That is not dead which can eternal lie
December 23, 2013 6:16 AM   Subscribe

Something unknown, engineers say — and all the more intriguing to many residents for being unknown — has blocked the progress of the biggest-diameter tunnel-boring machine in use on the planet, a high-tech, largely automated wonder called Bertha. At five stories high with a crew of 20, the cigar-shaped behemoth was grinding away underground on a two-mile-long, $3.1 billion highway tunnel under the city’s waterfront on Dec. 6 when it encountered something in its path that managers still simply refer to as “the object.”
posted by Chrysostom (126 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
 
A rock, huge in size or in a configuration that the machine cannot quite get purchase on to grind, is the most likely culprit. “I do hope it is not,” he said. “It would be great to find some new mystery.”

Famous last words.
posted by Splunge at 6:22 AM on December 23, 2013 [15 favorites]


Blight gas deposit, duh.
posted by mwhybark at 6:23 AM on December 23, 2013 [13 favorites]


Well, this can't possibly end badly.
posted by Etrigan at 6:25 AM on December 23, 2013 [10 favorites]


Ah, yes. "The City". Eternally under attack from terrors from above, and below.
posted by clvrmnky at 6:26 AM on December 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


Maybe it's a twofer: first the machines gained sentience, but then immediately afterwards they failed their sanity check upon meeting an eldritch horror.
posted by zombieflanders at 6:26 AM on December 23, 2013 [33 favorites]


Did they try whacking it with bones used as crude tools?
posted by chasles at 6:27 AM on December 23, 2013 [17 favorites]


Late last night and the night before, tommyknockers, tommyknockers knocking on my door. I wanna go out, don't know if I can 'cuz I'm so afraid of the tommyknocker man.
posted by bleucube at 6:28 AM on December 23, 2013 [10 favorites]


It has always made me nervous to put a below-grade tunnel right next to the waterfront of a tsunami-prone area with likely 8+ earthquakes in the future. I bet this won't stop them, but maybe it will remind them that things can and do go wrong with what might be called a 'Big Dig' at the other end of Interstate 90.
posted by BearClaw6 at 6:37 AM on December 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


It will just turn out to be a compressed ball of metal made of bicycle gears and brakes.
posted by srboisvert at 6:39 AM on December 23, 2013 [12 favorites]


In the spirit of the recent Ghostbusters post, I'll speculate that the mystery object is an ancient Sumerian door with a creepy bull carving that keeps repeating "DO NOT OPEN UNTIL DOOMSDAY"
posted by RonButNotStupid at 6:40 AM on December 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


It's a giant ball of socks, from dryers all over the world.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:41 AM on December 23, 2013 [12 favorites]


Previously.
posted by cjorgensen at 6:41 AM on December 23, 2013


The drill grinds to a halt, and engineers work diligently to bore a hole around the drill's head to gain a view of the obstruction… which is another Bertha-grade drill, lodged face to face with theirs and rimmed with identical engineers peering over its side. The bore hole is filled with cement and never again is the project discussed.
posted by Turkey Glue at 6:43 AM on December 23, 2013 [143 favorites]


The engineers' families are never told of their fate.
posted by mkb at 6:52 AM on December 23, 2013


Incidentally, the hole is filled from both sides. "We must kill them before they kill us" reads the official press release.
posted by Turkey Glue at 6:58 AM on December 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


The Dwarves tell no tale; but even as mithril was the foundation of their wealth, so also it was their destruction: they delved too greedily and too deep, and disturbed that from which they fled, Durin's Bane.
posted by notme at 6:59 AM on December 23, 2013 [48 favorites]


Having just seen Rare Exports, I'm going to guess that its the Krampus-equivalent for the First Nations that were originally there.
posted by Slackermagee at 7:01 AM on December 23, 2013 [7 favorites]


Which universe are we in? Red or blue? Amber?
posted by Kitteh at 7:06 AM on December 23, 2013 [10 favorites]


It's probably a glacial erratic rather a spaceship or anything like that - but those are kind of cool in their own way.
posted by Artw at 7:08 AM on December 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


I TOLD YOU THEY WOULD COME.

