Galloping Gertie, Grandpa and Farquharson the Future Duck.

Thank you to everyone that has donated toward our van repairs, I’ve been very touched by the kindness and generosity you have shown.

Random Story Day.

Some day I will have a pet duck, and I will name him Farquharson.

As a child I loved it when my grandfather would visit because life would improve exponentially in the week or two we would see him. My mother pretended to be loving, the arbitrary rules of our house would lift. We’d have food, and things…My mother’s motivations were primarily financial. Grandpa was quite well off, a successful engineer, and in later years when my father (his son) disappeared, he sent my mother a substantial amount of the trust fund meant for us which ran through her fingers like water.

Anyway, these times were moments of happiness.

He seemed so very wise and intelligent to me.

I had, and still sometimes have, selective mutism -which is the inability (not, that i didnt want to, the words are just not there) to speak in certain situations.

I recall many instances of simply sitting on the porch with Grandpa, silent, as he would tell me stories.

One was about professor Farquharson, someone he really looked up to as a young man.  He told me about  a bridge, that was swaying in the wind, and the government had asked Farquharson to find a way to fix it.  He had my grandpa and other students build a model of bridge and put it into a wind tunnel. They worked for hours, days on end, to find solutions.  Unfortunately, just as the professor had come up with ideas, the bridge collapsed. Much of  the story was over my head engineering stuff but, I remembered it, who could forget a name like that?

Years later, I was in the library basement of my college (first go at college 1994) looking through a disorganized mess of boxes for an old biology related film reel and there setting on top of a box was was something labeled “Farquharson”  It was old black and white soundless footage of  the wind tunnel experiments.

And I discovered that- that bridge, was Galloping Gertie- the  Tacoma Narrows Bridge.

I have not seen it since, in the age of the internet, I would hope someone has digitized it. But you can watch poor Gertie online:

this is a student documentary- but its excellent and discusses the professor

and read about Professor Farquharson on wikipedia

The Washington Toll Bridge Authority hired Professor Frederick Burt Farquharson, an engineering professor at the University of Washington, to make wind-tunnel tests and recommend solutions in order to reduce the oscillations of the bridge. Professor Farquharson and his students built a 1:200-scale model of the bridge and a 1:20-scale model of a section of the deck. The first studies concluded on November 2, 1940—five days before the bridge collapse on November 7. He proposed two solutions:

  • To drill holes in the lateral girders and along the deck so that the air flow could circulate through them (in this way reducing lift forces).
  • To give a more aerodynamic shape to the transverse section of the deck by adding fairings or deflector vanes along the deck, attached to the girder fascia.

The first option was not favored because of its irreversible nature. The second option was the chosen one, but it was not carried out, because the bridge collapsed five days after the studies were concluded.[4]

The professor is still in my head. It’s just, a great name.  One of these day I want to name a pet Farquarson in honor of the dear professor, and really, it should be a duck.  Because.

Galloping Gertie and the numerous videos online  is an excellent  way to discuss bridges, engineering, and physics.  If you do discuss the Tacoma Narrows bridge collapse, dont forget the professor.




One thought on “Galloping Gertie, Grandpa and Farquharson the Future Duck.

  1. h4rrish4wk says:

    Oh the Scots put out so many good engineering type folks. I don’t know what it is – maybe something in the water – but they are so good at it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s