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Mystery object blocks borer under Seattle

Posted on Monday, 30 December, 2013 | Comment icon 67 comments

A model of Bertha at an information center in Seattle. Image Credit: CC BY-SA 3.0 Dennis Bratland
The world's largest tunnel-boring machine has run in to a mysterious object and nobody knows what it is.
Engineers overseeing the construction of a $3.1 billion highway tunnel beneath the Seattle waterfront have found themselves perplexed by the presence of a mysterious obstruction, referred to only as "the object", that has brought their tunnel boring operation to its knees.

The machine being used to excavate the tunnel is the biggest-diameter tunnel-boring machine anywhere on the planet, a five-storey behemoth known as "Bertha". The project had been making good progress until on December 6th the team ran in to the seemingly impenetrable obstacle.

"What we’re focusing on now is creating conditions that will allow us to enter the chamber behind the cutter head and see what the situation is," said project manager Chris Dixon. More than two weeks on however and the problem seems no closer to being solved.

While early speculation suggests that the object could be a boulder, it is still possible that there could be something unique buried deep below the streets of Seattle. "I do hope it is not [a boulder]," said geologist David B. Williams. "It would be great to find some new mystery."

Source: NY Times | Comments (67)

Tags: Bertha, Seattle

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #58 Posted by MissMelsWell on 4 January, 2014, 5:43
Yep, WSDOT is a bunch of dolts... an 8" steel pipe they were suppose to remove and didn't. Naturally.
Comment icon #59 Posted by MissMelsWell on 4 January, 2014, 5:46
Interesting enough they are digging , tunneling and pouring concrete but Bertha doesn't have cameras. What if they are destroying some important archeological constructions or stuff this way... It seems plain dumb to do such geological modifications w/o a camera Honestly, they're not going to run into anything of any historical significance. Seattle isn't exactly an old city. And the area they're tunneling, has been built and rebuilt so many times the only thing they're ever going to find down there is garbage and crap that WSDOT forgot to remove.
Comment icon #60 Posted by pallidin on 4 January, 2014, 5:57
It was revealed today that the obstacle Bertha ran into, causing a nearly month-long delay in tunneling, was a steel well casing left there in 2002. The well was made to check the groundwater situation, before the tunneling portion of the project got underway. It was not explained why the casing had not been removed long ago. http://blogs.seattle...uge-steel-pipe/ Interesting. At least now we know what this "mysterious object" is. Good job on the updates.
Comment icon #61 Posted by Mike G on 4 January, 2014, 6:10
The drilling has stopped because they failed to go true the object (the drills are made to go through a solid rock, so I can only imagine what is standing in their way ). Non-solid rock?
Comment icon #62 Posted by markprice on 4 January, 2014, 17:04
Interesting. At least now we know what this "mysterious object" is. Good job on the updates. yeah, but that means they forgot to pull up their well casing then ran into it. oops, it's not like this is an expensive highly technical project run by crack-heads...
Comment icon #63 Posted by rashore on 4 January, 2014, 17:19
Thanks for all the updates on this bison I do hope that after this discovery, they double check the rest of the stretch to make sure they didn't accidentally leave anything else they shouldn't have.
Comment icon #64 Posted by bison on 4 January, 2014, 20:48
The New York Times weighs in on recent developments in Seattle. They have the advantage of perspective from a distance. It appears that everyone responsible assumed that someone else had removed that well casing, because this is how things were supposed to be done.
Comment icon #65 Posted by hacktorp on 5 January, 2014, 1:51
It appears that everyone responsible assumed that someone else had removed that well casing, because this is how things were supposed to be done. Hmmm...there WAS much celebration over the new cannabis laws...
Comment icon #66 Posted by Sundew on 9 January, 2014, 2:30
Anyone remember the movie? (Just seeing if anyone knows) Scared me to death when I was young. Here's hoping! Aw, you beat me to it! Yeah it was a great movie, the Martian "locusts" are a little cheesy by todays standards, but it scared me pretty good to as a lad.
Comment icon #67 Posted by Sir Wearer of Hats on 9 January, 2014, 2:32
The Martians in the original version were perfect IMO.

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