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The Placing of the East Span Cable Saddle:
The View From 1,000 Feet Above

(Photos ©2011 Barrie Rokeach)

By Barrie Rokeach, aerial photographer

May 20, 2011, 10 a.m.
Yesterday’s operation to place the cable saddle on top of the East Span tower started at around 6 a.m. It moved incrementally. It moved so slowly, you couldn’t even tell whether it was moving or not from the air. At the very end of the lift, there were maybe as many as a dozen or more people on the platform around the top of tower, watching and working, dwarfed by the piece. As the saddle was lifted up to its full height, it had to slide back to mesh with the top of the tower, and the clearances are inches at that point as opposed to feet when it was being lifted vertically. It’s just hovering inches above the structure, and inches from the superstructure around it. When it got to the top of its height, they had to turn it 90 degrees so it would be in its correct orientation. When they brought if off the barge in between the decks, you could see that the grooves in the saddle were perpendicular to the length of the bridge. Obviously the grooves have to be parallel to the bridge decks, so I figured out that they had to rotate it in the air.

In the afternoon there was a pretty strong wind blowing, at least 20 knots, because Oakland airport was reporting 19 to 20 knot winds most of the afternoon and evening, and it had to be at least 10 knots stronger up there at the top of the tower, making the operation that much more challenging. In the early morning, the skies were calmer, but from a photography perspective, conditions were more difficult. The sun warming the air caused fog to swirl around the Bay and the bridge, and as the fog got thicker and lower. As the sun rose a little higher in the air, it started to do just the opposite, burn off the fog, which improved visibility. There was still daylight as the saddle settled on top of the tower around 8:15 or 8:30 p.m., allowing me to capture the moment of touchdown.

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