As romantic as the Golden Gate Bridge is, you may also wonder how it was constructed, when it was built, how much paint it takes to cover the massive structure, and exactly how much cable is used to connect the two towers. We'll give you a hint — 80,000 miles is the answer to the last question!
If you're into numbers, here are a few figures to chew on — the two towers stand 746 ft above the water. The total length of wire on both main cables is 80,000 miles. The Golden Gate Bridge is 1.7 miles long, including the freeway approaches. The main suspended span stretches 4,200 feet. 600,000 rivets were used in the building of the bridge. It took exactly four years and four months to build the bridge, and it was completed in May 1937.
The Golden Gate Bridge was America's first hard hat area, thanks to the safety concerns of Chief Engineer, Joseph Strauss, who was very safety conscious, insisting on a number of precautions like harnesses and the development of the hard hat.
At Strauss' behest, San Francisco's ED Bullard Company manufactured the first hard hat prototype. The founder's son had been a US soldier in World War I and he based the design on the doughboy helmet they wore. Composed of steamed canvas, glue and an internal suspension device, the shiny black hard-boiled hat saved countless lives during the four years of construction.
It takes 10,000 gallons of paint per year to keep the bridge's distinctive bright orange color. Crews work continually from one end of the bridge to the other sandblasting rust and repainting the bridge.
Workers who did not wear the hard hat were fined. A safety net was installed at the cost of $125,000 (a huge sum at that time), saving the lives of 19 men, who went on to form the Half-Way to Hell Club.
With only months left before the opening, only one worker had died during the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge. That was an incredible safety record when the norm at that time was one death for every $1 million of cost. They had originally estimated that 35 men would die based on the projected cost of $35 million.
But disaster struck on February 17, 1937 when thirteen men plunged into the safety net, shredding through it after a heavy section of scaffolding collapsed beneath them. Of the thirteen men, twelve plunged into the icy waters of the bay — only two of those were saved. The thirteenth man hung onto a beam and was rescued. When they eventually got him to safety, he still had his pipe in his mouth. A commemorative plaque to these men can be found on the bridge's western sidewalk.
More than 200,000 people turned out to celebrate the opening on May 27, 1937. They were rewarded with magnificent views and cool breezes.
For its Golden Anniversary in 1987 three quarters of a million fans showed up to walk across the bridge. Organizers had expected only 50,000 to come to the party! The combined weight of the pedestrians was so great that the bridge's central span began to sink. The bridge was closed to motorists on both days — in 1937 and 1987.
The Golden Gate Bridge is so secure that it has only been closed three times due to high winds.
The final, and saddest, fact is that the Golden Gate Bridge has the unfortunate notoriety as the world's most popular bridge to commit suicide from. The fall from the deck 245 ft (75 m) above the the water takes only four seconds. The plunge into the icy water is at a speed of about 75 mph (120 km/h).
Most jumpers die from the impact or from hypothermia. Many people make a special trip to the city just to jump from the bridge. Often times their abandoned rental cars are found nearby. The success rate is about 98% — fewer than 30 people have ever survived the deathly jump.
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