So, I was on vacation last week, and one of the things I saw on my trip was the Hoover Dam. I was awed by the scale of the thing, and how much went into planning and creating it – and how much of Nevada, Arizona, and California can exist at all because of the clean water and hydroelectric power generated there. When you’re looking straight down over a sheer wall of more than 700 feet of concrete, humility comes more easily. Now, I’m not an architect or engineer (several of the friends I was traveling with are), so I’m sure I didn’t appreciate it thoroughly, but it was amazing to think of this massive project being done with the technology available in the thirties. In fact, several techniques for dam construction were pioneered with the Hoover Dam.
I learned a lot there. For instance, there is a persistent rumor that some of the people who died constructing the dam (and a lot of people did die) are buried in the concrete that composes it. A lot of people believe this unquestioningly. When the guides asked my tour group if anyone’s body was buried in the concrete, and if so, how many, there were numerous answers.
The guides showed how the concrete was poured a few inches at a time (you can still see the grain of the wood that the molds left) and chilled with internal water pipes to speed up the slow curing time (concrete naturally heats up as it cures). It would be physically impossible for a human being to accidentally be buried in the concrete. There was never enough that was wet at any one time to cover a whole person.
This reminded me how easily we believe rumors, without bothering to check the facts for ourselves. Hopefully we’re training more thoughtful, diligent researchers here at IU East. It pays to check your sources! The Hoover Dam illustrated this for me vividly.
You can learn more about the Hoover Dam on the U.S. Department of Reclamation website: http://www.usbr.gov/lc/hooverdam/faqs/damfaqs.html