back to article The Great Barrier Relief – Inside London's heavy metal and concrete defence act

Last time London flooded was 1953. Three hundred lives were lost, 30,000 evacuated and the damage totalled a considerable £5bn in today’s money. Given how London has expanded since then, the record-breaking wet winter of 2014 would have been worse had it not been for the presence of 51,000 tonnes of metal and 210,000 cubic …

Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese
Silver badge
Headmaster

Balanced article

+1 for use of "screen dialogue" instead of "dialog"

-1 for use of "labor relations" instead of "labour relations"

Antonymous Coward
Headmaster

Re: Balanced article

Very balanced.

+1 for use of "HM the Queen"

-1 for abuse of "meters" when attempting to discuss measurements rather than measuring instruments.

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

Re: Balanced article

+1 comprehensive

-1 for tonnes as units of force

Roger Gann
Headmaster

Re: Balanced article

Another -1 for the use of "hand break" !

choleric

Re: Balanced article

@Roger Gann

That's torn it. Man the pumps!

Kubla Cant
FAIL

Re: Balanced article

-100 for use of "a VAX running PDP 11".

Does the author think "PDP 11" [sic] is some kind of software? If so, it was very prescient of DEC to write "PDP 11" in 1970, seven years before they invented a VAX to run it on.

The First Dave

Re: Balanced article

-2 for: "The Thames Barrier's signature are a set of seven, silver-coloured domes on boat-shaped piers that straddle the river and resemble a fleet of yachts with the wind behind them, in flight into the center of London."

Phuq Witt
Headmaster

Re: Balanced article

+1 for interesting article

-1 for not enough photos of machinery [although doubtless photography is banned due to 'terrist' hysteria]

-10 for 'center', 'labor', 'meter', 'defenses', etc.

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

Re: Balanced article

And at the risk of being seen as picky about an otherwise fascinating article I'm sure the banks of the Thames have been inhabited for more than 1500 years.

Tom 7
Silver badge

Re: Balanced article

Why worry about the machinery when it comes to terrists? Its probably the easiest thing to take out - I dont think terrorist were thought of when it was built but taking out just one of the gates at the right time would cause a huge amount of damage and be nigh on impossible to stop.

Kubla Cant

Re: Balanced article

-1 for "The Bakelite and white-coat era systems were phased out in the 1990s".

I'd be astounded if an installation opened in 1984 used Bakelite. I know that 1984 seems like ancient history, but Bakelite belongs to an earlier era. It was invented in 1907 and by 1993 was old enough to be designated as something called a National Historic Chemical Landmark.

cray74
Silver badge

Re: Balanced article

-10 for 'center', 'labor', 'meter', 'defenses', etc.

Bah, +10 you mean! Use of the proper spellings of those words is clear proof of success by what I call Operation Microsoft-McDonalds, the ongoing correction of quaint Britishese to proper American English by indirect cultural subversion. Thatcher might've stopped the direct plan to rewrite textbooks in 1982 (...never should've hired Texans to rewrite textbooks, too busy blathering about cavemen riding dinosaurs to pay attention to Parliament's security systems...), but the US learned a thing or two from the Rooskies about playing a long game.

We can wait. Set the language defaults in the OS's you buy to American, print the menus in American, keep it up for a few decades and you'll see long-form "billion" falling out of use in the British media, 'r' and 'e' being reversed, and then one day while everyone's wondering what nation the US will invade next for oil you won't be ready for the real plan: NFL expansion! Manchester United will slap on some helmets and pick up a pigskin! Britain and the entire Continent are just empty of gridiron football franchises, it's a growth market!

It's all there sheeple, just look at the donations from the National Football League and Microsoft to every winning Presidential candidate.

Phuq Witt
Facepalm

Re: Balanced article

"...you'll see long-form "billion" falling out of use in the British media..."

Oh. they've been doing that for years

"...NFL expansion! Manchester United will slap on some helmets and pick up a pigskin!.."

They tried that a few years back. Channel 4 started coverage of the NFL complete with sad wanker English commentators referring to 'AWW-fence' and 'DEE-fence'. I think it was watched by about the same number of people who use WiPhones.