There's nothing to fear; the machine is large, but blind.

STILL, THEY WILL FIND A WAY.

The Plan is still ongoing. Remain calm and remain hidden.

THEY WILL SEND OTHERS.

They have always sent others. The others do not return and so the Plan remains.
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 7:10 AM on December 23, 2013 [15 favorites]


I hope this turns out better than it did in London.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:16 AM on December 23, 2013 [8 favorites]


It's probably a glacial erratic rather a spaceship or anything like that - but those are kind of cool in their own way.

I just think it's weird that the article was all "big rock" and "buried train" and never once brought up spaceships or eldritch horrors. Those are clearly the most plausible explanations. What are they hiding?
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 7:16 AM on December 23, 2013 [5 favorites]


Calling Professor Quatermass, white courtesy phone.
posted by daveje at 7:18 AM on December 23, 2013 [6 favorites]




If this isn't an SCP yet, it will be soon enough. Class A amnesiacs for everyone!
posted by adipocere at 7:22 AM on December 23, 2013 [5 favorites]


Mjolnir?

(or Meow-meow?)
posted by Strange Interlude at 7:25 AM on December 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sigh, just fill out the paperwork and get it sorted with records


SCP-1350

The Object.

_
posted by The Whelk at 7:25 AM on December 23, 2013 [14 favorites]


Wasn't this a Doctor Who plot?
posted by Renoroc at 7:35 AM on December 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


See, this is exactly what happens when you don't give Dr. Delroy Lindo the $1 Trillion he wanted for his fancy laser.

/Plan B is to deploy Aaron Eckart's chin at the obstruction...
posted by I Havent Killed Anybody Since 1984 at 7:37 AM on December 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


It'll read "ACME Doomsday Object, best used before 12/2012"
posted by jquinby at 7:37 AM on December 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Just to be safe, we're sealing the whole thing in Amber.
posted by The Whelk at 7:40 AM on December 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


But what do the conspiracy wonks on Seattle public access cable say about this? (Are there still conspiracy wonks on public access? I enjoyed them when I was living out there and had cable.)
posted by rmd1023 at 7:41 AM on December 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


I hope we have giant robots on call for whatever we'll finally unearth!
posted by TwoStride at 7:42 AM on December 23, 2013


It could be capping another hole like the one in Ellensberg.
posted by Artw at 7:50 AM on December 23, 2013


For almost a century, Jimmy Hoffa's body has been waiting for the appointed time. And growing.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:52 AM on December 23, 2013 [8 favorites]


I hope we have giant robots on call for whatever we'll finally unearth!

It's Seattle. You'll have to make do with Surface tablets standing at the ready in nearby Redmond, mostly because no-one is using them for anything. (And it's probably just the hidden dumping ground for unsold Kin phones. Big Bertha could deal with it, but like most Seattleites, she just doesn't want to touch the damn things.)
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:55 AM on December 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


/orders Amazon Drone to drop a well packaged bowling ball on slap*happy.
posted by Artw at 7:58 AM on December 23, 2013


The object is an elaborate prank developed by a group of students at Evergreen as part of an approved course of self directed study.
posted by humanfont at 8:28 AM on December 23, 2013 [10 favorites]


It's coffee grounds -- a solid, impenetrable mass of coffee grounds.
posted by mosk at 8:38 AM on December 23, 2013 [8 favorites]


And now where know where the lair of the elder gods lies.
posted by _paegan_ at 8:45 AM on December 23, 2013


Other side of the mountains so PROBABLY not related, but Washington had a crazy Ice-Age.
posted by Artw at 8:48 AM on December 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


All progress brought to a halt, you say? Well Congress is in recess...anyone seen the Republican members lately?
posted by yoink at 8:53 AM on December 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's probably a glacial erratic rather a spaceship or anything like that - but those are kind of cool in their own way.

