On Wind & Sail: Letterboxing in San Francisco

One of the benefits of homeschooling is the flexibility of our schedule. When Patrick has business meetings out of town, we are often able to accompany him. This works not only to his benefit – he has company on the long drive, we often share in the task of driving so the other can catch up on work, and he can take advantage of the carpool lane – but to ours.

While he is engaged at his conference, we hit the road to explore the city or surrounding area. This is just what brought us to San Francisco earlier this week.

We assumed that we would be staying in downtown or the financial district as we had in the past. Come to discover, this conference took place near the airport in Millbrae. Not exactly convenient for walking. Though the proximity to the BART would have been ideal – our plans for the day provided only a small window of time and we wanted to squeeze in as much as possible.

A las, I made the decision to drive back into SF proper myself and take our chances with parking. Our first destination was Golden Gate Park. In all our previous visits to the city, we had not previously explored this gem. My goal was to locate the Roald Amundsen or Gjoa Monument as well as two historic windmills.

On Wind & Sail: Letterboxing in San Francisco @WellTraveledFamily.netIn October 1906, Roald Amundsen and his crew arrived in San Francisco aboard the 69-foot Gjoa. Previously a herring boat from Tronso, Norway, she had been retrofitted for Amundsen’s quest to discover the famed Northwest Passage. The Gjoa took the small crew up and over Canada, east to west, finally arriving near Herschel Island, in arctic Canada.

To get word back to the outside world of his success, Amundsen left his men behind in the icebound ship and skied some 500 miles into Eagle, Alaska, where he telegraphed the good news home. As he and his crew arrived in San Francisco a few months later, they were hailed as heroes.

This epic quest was not Amundsen’s only feat, however. He led the Antarctic expedition (1910–12) to become the first to reach the South Pole in December 1911, an epic race against Robert Falcon Scott. In 1926, he was the first expedition leader to be recognized without dispute as having reached the North Pole.

We had visited the Gjoa ship at the Maritime Museum in Oslo. It was exciting to experience this full circle. Not far from the Norwegian granite stele is located a short distance from two windmills.
On Wind & Sail: Letterboxing in San Francisco @WellTraveledFamily.netBuilt between 1902 and 1908, the two historic windmills that overlook Ocean Beach at the far west end of Golden Gate Park were originally designed to provide water for the fledgling park at the beginning of the last century.

Fresh water was essential to transform the sand dunes of the Sunset district into the green that it is today.  The ground water inland was insufficient, so the coastal winds were harnessed to pump deep water closer to the ocean shore.  The windmills were in use only until 1913, when they were replaced by more efficient electric pumps.

The North windmill, known as the Dutch Windmill, was the first, built in 1902 to fill the artificial ponds within the boundaries of Golden Gate Park. The South windmill, known as the Murphy Windmill, was the largest of its kind in the world, with gigantic 114 foot sails, each cut from a single log. These sails turned clockwise, unlike traditional Dutch windmills which turn counter-clockwise.

While in Golden Gate Park, we also enjoyed one of our most favorite pastimes, Letterboxing – the ultimate scavenger hunt. Hunting letterboxes in San Francisco is always enjoyable – the boxes tend to be well maintained and the stamps are amazing! Often, intricately carved or multiple stamps that “stack” within one another.

We hunted three boxes (Aphrodite, Artemis, and Breathe) and were delighted to find all three with ease. My girl has become quite adept at locating the boxes – often without the complete set of clues .. a real sleuth.

We also picked up a hitch-hiking stamp and hope to be planting it in Ashland next week. 🙂

To learn more about letterboxing, visit AtlasQuest.

 

Science Milestones: The Golden Gate Bridge

One of the seven wonders of the modern world, the Golden Gate Bridge was the life mission of an engineer who had never designed or overseen the building of a suspension bridge. At the time of its construction the Golden Gate Bridge was the longest suspension bridge in the world, built hundreds of feet above the dangerously churning waters of the entrance to San Francisco Bay, the Golden Gate. 

goldengatebridgeJoseph Strauss, a bridge builder from Chicago, had been visiting San Francisco for several years to supervise work on a small drawbridge, one of four hundred he had built around the world. But Strauss’s ambitions far surpassed any work his firm had ever attempted.

Bridges have long been an interest to us a family and we enjoy spending the weekend in the big city of San Francisco whenever possible. We watched the new Bay Bridge as it was constructed but the red hue of the Golden Gate Bridge has always captivated us.

Biography

straussJoseph Baermann Strauss was born in Cincinnati, Ohio on the 9th of January 1870. He loved poetry and hoped to pursue a career in the arts like his mother, a pianist, and his father, a painter and writer. Though he never became a fine artist, he would help create one of the most famous bridges in the world.

Following his college graduation, Strauss worked as a draftsman for the New Jersey Steel and Iron Company, and the Lassig Bridge and Iron Works Company in Chicago. Seven years later, he was named principal assistant engineer in the firm of Ralph Modjeski, a Chicago engineer. While working for Modjeski, Strauss developed his trademark “bascule” drawbridge design. Strauss’ bascule was a utilitarian structure, practical but unlovely.

Strauss eventually left Modjeski’s company, forming the Strauss Bascule Bridge Company in 1904. A prolific engineer, he constructed some 400 drawbridges across the U.S. Yet he dreamed of building “the biggest thing of its kind that a man could build.”

