Sunday, June 10, 2012

2012 Hatteras Archeology Dig

 It is not easy trying to locate people who disappeared 425 years ago. One of the problems is just getting there to the place it happened. Here we get a first hand report by Robert Estes of the difficulties she encountered on day one of her trip to the 2012 Hatteras Archeology Dig.  JC

And so, the adventure has begun. Every year, and every dig, has seemed to have a unique set of challenges. In almost every case, we’ve had some weather catastrophe. We’ve had 2 hurricanes, one that washed out the roads, a volcano erupted, a snowstorm, and Andy’s plane was struck by lightning. Other than that, nothing major….

After that, you think, what is left to happen? Well, I have the answer….a rockslide…really, a landslide. They called it a massive landslide. I thought at first there were rocks on the highway, but when I arrived, it was even more frightening. The entire southbound roadway was gone….entirely…..slid down the mountain. All you could see what a wonderful view of the next mountain. Frightening.

Other than my GPS getting itself entirely confused in Knoxville, I arrive in Pigeon Forge with no further excitement. But I’m surely going to drive on the inside lane, not by the guardrail, from now on.

But it seems there is more to the story. WBIR 10 News reports:

MAY 9, 2012 – TENNESSEE – TDOT has shut down all but one northbound lane of Interstate 75 between mile markers 141 and 144 in Campbell County. The earliest any southbound lanes will reopen is Thursday. The shut down comes because the embankment that collapsed beneath I-75 South on March 8 has now grown to threaten the median and northbound lanes. TDOT brought in the big gun to defend I-75 North by hiring an emergency repair contractor from Grand Junction, Colorado. “Myself and my crew got a call yesterday [Monday] and we arrived late last night,” said Nate Beard, vice president and engineer with Soil Nail Launcher, Inc. Beard’s crews will battle a beast of a mountainside with an oversized air gun originally built by the British military. “It is a big compressed air launcher that would launch nerve gas canisters up to seven miles,” said Beard. “It has been modified to launch soil nails, which is a 20 foot long, 1.5 inch diameter steel tube. We build that compressed air up to 3000 PSI, pull the trigger, and then it accelerates into the ground at 250 miles per hour.”

 In Campbell County, soil nail launcher crews are taking aim at a moving target. “The big challenge here is it is an actively moving landslide. I walked across this road at midnight and at 2:00 in the morning all of that material had fallen down to the bottom of the slope,” said Beard. “Our top priority is protecting the northbound lanes. We’ll launch around 300 soil nails. We’ll put them in a really tight spacing. It works with the soil particles to confine them and create a beam effect, which then supports the interstate. It takes a lot of those loading and driving forces off the landslide.” Beard said crews should finish nailing the northbound lanes by Wednesday morning. Then they will hammer away at the southbound lanes with even larger soil nails. “The south lanes can use nails that are 50 to 60 feet long and two inches in diameter,” said Beard. “You drive along these roads and they are perfect and they are flat, but they are on the edge of a cliff. A lot of people take that for granted, but the fact is there are frequently things like launched soil nails beneath the roads to keep them secure and stable.”

So I was driving on the unstable northbound lanes on top of a migrating, creeping landslide. I feel much better. The photo below shows the highway, down the embankment, with a few trees and such. I wonder if there are any vehicles down there that were on the road when it collapsed. Driving where there is suddenly no road is the stuff nightmares are made of!

Pigeon Forge

The first stop is Pigeon Forge, which doesn’t even resemble the Pigeon Forge in my memory. The road used to be 2 lane, to begin with, and while there were some stores, there are now outlet malls and it looks more like Florida near Disney World than Tennessee. I guess that would be the effects of Dollywood. Glad to be moving on to Cherokee, NC tomorrow and glad I didn’t try to drive it tonight.

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