Index · Dec 2012

Cochamo & Torres del Paine

Scary Bridges · Issue 1

Photos taken: December 2011; January 2012

As noted in the introduction, the search for scary bridges started in New Mexico. However, living in Chile provided some of the best specimens. Many Chilean bridges are quite good, probably because the earthquakes knock down anything that isn't. Also, Chilean engineers have put a huge amount of work into insuring that Chilean structures are able to survive the amazingly large earthquakes to which they are subjected. But Chile also has some bridges that are, ummm, lacking...

Click the images for a large version.

One is a foot bridge in the wilderness near Cochamo, about a days hike from the nearest road. Cochamo is near Puerto Montt, which is in northern Patagonia.

These bridges bring to mind some engineering guidelines from Engineering Disasters: Lessons to be Learned, by Don Lawson:

Safety of engineering structures and components follows a hierarchy:

  1. The basic concept precludes major accidents; or
  2. Features are added to prevent a major accident; or
  3. Safety equipment is provided to mitigate the effects of an accident; or
  4. Control or evacuation procedures are introduced to limit the risks from an accident;
  5. And, if all else fails, put up a warning sign.

The aim should be to work as high up this list as possible.

As you can see, the clear and well written warning sign and the load limit are prominently displayed.
Cochamo Footbridge
Cochamo Footbridge
Cochamo Footbridge

And there is a great view of the water fall and river while you pause (half way across) to determine that the duct tape is, in fact, not structural:

Duct tape on Cochamo Footbridge

Cochamo Footbridge and river below

Readers should note that the Cochamo area is, in fact, a wonderful place to backpack and rock climb. Other pictures taken on the same trip can be found here.

Another scary bridge is in Torres del Paine National Park, which is near the southern end of Patagiona. Not quite the end of the world, but a few hundred kilometers northwest. This is the most picturesque scary bridge that I know of. The sign makes this one even more scary (be sure to zoom in to read it).

Old suspension bridge at Torres del Paine
Sign next to Torres del Paine Bridge, indicating 1500Kg load limit and that everyone should get out of the car.

Thankfully, Chile took this problem seriously. They brought in one of those instant port-a-bridges. It makes the situation far more comforting:

Torres del Paine Bridge_3

Hopefully they leave the old bridge for its historic value. Maybe refurbish it as a foot bridge.

In the cities things are a lot better. Here is a both safe and good looking foot bridge in Punta Arenas:

Foot bridge in Punta Arenas

In Chile there is a lot of new construction going on. And thankfully most of it seems to be of higher quality. It is not clear if every construction site comes with a dog, or every dog with a construction site. But they have a lot of both. And unlike the U.S. dogs, almost all of the Chilean dogs are friendly.

Building under construction in Santiago

This is one of the stranger looking construction sites. It is not clear what they are making - it looks like 3 closely spaced hollow cylinders. They could be a support for something, but what? It does not look much like a bridge, but it could be. There is a road right there, but not of anything to cross. Maybe some sort of waterworks?

Photo of some unusual contruction.

The good news is that the author escaped all the scary bridge encounters uninjured.

Index · Dec 2012

Last updated: March 2014; minor content corrections and formatting updates

© David C. Hunter, 2011-2014
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