Saturday, May 25, 2024

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Hoover Dam  The Construction That Has Redefined The Word Great

With a capacity of 35,000 km3, a water depth of 180 meters, an area of 640 km2, a shedding capacity of 11,000 m3/s and a width of 200 meters at the base, the Hoover Dam has provided a completely different perspective on the human capacity of building something so big that the rest would look like a drop in the ocean. Although it was surpassed in height, volume and length by other dams, many belonging to the emerging economies (Tajikistan, Brazil), the American Dam was the one kept in the legend, a pioneer if you can say so.

The Hoover Dam would probably not have been built if the background situation would have been the same, but in another country. Opened in 1936, it was declared to be necessary in 1922, the floods and droughts affecting alternatively the population of Mohave, Arizona. As a result, the first plans for the largest concrete dam began to appear then. Although some technologies had not yet been tested on a large scale, it would not stop the project. But what was going to stop the great construction was the great financial crisis of 1929-1933, when the U.S. market just collapsed. Although priorities seemed to have changed completely, President Franklin Roosevelt introduced "The New Deal", the economic reform by which the state could get involved in the market but not only, in order to avoid a completely collapse. The New Deal was also meant to help create new jobs based on state projects; and what other project needed more workers than the Hoover Dam?

Immediately, thousands of workers along with their families gathered, a true mini-city being built to accommodate them. As most of them were poor, or even at the limit of despair, this place was sometimes called the Rag City. But work began, and Colorado River had to be deviated to allow activities. Over 100 people died during the construction, starting with a man who drowned while trying to find a favorable place for the dam. But the number of those who died is much higher, the number of deaths caused by pneumonia and various poisoning being still unknown. An urban legend says even that more workers were buried in concrete along with its casting, not being removed from there in order to maintain the dam. In reality, this would have affected more the structural strength, so none of the workers found his end this way. That does not mean that accidents were absent. The environment also had to suffer a lot, the induced floods destroying much of the Colorado River ecosystem, and four specific fish species are now in danger of disappearing completely.

5 years and 49 million dollars later, after changing the course of a river and a strike of the union being organized by workers, the dam was put to use. President Roosevelt, the one who occupied most this position throughout the whole American history, was the one that dedicated this dam to President Herbert Hoover. The name of this great construction changed this way from Boulder (the name of the nearest town) into Hoover.

Although criticized for the simple and boring appearance, the Hoover Dam had the best form to resist: it was curved, with the convex side (bulging) towards water, with the width exponentially decreasing from base to top. But to appease those concerned about aesthetics, the entire building adjacent to the dam was decorated with indigenous motifs, as a tribute to the Indians who lived in the area. The operating dam simply changed the life of the people that lived around it because they benefited more from the territory in which they lived. The tourists that came to Las Vegas (located at about 60 km away) had now more reasons to extend their stay.

The record of 1,000,000 tourists was reached quite a long time ago. An important road was passing right over the Hoover dam, so their number grew from day to day. An alternative road was recently created after the attacks of September 11 from 2001 shocked the entire country. The damage of the dam would be a true catastrophe, so all large cars are banned from going over the dam, and the smaller ones must undergo a rigorous control. Of course, the visit and scenery are truly spectacular, so the detail of the control that is similar to that of the customs looks pretty easy. The bridge can also be crossed by pedestrians, but not when its dark outside; the tour bookings can be simply made on the Internet. Although the Hoover Dam was much exceeded in all levels, tourists come in the same number in order to add the great building to their "portfolio" and the new technology that appeared eases their access.

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