Have you seen it?
About Charles
Sheep farmers & engineers
Let's build a bridge
Oops, still no sheds!
Zachariah Fee
The Governor's speech
Stamp of approval
The next generation
Look at it now
The photo album
Links and acknowledgements


Erecting the towers


Hanging around


Closing the span


All done!

Let's build a bridge

There was no industrial base on the island. No ironworks or engineering factories, so the bridge and the sheds had to be imported. They ordered the bridge from David Rowell & Co. in London. It cost £2,281.00 and was shipped to the Falkland Islands on the SS Ballena. I wonder how much a replacement kit would cost these days?

The foreman, Mr. E. S. Crawford, was a mason so he directed the construction of the footings for the two towers and the bases for the ramp on the Southern bank.

There were only two machines available for the team to use. One was a cement mixer, and the other was a stone breaker. As you can imagine, the stone breaker was incredibly noisy. People could hear it all the way back in Goose Green when it was running.

Robert Rowlands has told me:

"That same old rock crusher with a different engine was set up in Stanley by the FIC and I remember it in use when I was a boy in the 1960's in the middle of the town, you could not see some houses on Fitzroy road for dust when it was operating."

The cement mixer

The stone breaker

The team of men who worked on the bridge were the local sheep farmers. They were the only workforce available, so everyone pitched in. A real team effort.

There were no cranes, no earthmovers, no trucks. Everything had to be done by hand. Apart from one engineer and a mason, the rest of the workforce were not skilled civil engineers – they were local sheep farmers. You can see the convoys of men with wheelbarrows as they moved the rubble or brought down the concrete.

My father (Charles' son, Pete) told me he visited the site from time to time. There was a hut that was used as an office. The office contained a table and a couple of benches. The benches were boxes which could open out to make a bed. Sometimes his father stayed on site overnight and slept in this makeshift bed. My dad was amazed to think that his Dad slept in a wooden box!

The foundations for the bases at both ends of the bridge had to be blasted out of solid rock using explosives. You can get an idea of how much material had to be removed from this photo. Every stone had to be taken away in a wheelbarrow.

One day there was a loud blast in the settlement at Goose Green. It turned out that some of the local boys had been over to the site at had found that the emptied explosive containers still contained some powder so they collected it, brought it back to Goose Green and set it off under a peat stack. Pete was with them at the time, but since he was only small he didn't manage to get away as fast as the other lads and he got spattered with the debris. After that a few new rules concerning Health and Safety were implemented. All the containers and charges had to be collected and emptied after each blast. The explosives were kept under lock and key.

There were no cranes, so how on earth could they lift the assembled 40 foot tall towers into place? Charles found an abandoned schooner-rigged yacht, probably the Gwendolin, and he adapted the twin masts to form an improvised lifting gear by means of ropes and pulleys. And it worked well, as you can see in the photos.

Construction was started in October 1924 and the bridge was completed in July 1925 – less than a year’s work.


After the bridge had been built, work on the approach roads was completed by the end of October 1925, enabling the first sheep to be brought across the bridge in time for the new shearing season.

There are reports that the Bodie Creek Suspension Bridge is the most southerly suspension bridge in the world, and I am quite sure that this was true at the time it was constructed. In fact there is not much land on the planet south of this latitude and I haven’t seen any claims which counter this assertion, so I like to believe it is still true to this day. Even so, claims are now being watered down to “one of the most southerly ...” Pah. The only others that I have been able to find are timber and rope constructs for walkers in the mountains of Patagonia. Of course, I could be wrong. Does anyone actually know of a steel suspension bridge further south than this?

I have walked across the Clifton Suspension Bridge, designed by the great Isambard Kingdom Brunel. It is a truly inspirational structure and a fantastic feat of engineering, but he did have rather more resources, men, equipment and materials at his disposal.  With modern day technology and unlimited finances, the French have built the spectacular Viaduct de Millau In my humble opinion, for what they have achieved the handful of hardy Falkland Islanders who had the enterprise, ingenuity and determination and sheer strength required to build the Bodie Creek Suspension Bridge can hold their heads up with pride amongst such illustrious company.


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