It's not realy much to look at as rocks go, but I love the name of Erratic Rock State Natural Site.
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:59 AM on December 23, 2013


Relevant SCP.
posted by oneironaut at 9:01 AM on December 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


Is there mossy brick? If so, it might be a dungeon. They should make sure to put down torches before checking it out, though, as I hear Seattle is full of creepers.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 9:10 AM on December 23, 2013 [9 favorites]


This is what happens when you build this city on rock and roll.
posted by Soliloquy at 9:11 AM on December 23, 2013 [15 favorites]


Here in San Francisco they have a couple of smaller drilling machines running. The story goes that it will cost more than the value of the machines to get them out of the ground at the end of their journey. So they might just leave them there. We're talking millions of dollars.
posted by njohnson23 at 9:19 AM on December 23, 2013


That picture of Bertha before it was lowered into the tunnel is damn impressive, though.
posted by seyirci at 9:22 AM on December 23, 2013


> Other side of the mountains so PROBABLY not related, but Washington had a crazy Ice-Age.

While not the Missoula floods per se, Puget Sound was carved out by similar glacial formations and ice flows that existed at the same time. In fact it was the same Cordilleran* Ice Sheet that created the Puget lobe that also created the Missoula Lake.

*I feel like geologists are Star Wars nerds when I see names like that
posted by mrzarquon at 9:22 AM on December 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


Is there mossy brick? If so, it might be a dungeon. They should make sure to put down torches before checking it out, though, as I hear Seattle is full of creepers.

It's PAX!
posted by Artw at 9:24 AM on December 23, 2013


Please notify MeFi's Own that DEEP SEVEN is about to be gatecrashed, and maybe now it's time to see if SCORPION STARE can work with a Kinect.
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:29 AM on December 23, 2013 [5 favorites]


Has Larry Niven fallen so far out of favor that nobody immediately recognized this as a Thrint stasis box.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 9:30 AM on December 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


It's Govokåtsdir Neth Tilesh, an adamantine mug.
posted by Joe Chip at 9:35 AM on December 23, 2013


Please notify MeFi's Own that DEEP SEVEN is about to be gatecrashed, and maybe now it's time to see if SCORPION STARE can work with a Kinect.

As this is in America it falls under the portfolio of the Black Chamber and those jerks can't do anything without resorting to torture and mind cont- CEASE DISCUSSION OR RISK BEING CLASSIFIED AS NON CITITIZEN COMBATANT UNDER THE HIDDEN PATRIOT ACT- I, what? Does anyone else taste ozone?
posted by The Whelk at 9:44 AM on December 23, 2013 [8 favorites]


Worst. Thread. Ever.
posted by IvoShandor at 9:48 AM on December 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


Yeah, I find this whole topic boring
posted by Flashman at 9:48 AM on December 23, 2013 [29 favorites]


Your Digging Machine was eaten by a Grue.
posted by Splunge at 9:53 AM on December 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


It's some alloy of adamantium and mithril. Dwarven technology.
posted by bowmaniac at 10:01 AM on December 23, 2013


(or Meow-meow?)
This is going to cost me. Mrs A. wants one of these, death by cuteness.

The mystery mass? That's a fifth Google barge. Or someone buried Captain Jack (again).
posted by arcticseal at 10:05 AM on December 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


bowmaniac:
Dwarven technology.
No, Dwemer technology. It's the Heart of Lorkhan. You're not getting by that thing without Keening and Sunder.
posted by charred husk at 10:05 AM on December 23, 2013


Sigh. Not another post about Christmas fruitcake.
posted by sexyrobot at 10:18 AM on December 23, 2013 [11 favorites]


I really hope it's a band of monsters, finally unleashed from their shackles and allowed to roam free.

