cornwallis’s scalp bounty; it was a normal part of the conquerers’ tool box.
I went over the other day and looked at the statue of Cornwallis, and read the plaque:
After an active career in the British army, Cornwallis, the founder of Halifax, was appointed governor and captain general of Nova Scotia in 1749. Ordered in that year to establish a fortified settlement as a buffer between New England and New France and as a counterpoise to the Fortress of Louisbourg, he arrived in Chebucto Bay with a large body of settlers and proceeded to clear land and lay out the town of Halifax. He returned to England in 1752 leaving behind the beginnings of a thriving town. He later resumed his army career and in 1762 was appointed Governor of Gibraltar.
There’s so much missing from that plaque. First of all, is that all it takes to be considered a “founder” of a place? The Board of Trade may as well be called the founder. To my way of thinking, the rightful founders of the city were the men and women — many of them slaves — who actually built the place with their sweat, muscle, know-how, and determination.
But more importantly, the plaque misses the people who already lived here. We white people play these absurd word games to explain how the settler population was justified in taking the land: The indigenous people didn’t really live here, we’re told, but only “camped” here part of the year (you can use that argument to say they lived nowhere at all, so never truly existed in the first place). They didn’t make the best use of the land by cultivating it (an odd argument for a primarily seafaring people to make). They did horrible things to white people, too! (a particularly interesting morally relativistic point of view that could be used to show how the Nazis and Canadian armies were exactly the same, as each did horrible things to the other).
But here we are, and indigenous people are still living here, still part of the community, still alienated, still dispossessed. Is simply acknowledging the conquest too much to ask? Is it beyond our understanding that the man who offered the scalp bounty locally is an affront to people who might want to use the playground next to his statue? Is our self-worth so fragile that framing our historical myths is more important than looking our indigenous neighbours in the eye?
My fellow white people sure can be ugly, cruel, and, in the end, pathetic creatures.
No public meetings.
Legislature sits (9am-1pm, Province House)
No campus events today.
In the harbour
1:30am: ZIM Texas, container ship, sails from Pier 41 to sea
3am: Halifax Express, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove to sea
6am: Oceanex Connaigra, ro-ro cargo, arrives at Autoport from St. John’s
6:45am: Skogafoss, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Argentia, Newfoundland
7:20am: Dinkeldiep, cargo ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Saint-Pierre
11:30am: Skogafoss, container ship, sails from Pier 42 to sea
11:30am: Oceanex Connaigra, ro-ro cargo, moves from Autoport to Pier 41
4:30pm: Dinkeldiep, cargo ship, sails from Pier 42 for Saint-Pierre
Supposed to be nice today.