Good Morning Vietnam!! Yes, the Long Bien Bridge is in Hanoi. It is part of the blog topic for today. But we are not in Vietnam right now. No, right now we are at a great couchsurfing home in rural France near Cognac (north of Bordeaux). We arrived yesterday after a long drive from Spain and had a nice dinner with new friends before hitting the hay. Today we will drive back to Normandy to pick up all the stuff we left behind when we were there – 2 jackets, prescription sunglasses, kitchen items, etc. But now, let’s focus on Eiffel. Why? Because I learned a lot about this man during my visit to the Eiffel tower last month and his story is pretty interesting. Some say the trip up the Eiffel tower is not worth the price because you can get similar views for free from other places in Paris. I could agree with that. But walking up the Eiffel Tower is pretty amazing (why do they have to make it so expensive?!) And, if you do decide to go up, there is a lot of fascinating information set out on interpretive panels. Here is the super-abridged version.
Eiffel was a French engineer born in 1832. In his thirties, he set up his own engineering/construction company specializing in metal structures. What was he responsible for? Oh, just about everything. The beautiful bridge over the Douro river in Porto (1876); Pest railway station in Budapest, Hungary (1877); the structure of the Statue of Liberty (1883); the Eiffel Tower (1889). Eiffel’s structures are strong but graceful. Long Bien Bridge, completed in 1903? Or not – this requires further investigation as I think it might only have been inspired by Eiffel but built by Dayde & Pille. Regardless. Eiffel designed and built many, many, many iconic and lesser known structures around the world.
Okay. I knew most of that. But what I didn’t know was… Drum roll please. In 1887, he agreed to take over construction of the locks of the Panama Canal after someone else botched the job.
This was the biggest contract in his entire career in business, and also the one with the greatest risk. Given the risk he faced, he was granted major financial advantages and solid guarantees, which allowed him to collect his profit as soon as the work was begun. Despite the care which Eiffel took in the project, the liquidation of the canal construction company, Compagnie du Canal, on February 4 1889, led to his own indictment for fraud alongside De Lesseps and his son, and to a sentence of two years in prison and a fine of 2000 francs, even though nothing could really be blamed on him personally. With his honour and dignity severely compromised, he withdrew from business.
WOW. He lived to 91 but he spent all those years after the Panama canal fiasco quietly devoted to science. He especially worked on wind resistance and aerodynamics and used the Eiffel tower in many of his experiments on these subjects.
That’s all for now. Gotta drive five hours (well be a passenger anyways) and then set up a tent. Au revoir!