It'd make the morning commute a lot more interesting, and the traffic announcers like Adam Gerkhe lose their minds.

"And today on the Alaskan Way Viaduct, there's a stalled RapidRide C bus because yet another monster from the Underworld rose up in freedom, and ate all the wheels off of it. You might want to find another way to get from West Seattle to downtown."
posted by spinifex23 at 10:19 AM on December 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


/Takes off hazmat helmet, takes bite out of Object

It's a Baby Ruth!
posted by Cookiebastard at 10:20 AM on December 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


njohnson23: "Here in San Francisco they have a couple of smaller drilling machines running. The story goes that it will cost more than the value of the machines to get them out of the ground at the end of their journey. So they might just leave them there. We're talking millions of dollars."


It's really common for boring machines to be left in place once their jobs are done. The costs of excavation, refurbishment, transportation and storage of such a massive machine really add up. Partially because refurbishment practically means rebuilding the entire machine because a failure underground at it's second job is very expensive to correct.
posted by Mitheral at 10:27 AM on December 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


'Nutha fatberg? Sigh.
posted by aesop at 10:28 AM on December 23, 2013


I've seen Reign of Fire. I know what's coming.
posted by brundlefly at 10:30 AM on December 23, 2013 [7 favorites]


As an engineer who has done a fair amount of tunneling, it's most likely a big boulder. Other things I have encountered: a dumpster full of wigs, debris from the Great Baltimore Fire, 50 intact jars of formaldehyde, a mountain of old shoes.
posted by Ham Snadwich at 10:31 AM on December 23, 2013 [28 favorites]


Merely one of the 65 million year 'cicadas', interrupted in the final stages of its journey from the crust/mantle boundary to the surface.

All the same, it might be wiser to back away before it decides it needs to deploy its plutonium fog defense.
posted by jamjam at 10:31 AM on December 23, 2013 [7 favorites]


Worst. Thread. Ever.

That sort of comment really undermines morale.
posted by yoink at 10:34 AM on December 23, 2013 [6 favorites]


Ham Snadwich: "debris from the Great Baltimore Fire"

For those of you unfamiliar, this fire occurred in 1904.
posted by Chrysostom at 10:36 AM on December 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


Whatever it turns out to be, do not mock it.
posted by jfuller at 10:36 AM on December 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


They're dangerously close to discovering Project Cadmus. Do not pierce the Zoomway! You'll unleash the Mountain of Judgement!
posted by jason_steakums at 10:38 AM on December 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


unless it's a huge ball of wigs.

You can mock that.
posted by The Whelk at 10:38 AM on December 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


unless it's a huge ball of wigs.

What a mean thing to call Lady Bunny.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:39 AM on December 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


Relevant SCP.
Which has one of the best stories on the site, in the Unfounded canon.
posted by byanyothername at 10:41 AM on December 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


>> Worst. Thread. Ever.
>
> That sort of comment really undermines morale.

Real champions only feel more determined to lower the record again.
posted by jfuller at 10:45 AM on December 23, 2013


That sort of comment really undermines morale.

The beatings will continue until morale improves.
posted by Splunge at 10:47 AM on December 23, 2013


I've seen Reign of Fire. I know what's coming.
posted by brundlefly at 1:30 PM on December 23



For those not indoctrinated to the wonder that is "Reign of Fire" see the below synopsis... and weep for those who will fall before the fire.

via IMDB:
"During Underground construction in London Seattle around the year 2008 2013, a huge, hibernating dragon is discovered and springs to life, instantly incinerating all construction workers with its fiery breath. The only survivor is the 12-year-old Quinn Abercromby (Ben Thornton), whose mother (Alice Krige) was chief of the construction crew. The dragon escapes, and soon thousands of them work their way through Europe and eventually the rest of the world, burning everything, feeding on the ashes, and multiplying at an exponential rate. The world powers use their most powerful weapons, but this only hastens the destruction of the planet."
posted by Debaser626 at 10:57 AM on December 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


Oh, good. Nightmare fuel, plus new song material for about 3526735269562837 crappy local metal bands.