In 1919, San Francisco’s city engineer, Michael O’Shaughnessy, approached Strauss about bridging the Golden Gate, the narrow, turbulent passage where San Francisco Bay meets the Pacific Ocean. Strauss campaigned tirelessly over the next decade to build the bridge. He faced enormous opposition from the “Old Guard” — environmentalists, ferry operators, city administrators, and even the engineering community. Yet in November 1930, a year into the Great Depression, voters at last supported a bond issue for Strauss’ bridge. The ambitious project finally had its green light.

Strauss alienated many people in his quest to build the structure, his first suspension bridge. Obsessed with claiming credit as the span’s creator, he minimized the contributions of Charles Ellis and Leon Moissieff, the two visionaries who actually worked out the significant engineering challenges of building the bridge.

On May 27, 1937, the bridge opened to the public. Returning to his other great love, poetry, Strauss composed verse for the occasion, exulting, “At last, the mighty task is done.” It would be the last mighty task of his life. Exhausted, Strauss moved to Arizona to recover. Within a year, he would die of a stroke.

Bring it Home

  • Read about some of the opposition to the bridge. Then prepare a poster expressing either support for, or opposition to, the Golden Gate Bridge project. Your poster should reflect one of the arguments made for or against the bridge at the time it was being debated. Illustrate your poster with a drawing of the benefit or harm the bridge would bring to your community.
  • During his campaign, Strauss had bribes distributed to members of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors to secure their support for the project. Imagine that you are a young newspaper editor in San Francisco at the time and you have just learned about these bribes. How could you respond in a way that would be in the city’s long-term interest? Write an editorial condemning the bribes or praise the project as necessary regardless of the maneuvers that might be necessary to make it happen.
  • Read about Irving Morrow, about the man who designed the Golden Gate Bridge’s distinctive Art Deco features. Find a photo of another building or other object designed in the Art Deco style and explain what you like about the style. Alternatively, choose another bridge or building structure, find out what style of architecture it represents, and explain why you like it.
  • Coordinate a toothpick bridge building competition amongst your friends.
  • People love suspension bridges for many reasons: their beauty, their utility, their mathematical elegance, their long spans, or even for the regional bragging rights they confer. Research other suspension bridges around the world and create a PowerPoint or a webpage to share with others what you learned.
  • Learn how the Golden Gate Bridge was financed. What is a bond? Why do governments issue bonds? Why do voters have to vote to approve a bond issue? What is “collateral” and what did these six counties use as collateral for the bonds?
  • Visit the Golden Gate Bridge and the Golden Gate Bridge Pavilion yourself and learn more about the construction of this Strauss’ first suspension bridge.
  • While in San San Francisco, enjoy the Golden Gate Treasure Hunt in honor of the 75th Anniversary.

Science Milestones

Bridges Are to Cross :: Book Sharing Monday

My kiddos have always been intrigued by bridges. “When are we going to see the big bridge?” is a frequent question as we travel over the Cascade and Coast mountain ranges on our way to Grandma & Papa’s house in North Bend. The McCullough Bridge, the mile-long span across the Coos River, is their indication that we have arrived.

With our recent vacation in San Francisco and seeing first hand two of the most infamous bridges (The Golden Gate Bridge and Oakland Bay Bridge), the kids have been increasing interested in bridges. At the library last week, we discovered another gem, stumbling once again upon a book in our library by chance (many of the books we’ve most enjoyed have been found at the library on display – we haven’t actually searched the online catalog to find them).

Bridges are to Cross by Philemon Sturges is a great introduction to bridges. Everyone knows bridges are to cross — to get to the other side. But did you know that some bridges carry llamas loaded with firewood, some let people dance over lazy rivers, some were forts for defending castles, and some were crossed by emperors and popes? From a simple log to woven webs of steel, bridges reflect our values, our lifestyles. Feast your eyes on these bridges from around the world and you will come to realize that crossing is only one reason for having a bridge.

The text introduces the reader to many of the most famous bridges in the world, of which our favorites were:

  • Apurimac River Bridge, Peru (rope suspension bridge)
  • Cnococheague Aqueduct, Maryland USA (stone arch bridge)
  • Segovia Aqueduct, Spain (stone arch bridge built by the Romans)
  • Salginatobel Bridge, Switzerland (3-hinged concrete arch bridge)
  • Brooklyn Bridge, New York USA (wire suspension bridge)

Each bridge introduced also includes a brief statement identifying the bridge type… from arch to suspension to rope bridges… providing a building block for those interested in learning more about the architecture of bridge design.

Bridges are to Cross is an excellent book for budding engineers, future artists, and especially new readers!

Like most picture books, what intrigued us perhaps more than the words were the three-dimensional illustrations, all painstakingly created with intricately cut paper by artist Giles Laroche. The illustrations were created on a variety of paper surfaces through a combination of drawing, painting, and papercutting.

These cut-paper illustrations of bridges are complex and exquisite; their texture and depth astonishing. Paper-cutting or paper-piecing is fast becoming one of our favorite art forms. We have continued to explore it through the work of Hans Christian Andersen.

Upon reading this book, the kiddos are even more interested in bridges and have been building bridges in our living room to cross the span between the couch and the coffee table. They started out using their bodies to create simple beam bridges and have now advanced to using their Taekwondo belts to create suspension bridges. The little guy even identified it correctly, “Mommy! This is a suspension bridge like the Golden Gate!”

Visual representation of the pages of an ebook titled, Engineering Marvels: Bridges.

As their interest was peeked, I revisited the toothpick bridge unit I taught when I was teaching full time and simplified a few of the lessons to accommodate their younger age. I have made it available for you as an ebook, Engineering Marvels: Bridges.