by Chason Gordon
- The Capitol Hill Times -
If you have a subscription to Tunneling Machines Magazine (love the foldouts), then you probably know that a massive drill named Bertha is working her way underneath Seattle, carving a place for cars to drive below objects that would otherwise prevent them from doing so. The drill has, thus far, traveled 1,019 of its required 9,270 feet (same as me), and has been progressing nicely, as excited onlookers gave it cups of WD-40 and cheered when it passed under their neighborhood.
Then, last December, the totally imaginable happened: Bertha got stuck. Construction workers immediately began shoveling dirt on her and giving up on the project, but a decision was made to at least determine the nature of the blockage.
Everyone developed their own theories on what was down there. Mine included Captain America’s shield, an alien spacecraft, a Hercules Beetle (they can lift 850 times their own weight!), my keys, another tunneling machine coming the other way, adamantine (that’s two comic book jokes!), a Jolly Rancher (they’re too hard!), a 70-year-old’s toenail, Magneto (three!), the black obelisk from “2001: A Space Odyssey,” an old tube television… we’ll be back with the rest of the list, right after the break!
… a large rubber-band, Robocop, a wooden ship made of metal, an egg resting horizontally, a single Pog, Neo saying “No,” or a slice of my ex-girlfriend’s meatloaf. (I’d like to make this entire article just a list of theories, but my editor prefers something linear with sentences.)
So, what did it turn out to be? An 8-inch in diameter, 119 foot-long steel pipe, which was installed as part of a well in 2002 (a good year for wells) to monitor the flow of groundwater after the Nisqually earthquake. Apparently, Bertha continued to drill an additional 90 feet before succumbing to the pipe, and fell down in tears, failing to live up to a promise made to a sick boy at a hospital. Word has it that the New Orleans Saints have since signed the pipe to block Marshawn Lynch on Saturday. That’s a little Seahawks humor for you.
Let me get this straight and pretend to be outraged. You’re telling me that a 5-story tall, 7,000 ton drill couldn’t get past a little old pipe? What is Bertha made of exactly? Nerf? Marshmallow? Kittens? Because that I would understand. A drill made of kittens isn’t going to get through a metal pipe. But the largest drill in history should have been able to handle it. Do drills have some code against metal-on-metal violence?
Would it have killed the drill to at least go around the pipe? The tunnel could have had a slight 8-inch bend to the left, colloquially known as the “Pipe Bend,” and no one would have been late because of it. We should certainly return the drill to the Hitachi Zosen Sakai Works company in Japan (shipping might be expensive), and get a new, better drill that can actually handle its business.
Well, this is what happens when an easily stopped force meets an immovable object. And so the drill sits, humiliated, useless, unable to move an inch until the pipe is removed for it. Sure, we can get rid of the pipe and start the drill again, but our confidence has been shaken.
It’s time to explore other means of clearing the tunnel. I suggest using dynamite, lava, a horse pulling a scythe (that doesn’t make sense), children, Mike Tyson, that red matter from “Star Trek,” or years of erosion.
Wait! If the world’s largest tunneling machine was stopped by a pipe, why don’t we just drill with the pipe? Please forward my ideas to the proper officials.