Luckily, I love both.
posted by spinifex23 at 11:03 AM on December 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


It's a giant ball of the best laid plans o' mice and men.
posted by Twang at 11:21 AM on December 23, 2013


please be something amazing and or terrifying please be something amazing and or terrifying please be something amazing and or terrifying please be something amazing and or terrifying please be something amazing and or terrifying please be something amazing and or terrifying please be something amazing and or terrifying......
posted by Our Ship Of The Imagination! at 11:28 AM on December 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


Look closely for the Aperture logo, could be the Enrichment Shafts. Beware, there may be deadly neurotoxin.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 11:29 AM on December 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


Fossilized hashish ball
posted by angrycat at 11:30 AM on December 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


For those of you unfamiliar, this fire occurred in 1904.

Up until fairly recently, fill was literally whatever you had on hand to fill the hole. So I've got a collection of pre-prohibition beer bottles from some long defunct Baltimore breweries. But I got those because we had to dig up a $2 million dollar tunneling machine stopped dead by a pile of trash.
posted by Ham Snadwich at 11:38 AM on December 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


"As an engineer who has done a fair amount of tunneling, it's most likely a big boulder. Other things I have encountered: a dumpster full of wigs, debris from the Great Baltimore Fire, 50 intact jars of formaldehyde, a mountain of old shoes."

So what you're saying is that it might be a dumpster full of wigs inside jars of formaldehyde atop of a mountain of old shoes?
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 11:45 AM on December 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


So what you're saying is that it might be a dumpster full of wigs inside jars of formaldehyde atop of a mountain of old shoes?

I'll put $1 down on that in the pool.
posted by Etrigan at 11:48 AM on December 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


So what you're saying is that it might be a dumpster full of wigs inside jars of formaldehyde atop of a mountain of old shoes?

I'm saying it is *definitely* a dumpster full of wigs inside jars of formaldehyde atop a mountain of shoes.
posted by Ham Snadwich at 12:10 PM on December 23, 2013 [5 favorites]


Ham Snadwich: "fill was literally whatever you had on hand to fill the hole."

One of the place I lived was built on old fill; the most interesting of which was tombstones. But no one robbed a graveyard these were tombstones with mistakes; reversed dates, names in the wrong order, wrong spellings, that kind of thing. Made dang fine footing stones for posts.
posted by Mitheral at 12:17 PM on December 23, 2013


One of those fundamental, Superman doesn't make any sense things, is because if I had those powers, I wouldn't be catching people falling off buildings, I'd be doing stuff like this -
digging routes for mass transport, tunnelling through mountains, wells in dry locations.

Think how many more lives you could save, and quality of life improvements you could make, if Superman just worked 9 to 5 as a digger.
posted by Elysum at 12:17 PM on December 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


Look closely for the Aperture logo, could be the Enrichment Shafts. Beware, there may be deadly neurotoxin.

Nah, Valve is in Bellevue.
posted by Artw at 12:23 PM on December 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


As a Seattle resident, I'm pretty sure it's a giant chunk of calcified smug self-satisfaction. We get a lot of that round here.
posted by lumpenprole at 12:24 PM on December 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also, I think I recall reading somewhere that a good portion of the Seattle waterfront is built on scuttled ships, sawdust and abandoned rail cars with a sprinkling of dirt and rocks on top.
posted by Ham Snadwich at 12:26 PM on December 23, 2013


I know what it is; it's a 3-yard ball of tangled paperclips, all of them intoning "It looks like you're trying to dig a tunnel. Would you like help?"
posted by ChrisR at 12:28 PM on December 23, 2013 [11 favorites]


GEODUCK PRIME
posted by jason_steakums at 12:28 PM on December 23, 2013 [8 favorites]


