Thursday, July 10, 2008

Avoid the void

A massive sink hole has "appeared" in one of the main thoroughfares in Jozi - Oxford road, which threads together Sandton, Rosebank, Killarney and town. This has happened as part of the tunnel excavation for the long promised Gautrain which is going to go some way to eliminating some of Joburg's really bad public transport issues.

It always worried me slightly, the thought of an underground system in Joburg. I'm no geologist, but it strikes me that this whole area is shot through like the proverbial swiss cheese. Mining shafts and a couple of hundred years of gold extraction in the region. Ok, I'm really not a geologist, and I know there are not actual mining shafts around the Gautrain tunnel and I'm sure its all fine, but anyway, something about the news of the sinkhole made me smile. Apparently, it was water seepage that caused the ground to subside above where the "Tunnel Boring Machine" (yes, Chimera, that one's for you) was, well, boring. Apparently there was a "fracture" in the water utilities above the tunnel boring machine. This caused "ground loss". It caused a "void" to form. I'm quoting directly from the finweek article, its not some end of the world handbook though the vocab is suitably brave new world. Apparently it took two hours to shut off the water mains so what started as a 6 x 4 m hole rapidly became a 12 x 7 m hole. Heheh. Similar collapses "are not be expected in other parts of Joburg" said the guy in charge of the whole operation.

I'm reminded of the Buddhist story with the hole in the ground - one of those elegant teaching tales about our own thought habits.
Man walks down the road, there's a hole. He falls in.
Man walks down the road a second time, there's a hole, he falls in.
It happens a third time, a fourth, and on and on. He walks, doesn't see the hole, falls in.
One day, the man walks down the road and notices that there's a big hole in the ground. He notices it just before falling in.
This also happens again, many many times. He sees the hole. He still falls in.
One day, the man walks down the road, sees the hole -
and walks around it.

This can take years. Lifetimes.

Ah well, no-one was hurt and aside from the fact that it gives the Gautrain pessimists something real to gripe about I'm sure it'll all be fine. Not like for Blackadder on a bad day when one of Baldrick's not so cunning plans has gone awry and he faces certain death at the hands of Queenie's executioners and laments..."the grave opens up before me like a .... big hole in the ground."

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