Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Rock is ready to fall

We've just been informed that the dynamiting of the huge rock overhanging the road at Choranche has been pushed back 24 hours, because light rain is falling this morning, and this could interfere with the ignition of the explosives. So, the ignition is henceforth scheduled for tomorrow afternoon, Wednesday, 12 December, at 13.00 hours.

The rock is located several kilometers up beyond my property, and a kilometer or so to the east of the village of Choranche. There are relatively few houses in the vicinity of the rock. The pretty beige house with pale green shutters is quite close to the rock, and could be damaged by the explosion. The property of my friends Tineke Bot, the Dutch sculptor, and her husband Serge is a hundred meters further down the road. The constructions in the foreground of the above photo are in fact located at Châtelus, and separated from the rock by the Bourne. It goes without saying that all these properties will be emptied of their occupants a few hours before the explosion.

As you can see from the above photo, the section of road directly beneath the rock is supported by a man-made stone wall, which in fact juts out into the valley, forming a hairpin bend beneath the rock. If the overhanging rock were to be dislodged in a relatively calm fashion, with a minimum charge of explosives, it would slide down vertically onto the road, and its gigantic weight would then carry the roadway and the stone wall down into the Bourne, creating a nasty mess. So, the strategy adopted by the engineers will consist of placing a huge charge of explosives behind the left-hand (Choranche) side of the rock, so that it will be blown out into the empty valley to the right, in the direction of Villard-de-Lans.

Beneath the rock, the engineers have created a huge pile of old tires, covered in gravel. Ideally, this should cushion the shock of big chunks of rock falling onto the road, and nudge them off into the valley... where hikers will be discovering, for years to come, wedged between the trees and the rocks, mysterious fragments of damaged tires. The next time the Bourne is flooded at Pont-en-Royans, residents of the cliff houses will be intrigued by the strange vision of rafts of old tires floating beneath their balconies.

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