Giant naked mole rat. Man-eating variety. Wait and see.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:35 PM on December 23, 2013


Clearly a Slaver stasis field. Now we just have to envelope it in another stasis field to disrupt it.
posted by GuyZero at 1:12 PM on December 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Stargate. Go get the spec ops team, and oh, yeah, the nerd who speaks 20 languages. Bring food and ammo. Lots of ammo.
posted by mule98J at 1:22 PM on December 23, 2013


Also, this is the first time that I've read anything from SCP, and holy crap I may be instantly addicted.
posted by Halloween Jack at 1:23 PM on December 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


Other things I have encountered: a dumpster full of wigs, debris from the Great Baltimore Fire, 50 intact jars of formaldehyde, a mountain of old shoes.

I require way more detail on each of these incidents please.
posted by elizardbits at 2:56 PM on December 23, 2013 [1 favorite]



I hope this turns out better than it did in London.


the comment I came here to make. Scariest movie ever, by the way, when you're eight years old ... and your dad's about to leave on a business trip to London.

SPOILER ALERT:

centres on the discovery of a mysterious object buried in the ground at the site of an extension to the London Underground. Also uncovered nearby are the remains of early human ancestors more than five million years old. Realising that the object is in fact an ancient Martian spacecraft, Quatermass deduces that the aliens have influenced human evolution and the development of human intelligence. The spacecraft has an intelligence of its own and once uncovered begins to exert a malign influence, resurrecting Martian memories and instincts buried deep within the human psyche. Mayhem breaks out on the streets of London as the alien force grows in strength
posted by philip-random at 3:47 PM on December 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


That's the one I was thinking of! Oh hell yeah. Scared me and my brother half to death one chilly Friday night. Thanks philip-random. Which is indeed random because my brother's name is Philip. I was 8 years old as well.
posted by Splunge at 4:14 PM on December 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Boring machine, my ass! That thing's not boring!
posted by Mister_A at 4:26 PM on December 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also, my money's on an old Powerglide tranny, them things were tough.
posted by Mister_A at 4:30 PM on December 23, 2013


That thing's not boring!

That's kinda the point of the FPP.
posted by yoink at 4:35 PM on December 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


Merely one of the 65 million year 'cicadas', interrupted in the final stages of its journey from the crust/mantle boundary to the surface.

You are off by a factor of 382.
posted by sebastienbailard at 6:21 PM on December 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is yet another event which supports my theory that reality actually did end on 12/21/12, and we've been living since then in reality created by hollywood screenwriters. (Really look back on the past year -- it's the only logical explanation.)
posted by hippybear at 7:15 PM on December 23, 2013


my theory that reality actually did end on 12/21/12, and we've been living since then in reality created by hollywood screenwriters.

similar to a theory of mine, except that goes back to 1977 sometime. It stands to reason.
posted by philip-random at 8:35 PM on December 23, 2013


It's very reddit in this thread.

>As an engineer who has done a fair amount of tunneling, it's most likely a big boulder.

Wonder if you could answer two questions - Why wouldn't the company digging announce say that as well. "looks like a big rock" Or is it not easy to tell? And secondly, what do they do typically for these giant rocks? Explosives? Go around?
posted by anti social order at 8:59 PM on December 23, 2013


biggest emerald ever.
posted by hortense at 10:44 PM on December 23, 2013


Ham Snadwich: "Other things I have encountered: a dumpster full of wigs, debris from the Great Baltimore Fire, 50 intact jars of formaldehyde, a mountain of old shoes."