Don't forget the sartorial front as well. Britain is chock full of sad twats wearing sweatshirts emblazoned with the names of American universities and colleges. Somehow I suspect the number of 'Merkins proudly sporting "Stockport College" on their chests is somewhat smaller.

John Brown (no body)
Silver badge
Happy

Re: Balanced article

"Somehow I suspect the number of 'Merkins proudly sporting "Stockport College" on their chests is somewhat smaller."

Dartford College on the other hand...

Bilby
Headmaster

Re: Balanced article

All the talk of 'peers' and 'damns' was more reminiscent of heated debate in the Lords than of civil engineering.

Kubla Cant

Re: Balanced article

Somehow I suspect the number of 'Merkins proudly sporting "Stockport College" on their chests is somewhat smaller.

But there do seem to be quite a lot wearing "Oxford University" sweatshirts. Maybe they're just Rhodes Scholars.

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

ah thanks for that - I love going round there especially around wintery sort of time so nice to hear about what's inside!

GrumpenKraut
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Happy

Great article, pleasure to read

Thanks from a Kraut!

This post has been deleted by its author

DropBear
Silver badge
Happy

Re: Great article, pleasure to read

Thoroughly enjoyed. Humble suggestion for next stop: Falkirk wheel...?

Seanmon

Re: Great article, pleasure to read

Falkirk wheel was done a while ago IIRC.

But yeah, any chance of a Complete geek's guide ebook any time, chaps? Or at least a header link up there, for easier reference?

W Donelson

Wonderful article, thanks!

Bob Wheeler

Silly Question Time

An awesome engineering monument.

I've always wanted to know how concrete sets under water?

Andy 73

Re: Silly Question Time

Concrete sets through chemical reaction, not drying. It'll happily set under water.

phil dude
Boffin

Re: Silly Question Time

It is a chemical reaction, not a "loss of water" or cooling down setting you might be used to. e.g. jelly (cooling) , pots (loss of water).

Generally, the slower concrete sets, the stronger it becomes.

P.

Annihilator

Re: Silly Question Time

It's also an exothermic reaction. For example, if the Hoover Dam had been poured in one continuous pour, it would still be emitting heat today.

Concrete (or cement technically) actually *needs* water to set.

Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese
Silver badge

Re: Exothermic

Interesting. Has anyone run the maths on how much heat is emitted to the atmosphere from the concrete used in things like dams and windfarms versus the amount of heat "saved" by not burning fossil fuel to generate power?

Yet Another Anonymous coward
Silver badge

Re: Exothermic

Compared to the amount of CO2 released to turn CaCO3 into CaO it's bugger all

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

Re: Exothermic

> Compared to the amount of CO2 released to turn CaCO3 into CaO it's bugger all

...and the amount of amorphous C required to turn FePOSHSiWhatever into Fe

...or the amount of CH4 to drive the turbine to electrolyse the Al out of a vat of mud

...etc...

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

Re: Silly Question Time

As others have said concrete will happily set underwater but you do have to be a little careful about it. If the water is able to rush past it then it will wash away before it sets. Generally this isn't a problem because the formwork protects the concrete while it dries. You need to be careful about leaks in the formwork due to inrushing water etc etc.

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

Re: Exothermic

Concrete production is a significant source of CO2 emissions.

Eventually (centuries), some of the CO2 is reabsorbed as the cement goes back to limestone.

john.w

Re: Silly Question Time

The Hoover dam used chilled water pumped thorough it ensure the concrete set properly, it can get a bit warm in the desert.

Stoneshop
Silver badge
FAIL

The only computers were a VAX running PDP 11

That's like "a Vauxhall driving a Morris".

The PDP11 is a computer system, not an OS, as is the VAX. The PDP is 16-bit, and can run RSTS, RSX-11, RT-11 or various flavours of Unix. The 32-bit VAX runs VMS or Ultrix (or some other Unix variant)

Phil O'Sophical
Silver badge

Re: The only computers were a VAX running PDP 11

True, but VMS VAXen can also run 16-bit RSX-11 applications in a compatibility mode, and so were often used to replace aging PDP11s. This may be what the authro was trying to convey.

