Monday, July 15, 2013

Penobscot Narrows Bridge Observatory

On our way to Bar Harbor for the 4th of July, we were amazed to come across this stunning bridge as we rounded a bend. We learned there was an observatory located in one of the bridge's towers, and knew we'd have to make this a stop on our way back down the coast. 

We stopped at a pull-off area to get some photos. From where we were, we could tell the bridge was big, but it suddenly dawned on us that we were viewing a truly massive structure when we saw how tiny this pick up truck was in comparison to a single wire. 

Crossing the bridge was a bit harrowing; it is quite long! 

Over the weekend, we got a chance to go back and visit the bridge's observatory tower, one of only four in the world. Of those four, this one, the Penobscot Narrows Bridge Observatory, is the tallest at 420 feet, or 42 stories, high. 

The bridge consists of 181 segments like this one. Each hollow segment weighs 300,000 pounds, and contains 70 cubic tons of concrete and 20,000 pounds of steel. 

The bridge included two of these towers. The observatory was located at the top of this one, where the glass windows were. 

From the base of the observatory tower were great views of the river and its banks. At one point, we saw something swimming and breaching the water frequently. We joked it looked like a seal or a walrus, but when Dave was able to take a photo and zoom in, we discovered our aquatic friend really was a seal! Unfortunately, our seal buddy was photo shy and hyperactive to boot, so we only had a fairly blurry whisker face picture and decided to save everyone an eye strain headache and left it off the blog. It's crazy to think Maine's Northern location and this river's proximity to the ocean allows critters like seals to live in it. 

When we got to the top of the observatory, which was reached by a super-fast elevator, we were welcomed by these stunning views of the Penobscot and the surrounding area. 

In this photo, you can see Fort Knox, which we visited right after the observatory. 

Looking straight down, it was really obvious how high up we were. The van looked so tiny. 

Especially on this beautiful sunny day, the views were incredible. 

A view of the rest of the bridge and the second tower, which does not contain an observatory. Here, you can see old pylons, which supported the previous Waldo-Hancock Bridge, constructed in 1931. In 2003, severe cable corrosion was discovered, and it was determined the bridge could not be saved. While the new Penobscot Narrows Bridge was being built, the old bridge was reinforced with 16 strengthening cables, a feat never before accomplished on a standing suspension bridge. Penobscot Narrows opened in 2006, and the observatory opened in 2007. 

Amazingly, the weight of the bridge and vehicles crossing it is supported by many of these tiny cords, made up of 1/5 inch thick pieces of steel, each of which can support 30 tons! This bridge was an admirable feat of engineering, and perhaps even more amazing, was conceived, planned, designed, permitted, constructed, and opened to visitors in only 42 months. 

The patterns this boat made in the water looked really neat from so far above. 


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