London Bridge, Lake Havasu

No, it doesn’t just look like the London Bridge – this is the actual, original London Bridge, or the 1831 version of it, to be precise. Which, in the early 1900s, true to the well-known nursery rhyme, it had started ”falling down”, or in this case, sinking into the River Thames and was, once again in its long adventurous history, in need of replacement.

And when, in 1967, Common Council of the City of London member Ivan Luckin put forward the crazy idea of selling it, Havasu City’s founder, Robert P. McCulloch, Sr. saw a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and a deal was struck. The bridge was dismantled, its 10,276 exterior granite blocks were numbered for identification, shipped through the Panama Canal to California and, finally, trucked from Long Beach to Lake Havasu City, where it was reassembled over what used to be a strip of land that connected a peninsula to the mainland, which was removed to allow water from Lake Havasu to be diverted and pass under the bridge.

A project that took the term ”repurposing” up to the next level, wouldn’t you agree?

London Bridge, Lake Havasu, AZ

May 5th, 2019

We Listen to the Universe

High up in New Mexico, at an altitude of 6,969 ft (2,124 m), the Plains of San Agustin; the  centre of a basin, a dried-up bed created by a lake in the Pleistocene Epoch – a time that lasted from about 2,580,000 to 11,700 years ago.

Amid this ancient, remote landscape, the Very Large Array. 27 radio antennas in a Y-shaped configuration, one of the world’s premier astronomical radio observatories, reaching out, listening to the cosmos.

Your Humble Fabulist is still in awe.

The Rail System

The antennas are moved along the array arms by rail. Two giant transporters carry the antennas on 63 kilometres (39 miles) of double, standard gauge track. These transporters are specially designed to negotiate the 90 degree turns onto spurs at each antenna station. A fleet of special purpose rail vehicles is used for servicing and repairing antennas.

Weak radio waves from celestial sources are collected by the highly directional antennas. The waves are focused into the receiver by the main dish, subreflector and feedhorns. The receiver is cooled to -427 degrees F (18 deg. K) to reduce the internally generated noise which otherwise would mask the very weak radio signals from space. These weak signals are amplified several million times, converted to an intermediate frequency and carried to the Control Building via a buried waveguide transmission system.

These giant antennas, with 25 metre (82 ft.) diametre dishes, were specially designed for the VLA. The aluminium panels of the dish are formed into a parabolic surface accurate to 0.5 millimetre (20 thousandths of an inch). Most of the time the antenna drive system is precisely tracking a radio source across the sky. Occasionally you will see the antenna rapidly slew from one radio source to another.

Antenna Assembly Building

During the VLA construction period, from 1975 to 1980, the antennas were assembled in this building. It now is used as a service facility. The transporters bring antennas in from the array for periodic maintenance and overhaul. Typically, each antenna is brought in once every 3 to 4 years.

Very Large Array

Socorro, NM

October 10th, 2018

Moving Image || Tools of the Trade – part II

Advanced technologies may have rendered them museum pieces, but these marvels of engineering were made to last.

RCA Colour Broadcast Camera, Model TK-41C, 1954

Fearless Camera Company Panoram Dolly, c. 1940, with Houston-Fearless Cradle Head, date unknown

This camera was the first commercially produced for colour television; it was the industry standard for fifteen years. A beam-splitting prism directed the red, green and blue elements of the picture to their own three-inch-diametre image orthicon camera tubes. At 310 pounds, the weight of the camera head and viewfinder severely limited the camera’s mobility.

International Projector Corporation 35mm Simplex E-7, 1938, with RCA Photophone Soundhead, MI-9054A and Hall and Connolly Lamp, dates unknown

Western Electric Vitaphone System 35mm Universal Base Projector, 1927, with Vitaphone Soundtrack Disc for The Desert Song (1929)

The projector exhibited here was originally used at the Aldine Theatre in Philadelphia, and is one of the only surviving Vitaphone projectors that is still operational. It has both a phonograph player for soundtrack discs and an optical sound head built into the projector. The projector is set up as if it were going to screen a film using a soundtrack disc. The record player and projector as powered by the same motor, which makes it possible for the sound and image to play in synchronicity.

Nicholas Power Company 35mm Cameragraph No. 6B, with Universal Model a Soundhead, c. 1928

When talkies arrived, optical soundheads were added to existing silent film projectors, such as the Nicholas Power Company’s No. 6B. Shown here is the Model A Universal soundhead, which made licensed use of technology patented by the Jenkins and De Forest television companies.

Duplex Motion Picture Industries 35mm Step Printer, c. 1920

Manufactured in Long Island City, this step printer was an industry standard for many years. Print density could be controlled automatically.

Museum of the Moving Image, Astoria, New York

May 13th, 2018

Charleston || The Nathaniel Russell House

The one with the stunning, free-flying staircase that will have you stand there gawking for a long moment, at least until your guide rushes you on to the next room, to make space for the next group. There are quite a few magnificent mansions in Charleston but if you only have time for one, the Nathaniel Russel House is your absolute must-see.

”A National Historic Landmark, the Nathaniel Russell House Museum was built over a five-year period and completed in 1808 by Charleston merchant Nathaniel Russell. The house cost $80,000 to build, at a time when the average value of a home was $262. The home’s graceful, free-flying, three-story staircase is an architectural marvel with each cantilevered step supporting the one above and below it.” [source]

Charleston, SC

April 11th, 2018

The Seven Mile Bridge

A lone fisherman. A truck. A bird. A tiny island. A bridge so long one can never see its other end. Frankly, I would drive back and forth on the Seven Mile Bridge, even if it went nowhere, just to grasp its enormity. But only in calm weather. I wouldn’t even think about crossing it during a storm. Now that must be a sight to behold!

February 2nd, 2018

When in Chicago…

… weather permitting, go on an Architecture Foundation River Cruise on board Chicago’s First Lady. You will see some of the city’s most interesting buildings from a unique viewpoint and hear some of the stories behind them. You will learn how, in an effort to prevent their sewage waste flow into Lake Michigan – the city’s clean water source – Chicagoans reversed the flow of the very river you are touring, so that sewage would flow to Illinois and Michigan Canal,  and ultimately to the Mississippi River instead; a no mean engineering feat, admirable even today, let alone in 1900 when it was completed. Last, but not least, you will have some hot apple cider – spiked if necessary for that extra warmth.

You will take hundreds of photos.
You won’t regret it.

November 3rd, 2017