Steve Davies 3
Silver badge

Re: The only computers were a VAX running PDP 11

Not all VAXen can run PDP-11 Code but the 11/780, 11/750, 11/785's can certainly do that. Later VAXen had the PDP-11 capability removed. If my memory serves me well the BI-Bus VAXes were the first to have it removed.

Stoneshop
Silver badge

Re: The only computers were a VAX running PDP 11

@ Phil O'Sophical

true, but if the PDP was used to control the gate machinery I'd expect it to have been running RT-11. With a number of third-party interfaces hooked up to all kinds of actuators and sensors. A VAX won't cut it there. Also, early '80's PDP11's were widely available and a fair bit cheaper than your average VAX.

(where's the cobwebs icon?)

JPL

Re: The only computers were a VAX running PDP 11

It was a VAX 11/750 running ordinary VMS code for data collection, modelling & analysis. It did not actually control the gates.

wyatt
Thumb Up

I remember being taken to see this by my parents probably about 1985. Impressive is an understatement! The best thing about living in Luton was a family rail card and the fast train to London. I only hope I can do the same living in the middle of the country for my family in a few years, show them the capital and all it has to experience.

Dabooka
Silver badge

RE: 'show them the capital and all it has to experience'

Good lord, why would you want to do that?! The best thing London is the Kings Cross express back up north!

Joking aside it's a nice enough place to visit, but I'm bloody glad I don't live there. Thankfully work rarely sends me there now, I get to experience Manchester and Coventry instead.

Oh, wait....

Phil Endecott
Silver badge

I also remember visiting in the 80s; I think there was a special bus. It was very impressive, and I still have the souvenir guide!

Sir Runcible Spoon
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Coat

"I think there was a special bus"

I remember those, although I don't seem to recall seeing any sunshine buses recently :(

john.w

Had the full tour, including tunnels and pier, on a Brunel University engineering trip in 1984(ish). A memorable day and had a great guide, could have been the very same Bachelor. When asked about the extensive acoustic treatment of the backup generators we were told it was in consideration of the neighbours after 10 years of pile driving.

GBE

How does the barrier defend against heavy rains?

I don't understand the refereneces to the wet winter and heavy rains. Isn't the barrier _downstream_ from London in order to defend against high tides and storm surge? In order to defend against heavy rains, it would have to be upstream from London to hold back the rainwater that's coming down the river.

Dabooka
Silver badge
WTF?

Re: How does the barrier defend against heavy rains?

Now go back and read the article. Go along now.

I'm sure you'll see the reasoning if you actually bother reading it.

Phil O'Sophical
Silver badge

Re: How does the barrier defend against heavy rains?

it would have to be upstream from London to hold back the rainwater that's coming down the river.

It doesn't hold it back, it stores it. By closing the barrier at low tide the sea rises on the downstream side, but the basin 'behind' the barrier (upstream) remains low, so all the rainwater flooding into the Thames can be stored, instead of adding to the inflow from the sea. Then at low tide the barrier is dropped again to let the water out. It prevents the sea surge + rainfall adding together.

GBE
Thumb Up

Re: How does the barrier defend against heavy rains?

Thanks for actually answering my question rather than acting like a 9-year-old.

Tom 7
Silver badge

Re: How does the barrier defend against heavy rains?

I think a listening too of an old Goon show might be in order!

Glenturret Single Malt

Re: How does the barrier defend against heavy rains?

The last Goon Show I listened to, they were bringing water from Brazil in brown paper bags.

I'm not sure if the Thames Barrier could act as a defence against such madness.

Dabooka
Silver badge

Re: How does the barrier defend against heavy rains?

@GBE

'Thanks for actually answering my question rather than acting like a 9-year-old'

Actually that's exactly what I would tell a nine year old to do; go back and READ IT to find the answer rather than not bothering. You did imply by posting you had read the article, otherwise say as much in your post.

Sir Sham Cad

And when you've finished

Carry on west up the Thames Path a short way and have a pint in the Hope and Anchor pub. Good beer and they were child friendly last time I was there (disclosure: fecking years ago) Then continue west and have another pint at the Pilot Inn.

This area has been massively developed since I lived down that way so the Pilot gets very busy but that was a classic Saturday walk.

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