The wonders of the ancient world are familiar, well travelled stops on the travel circuit. From the Great Pyramid of Giza to Machu Picchu, the amazing edifices of the past have a power to stun us with their scale and ingenuity. But why should we be fascinated by, and make pilgrimages to, only ancient wonders? The modern world is full of amazing structures! There are the tallest buildings, the biggest cities, the fastest trains, and the longest bridges to be seen out there! Of all the modern wonders, large bridges hold a particular fascination for me. After working as an engineer, and coming from a family that would always point out the bridges we passed, I have come to appreciate bridges for all their utilitarian beauty. That’s why I jumped at the opportunity to visit Japan’s Akashi Kaikyo Bridge, which currently exhibits the longest span of any bridge in the world. At over a mile between towers, this structure is a behemoth and an absolute wonder to behold.
Some numbers on the bridge, cribbed from wikipedia, confirm its gargantuan dimensions. The bridge carries six lanes of traffic on a span which, like I said, is over a mile long. All told the entire bridge, supported by two 44-inch diameter cables, is two miles long. The cables are hung from towers almost a thousand feet high. To walk under the deck of the bridge is an exercise in feeling dwarfed by the structure. You don’t even feel like you are suspended on wire 200 feet above the water. There’s an elevator inside the tower that takes you up to the top, where you can see the bridge spread out below you from up in the sky.
Now, I had a hook-up in the Honshu Shikoku Bridge Authority that allowed me more access than the normal visitor, so not everyone can take the pictures shown here, but that shouldn’t stop any interested traveller from paying the 2,300 yen ($21.50) toll to cross the bridge, or at least finding a nice spot on the shore to marvel at this huge piece of infrastructure, a clear statement of engineering prowess. After all, that’s why modern wonders are so important to see: where ancient wonders speak to the abilities of the ancient world, modern wonders show the abilities of the world we live in today. Modern wonders give us the same show of human achievement only more pertinent to our daily lives.
So don’t get hung up on ancient wonders. The edifices of cultures long gone are fascinating and incredibly valuable, but mankind has been building for thousands of years, and we haven’t stopped yet. We owe it to ourselves, to our understanding of humanity, to witness all we are capable of. The Akashi Kaikyo bridge is just one example to the enormous potential of human ingenuity.