Friday, January 30, 2009

Checking out the sights #1

There were a few things I wanted to make sure I saw when I got out here to Vegas. First was the Hoover Dam. I was really looking forward to getting out there when we were planning someone's bachelor party a while back. (Some of you know what happened to that. For the rest of you, just be happy you never had to get involved.) When I flew in early the day before the conference on Tuesday I knew I should take advantage of the time and get myself out there. Who knows when I would be able to do this again, especially without the kids in tow.

Driving over the hill from Boulder City, down into the valley where Lake Mead sits, was a wonderful sight. It was a beautiful day, couldn't ask for a better view. Here is a panoramic view from the Lake Mead observation area (not pieced together really well, but what do you want from me and my less than professional equipment?).

It was amazing, and well worth the trip and cost of the uber-tour I took. The normal tour takes you down into the tunnels that they used to divert the Colorado River when they were constructing the dam...

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(um, yeah... did you notice the metal scaffolding and plastic sheets in the tunnel? Yup, that's to divert the dripping water from falling on people's heads. No, it wasn't scary at all being hundreds of feet under ground, with a lake big enough to cover the state of PA to a foot deep or CT to 10 feet deep right through that little wall there)

as well as the room where they house the huge generators....

As if that weren't cool enough, the really cool part started after this. Those of us nutty enough to pay for the special tour got to go further, into the dam itself. Yeah, that's right, into the actual concrete that makes up the Hoover Dam. No, really, I paid extra for this!!! It turns out that when they made the dam they didn't use any steel or other supports inside of the concrete. Apparently they knew that when the water got in (I'm sorry, did you say when the water got in? They planned for that?) it would eventually rust out the rebar which would weaken the whole thing. So there I was, walking around inside of a few hundred million pound solid block of concrete. But wait, it gets better... our tour guide was nice enough to inform us that Arizona was third on the list of states in terms of seismic activity. The dam measures a 2 or 3 magnitude earthquake every 3 or so days! I'm no expert in earthquakes or anything so I took his word for it when he said you don't even feel those small quakes. Gee, thanks. Didn't really make me feel much better though.

Here are some very cool images from inside the dam-

- Tour guide on the left - very good at his job - taking us into a ventilation tunnel that leads out to the face of the dam. No joke, this is us buried deep inside the concrete of the dam.

- Waiting my turn to take a look at the view of the Colorado from the face of the dam.

- I wanted a pic without people in the way.

- The view of the Colorado from the vent in the face of the dam. I've got a pic below that shows where this vent is in the face of the dam. One of the coolest things was the idea that millions of folks get billions of pics of the dam but I wonder how many people get this kind of pic? Very cool.

- Same view, from out of the vent.

- The "hallway" leading down to the vent. Yeah, there was no standing all the way up for me in there.

- This is at the same spot as the picture above. Down to the right is the hallway leading to the vent. Straight ahead is a hallway that allows the engineers to keep going into the dam. The guide told us they go down there to take core samples of the concrete to make sure everything is still holding up. I asked when they expected to have to replace the dam. I'm pretty sure he said a few thousand years.

- This? Oh, it's not much. Just a crack. Yup, I said a crack. Totally to be expected, no worries. And no, I didn't see any bubblegum holding things together. This is down that hallway I showed in the previous picture, behind the direction I was facing.

- Same hallway, this is a spot that they use to measure how much the dam flexes. A few centimeters a year, so not all that much. Yes, the dam flexes! Another thing they expected. Just mind boggling.

- I loved this. Vandalism almost as old as I am in that same hallway. Hundreds of feed below ground, under millions of tons of concrete. Too funny.

- This is that same hallway, just a creepy view. The funny tour guide scared the crap out of all of us by turning out the lights at one point. I've got to brag a bit and say that no, I didn't squeal like a little girl.

- I asked someone else to take this picture of me in the hallway. Too bad the guy couldn't take a picture in focus.

- There is a stairwell at the end of the hallway. Up is outside. Down? You don't want to go down. The tour guide said he went down once. He counted 700+ stairs until he reached water. Yup, water. Apparently the smartys that designed this place knew that some water would get inside, trickle down through cracks, and cause problems. So, they planned for this and built into the structure huge pumps to keep the water at bay. Even with this there is about 200' of water down there. And no, he wouldn't let me go down there.

Among the more interesting things he told us was that it would take more than 20 minutes to climb up from there and they had to replace the gate at the top of the stairs and the stairs going down because of all the water at the bottom was rusting everything out.

Here is a video of the stair case.

Here are a bunch of pics from the outside of the dam.

- Intake towers from up on the Arizona side.

- These are the overflow spillways in case a flood sends too much water at the dam.

- Looking north from the parking areas on the Arizona side. Notice how low the water is? The top of the white (calcium deposits) isn't actually where the water should be. Although the "normal" level is something like 11' below that top line the lake is about 60' low at this point.

- Another view north from the AZ side.

- They are building a new highway and huge bridge to help with traffic and to keep so much traffic from having to cross the top of the dam each day.

- Another shot of the dam and towers from the AZ side.

- This is from the observation deck on the visitors center looking straight down about 500' to the power generation buildings below. The huge generators from the picture above are inside of these buildings.

- Looking south along the Colorado river from the observation deck.

- Looking at the visitors center and observation deck and the NV side of the bridge from the deck of the dam.

- This is looking straight down the face of the dam from the top. If you look carefully you can see the vent cover that I was looking out, right in the middle of the picture.

- This is looking north again at Lake Mead but this time from the deck of the dam.

- There is a clock on the NV intake tower and the AZ tower showing the different time zones.

- I took this pic just for Wifey's pleasure. I knew she would freak if she saw the bridge that leads up to the dam on the NV side. Just don't look down and everything should be fine!

- This is looking past some of the construction wires (supporting a huge wire crane from the original construction that they still use!) toward the dam.

- Here is the wire crane they still use to pick up supplies and other equipment from tractor trailers from the road and lower it down to the generation plants 500' below.

- Nice view of that bridge that would have made Wifey sick.

Some videos of outside the dam -

First, a video of the dam and Colorado valley from the observation deck. Don't mind the drop. :)

In this one I wanted to show the water churning out from the power plants and going on down the river.

This was taken from the lip of the dam and I wanted to show where the vent cover was. Look carefully at the end and you'll see it right in the middle.


Hugeness said...

Three things:
1. This is the biggest reason I want to go to Vegas.
2. I heard Lake Mead was low but the pictures really bring it to life. Good job.
3. Ummmm...if the dam didn't flex at least a little, it wouldn't be there now.

And good job at making me almost as jealous as wifey.

morninglight mama said...

Yeah, NO jealousy coming from me. These pictures made me sick. No freaking way would I ever step foot anywhere even close to this god awful place. No bridges, no tunnels, no being inside muh f'in dams.

I'd love to walk around fake-Paris with ya, but no way I would have been by your side for this one, babe. :)