Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Thrilling Dangerously

"[I've] just witnessed history. The glass-bottomed walkway on Yuntai Mountain just cracked. When I was about to reach the end [of the passage], I heard a sudden bang and felt a shake under my feet."
"I looked down and saw the glass floor beneath me shattered. [I have] no idea why it happened, at that moment everybody was screaming."
"I yelled out loud 'It cracked, it really cracked!', then pushed the people in front of me to leave. [I was] terrified."
Female tourist: internet screen name 'lidonghaishuohezainihaowodehai'

Glass, the perfect medium to view objects through. With silvered backing glass reflects us as we peer at a looking-glass (mirror). With the glass freely transparent, we can see what lies beyond the glass. Windows invite light into chambers from the out-of-doors. The utility of windows is obvious when used in perfectly normal, pedestrian ways that we are familiar with. When glass is used otherwise in construction, say, as a building curtain to take the place of conventional brick and mortar, cement and steel, the appearance is quite different; sometimes the glass is imbued with a copper tinge, or other metals for variation. With glass shrouding the outer surface of a building we see the sky reflected in it, as though the sky is absorbing the building itself.

And when a bridge -- conventionally built to enable passage from one height to another over an impassable middle like a river or a gorge -- is constructed with glass, we can view at all angles, including below our very feet what the chasm below looks like. It takes an enormous leap of faith, to casually traverse a glass bridge. Glass is viewed as friable, easily broken or smashed when force is applied. Replacing metal with glass to sheath a bridge seems risky, even with the knowledge that glass can be produced that is shatter-proof, with enormous strength.

But people can be trusting when they are informed that there is safety in modern construction methods, even those which use glass to enable people to walk across great distances to view landscapes they would never see under other, ordinary circumstances, enhanced beyond measure when the viewing platform their feet stand upon is completely transparent. People take comfort in the presence of other people doing similar things. If so many people find the assurances trustworthy, then why not themselves as well?

Glass-bottomed bridges have become a popular tourist attraction at various venues throughout the world. And in particular in spectacular natural areas of the world, like great, yawning canyons. The world's highest and longest glass skywalk was built in Zhangjiajie, in Hunan province. It is a structure that stretches 430 metres in length, situated above a canyon floor at a height of 300 metres. Acrophobiacs need not apply.

Terrified: The event yesterday left  visitors screaming on the walkway 3,540 ft high
Terrified: The event yesterday left visitors screaming on the walkway 3,540 ft high

A newly-built and -opened structure located in Hunan province at the Yuntaishan scenic area, a walkway capable of and indeed supporting dozens of tourists emitted a loud crack when a pane of the 68-metre section shattered into small segments. Tourists who were there to hear the panel crack were understandably alarmed. But to their credit no stampede of fearful people resulted, to create a scenario of chaotic danger imperilling peoples' lives.

As a result, no injuries were reported due to panic. This is a structure that has been built on a cliff side about 120 metres above a canyon in a remote mountain area treasured for its ethereal beauty. The site and its glass walkway opened on September 20. The management of the bridge posted information stating that the cracks resulted from external force, but that the walkway is capable of supporting weights of over 800 kilograms per square metre. One of the three layers of glass had cracked leaving the remaining two intact.

The bridge management dismissed fears of whether or not walking along a glass walkway over an immense depth is a good idea by emphasizing that "This has no impact on safety", and so, for the trusting and the curious -- definitely not the faint of heart -- but the hardy thrill-seeker; all those whose spirit of adventure no mere set-back like a glass square of a glass bridge cracking is not easily jarred, rest easy.

Johannes Eisele—AFP/Getty IMages    A Chinese tourist holds onto his son as they walk across a glass-bottomed suspension bridge in the Shinuizhai mountains in Pingjang county, Hunan province some 150 kilometers from Changsha on Oct. 7, 2015

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