Thursday, November 24, 2016

Bridge the Gap – Erich

Ready for a Tasmanian joke? Here goes.

Why did the platypus cross the bridge?

We have been driving through Tasmania for three days, and each of those days we have seen a somewhat celebrated bridge. How does a bridge become somewhat celebrated? Well, the first and most important element seems to be having been built by convicts.

That probably isn't so rare for things built in a certain period in Tasmania. But not all of those structures lasted until today. Some of the bridges have.

On our first day of travels we saw Richmond Bridge in the village of Richmond. (Unsurprising, I know.) It was built in 1823 and it is the oldest remaining bridge in all of Australia. It crosses the Coal River.
It's a little bit uneven
The Richmond Bridge is built over six arches and two of them cover paths you can walk along. The other four are over water, so it's much harder to walk under them. The bridge has an uneven top due to settling that has happened among the supports over the years. This is because it was built by convicts and designed by people who were not really experts at building bridges. This is a running theme you find in many of these bridges.
That's a pretty good arch for bridge amateurs
Oh, and just for an extra bit of fun: the bridge has a ghost. So legend says. A cruel overseer would drive the slaves carrying bricks to the bridge and whip them horribly. The legend says they revolted and killed him and his ghost is sometimes heard under the bridge to this day. Spooky, yeah? Well, it doesn't keep anyone from crossing it.

On our second day we found a very unusual sight. It's called Spiky Bridge.
Don't worry, I will give you a closer picture of those spikes.
This bridge isn't in any town, but it is outside of Swansea. It also doesn't cross a river, it crosses a gully. The story of this bridge is that the people of the area wanted a bridge to cross the gully, but they had to convince the Major who was in charge of the region. One night, the Major was at a dinner in Swansea and his host offered him a ride home. This required crossing the gully. The host took the gully at full speed so that the coach would be rocked terribly in the crossing. And this convinced the Major that a bridge was needed.
That would not be a fun gully to ride across
Again, this bridge was built by convicts. Again it wasn't designed by bridge builders. But the big question is this: Why all the spikes?
I promised a closer picture of spikes and I delivered. Some people have so little trust.
The answer is that no one knows exactly. Some conjectures are: a) it was to make the bridge more sturdy, though why that would help is unclear; b) It was to keep cattle from walking off the edges, though I suppose rails would have done the trick too; c) It was just something that the man in charge thought would be cool.

Today a new highway runs parallel to the bridge, so it isn't in much use any longer. Though you can pull off the highway and if you wanted to, you could drive across the Spiky Bridge. It wouldn't take you anywhere. Still, we stopped to see it, and sadly, lost our daughter on the way. Her head is now impaled on one of the spikes. I think this is good news for Spiky Bridge as now maybe it too can have a ghost.
The tongue effect is the best part
On our third day about Tasmania, we crossed Red Bridge in Campbell Town. It crosses the Elizabeth River. This is pretty great because you can figure out where these names came from. See, the great General in Tasmania was General Macquarie. And he visited this area with his wife Elizabeth whose maiden name was Campbell.
It's red
Before you ask, yes, this bridge was built by convicts. No, they didn't bring in any professional bridge designers either. But this bridge is on National Highway 1 running from Hobart (Tasmania's biggest city) to Launceston (Tasmania's second biggest city). So the bridge gets plenty of use by plenty of vehicles.
And that really is its name
Beside the bridge is a park and in the park are three sculptures that detail the importance of the Campbell Town area. The first shows the building of the bridge.
A sculpture of the bridge right next to the bridge. Meta!
The second shows some of the accomplishments in art and science and technology achieved in the Campbell Town area. My favorite part of this sculpture is the propeller on the airplane, which actually spins when the wind blows.
Lots of industry
The last sculpture shows some of the unique fauna of the area.
I did not see all of these species in Campbell Town
You will note there is are platypuses (or platypi if you prefer) in that sculpture. But they are not crossing the bridge.

So why did the platypus cross the bridge? I don't know that it did. They are very shy and elusive creatures and we have yet to see one. If I do, I'll ask it.

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