Are you sure you weren't tunneling through the B-plot of a Guillermo Del Toro film?
posted by schmod at 7:56 AM on December 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


DO NOT TUNNEL THROUGH A-PLOT.
posted by Artw at 8:36 AM on December 24, 2013 [4 favorites]


I do hope it is forty thousand tonnes of crystallized carbon. Then we can just be done with the diamond "conspicuous consumption industry" altogether.
posted by Monkey0nCrack at 5:52 PM on December 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


> So what you're saying is that it might be a dumpster full of wigs inside jars of formaldehyde atop of a mountain of old shoes?

and (for the moment, anyway) a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.
posted by jfuller at 11:54 AM on December 26, 2013


I think I heard this morning that it is possible that the machine has malfunctioned and that there is nothing there.
posted by humanfont at 12:18 PM on December 26, 2013


Ghost Object.
posted by Artw at 2:01 PM on December 26, 2013


Why wouldn't the company digging announce say that as well. "looks like a big rock" Or is it not easy to tell?

A few possible reasons:

1. They legitimately don't know. From the surface you can maybe get a profile of the object and its density in relation to the surrounding soil with ground penetrating radar or seismic reflection/refraction instruments. But depending on the depth, soil type and subsurface features, you may not be able to see anything.

2. They haven't looked at the tunnel face yet. This can be difficult or impossible depending on the soil. Loose fill with groundwater you probably couldn't visually inspect because you need to maintain pressure to keep the tunnel from collapsing. Solid rock could be self supporting, but either way it's not as simple as opening a door at the front of the machine and peeking in. It may be necessary to stabilize the tunnel by drilling down and injecting grout into the area around the tunnel to cut off groundwater and stabilize the soil.

3. Potential claims. In the specifications for a tunneling project, they often define what constitutes a delay. The specs may say that this portion of the tunnel has {x} geological features and a groundwater table at {y} elevation. Obstacles less than {z} size may be considered incidental to construction. So if the conditions found during the design phase investigation don't match the real world conditions and there are additional costs or time delays as a result, the Contractor may request additional money or time. If it becomes the basis for a lawsuit later, no one would want a public statement about what the object is, unless they're absolutely certain.

4. Politics. There's already Big Dig comparisons to this job. No one wants to tell the public that there's going to be a huge additional cost to an already very expensive project.

And secondly, what do they do typically for these giant rocks? Explosives? Go around?

Explosives are one possibility. They'd probably drill the rock face and place small explosive charges to fracture the rock to allow the machine to tunnel through. You can also pre-drill and fracture very hard rock with expanding mortars. Going around usually isn't a possibility because the construction easements have already been acquired and the alignment of the tunnel is already set. Also, these machines are huge. The radius of a curve you can make with them can be hundreds of feet. Often they just have to dig it up, remove the object, replace the soil and then keep tunneling. Not always possible and very expensive, but it's one way to ensure you're not going to get stopped again after you've advanced another 2 feet.
posted by Ham Snadwich at 3:21 PM on December 26, 2013 [7 favorites]




Well... that's rubbish.
posted by Artw at 4:35 PM on January 3, 2014 [2 favorites]


Not an entranceway to the Kingdom under the Glacial Melt then.
posted by arcticseal at 5:42 PM on January 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


The Mushroom Kingdom, though...
posted by jason_steakums at 5:54 PM on January 3, 2014 [3 favorites]


What’s blocking Bertha: a huge steel pipe...full of wigs.
posted by Ham Snadwich at 6:43 AM on January 6, 2014 [2 favorites]


When the flow of wigs is halted, Ghatanothoa begins to wake...
posted by Artw at 11:31 AM on January 6, 2014 [2 favorites]


Ghatanothoa begins to wake...

Or Donald Trump as he's known to the world.
posted by arcticseal at 12:22 PM on January 7, 2014 [2 favorites]


Wait so the current viaduct replacement project is held up by a piece of steel pipe laid by the viaduct replacement project in the past.
posted by mrzarquon at 4:10 PM on January 11, 2014


Pretty much, yeah. Although it likely wasn't installed by the contractor, but rather the design team. Still, they should be pretty embarrassed.
posted by Ham Snadwich at 8:37 AM on January 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


It's very Seattle transit.
posted by Artw at 9:02 AM on January 13, 2014


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