Bertha, a tunnel boring drill, carving out what will be a four-lane highway in Seattle hit a roadblock Friday — and officials still don’t know what it is.
Considering that the five-story tall machine is designed to tunnel through rock and soil without issue, it’s puzzling as to what could have stopped it.
The Seattle Times described Bertha’s cutting face as “the widest in the world at 57 feet, 4 inches. At the depth that Bertha was boring — about 60 feet below the surface — the Times reported the earth should be a more refined sediment. Above that depth is more likely where obstructions, including century-old manmade objects, could reside.
According to KOMO-TV, transportation department officials said Bertha isn’t damaged.
Watch Bertha’s cutting head spin in this demonstration video:
This video shows a time lapse of the launch of Bertha to create the 1.7-mile tunnel under the city:
Options to remove the unknown obstruction include drilling down from the surface or sending crews in through the more than 1,000 feet that have been bored thus far to break up the object. This latter option, Washington Department of Transportion spokeswoman KaDeena Yerkan told the Times could be complicated by loose soil and pressurization issues.
“STP (Seattle Tunnel Partners) has not made a decision on how they’re going to move forward yet,” Yerkan told the Times Monday. “They’re talking to their experts, we have been talking to ours.”
As of Tuesday, the DOT released a statement saying it is still deciding upon how to safely deal with the block.
Since then, there has been community speculation as to what the block could be. Seattle Weekly compiled these satirical 10 options:
1. 1999 Schwinn buried by Mike McGinn in sacred midnight offering to the gods of alternative transportation
2. Ye Ole Curiosity Shop’s Ye Ole Cellar Full o’ Tourist Crap
3. An Amazon Prime Subterranean DeliveryDrone
4. A giant cache of Beats by Dre Headphones
5. The gutter of the American League West
6. Operator accidently grabbed wife’s keys this morning
7. James McNerney’s Dignity
8. Little somethin’ somethin’ left by the Duwamish
9. A vein of “blight gas”
10. Richard Conlin’s political career
Chuck Cacek with Sound Earth Strategies told KING-TV he doesn’t think what’s blocking Bertha is manmade.
“It could be a giant chunk of rock that was floated down as the glacier extended to the south,” Cacek told the news station.
Watch KING-TV’s report:
When completed, the project as a whole will replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct on Highway 99.