Sky Piercers



----Here's a real surprise. Some of the tallest structures on Earth in the California Delta.



-----"Look at that tower," El suddenly exclaimed as we cruised into the Cross Delta Canal.

----- "What tower?" I responded.

-----"Up - Look up," El said excitedly. I did, and could hardly believe my eyes. Only a few hundred yards from Halcyon was a towering structure so big, so high, that it completely escaped my notice.

-----"Wow! That's one huge tower. Aren't those antennae rising from the top? Must be something for communication. Geeze - how high do you think it is?" I was awed by their size, and watched, transfixed, as the top of the tower disappeared into a scudding cloud.

----- "What do you mean, 'it'? Look - there are three more of those towering things."

-----That night we were anchored in The Meadows, a beautiful anchorage surrounded by trees, tules, and birds. The towers, a few miles distant, were even more impressive at night than by day. Strobe flashes lit the sky - up, up, up! Incredible. A few days later, traveling the South Mokelumne River, we stopped at Wimpy's Marina and asked Anne Boyce, the Office Manager, about the nearby towers. "Folks weren't too sure about them - radiation was the biggest concern. I have some data about them that might interest you." Anne copied a fact sheet for me.

-----The tallest tower is 2,049 feet high! For scale, the Eiffel Tower is a piddly 1,052 feet. Even the Empire State Building is only 1,470 feet. These are some of the tallest structures ever built! They are TV towers, transmitting to Sacramento and Stockton, built in 1986. There are almost 39 miles of cable supporting just one tower. On a hot summer day, thermal expansion of the steel can make the tower grow six feet. A high wind can sway the top five feet. The elevator to the weather station eighty feet from the top (there is too much radiation hazard at the top) can take 25 to 30 minutes to reach the platform. Those strobe lights that so impressed us at night are 1,000 watts. Incredible.

-----However, as with all landmarks, there are those attracted by emotions other than awe. In 1995, a base jumper scaled the tower in the dawn darkness with a parachute strapped to his back. He jumped from the platform, but misjudged the wind. He was carried into a support cable where he fouled his chute. Terrified, but helpless, he slid 1,900 feet down the cable until friction burned through his chute and it tore free from the cable. He fell the last hundred feet, landing in a five-foot-wide ditch filled with water and mud! He survived with only a few broken bones. Had he fallen only a foot or so to either side, he would have been crushed by the impact.


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