Not a word I’d heard before I started working around cable-laying ships. In an idle moment, I happened to type it into Wikipedia. That’s always fatal – I spent the next three hours with Jefferson (thought to have introduced the word to the English language in a letter to Thomas Paine about the construction of a bridge) Galileo, Robert Hooke, and the Bernoulli family. Then I went off at a tangent to Daniel Bernouilli (the real question is why the air over the top of an airfoil speeds up). Anyway, mathematicians and physicists have been arguing about the whys and wherefores of catenaries for nearly 400 years and all it is, is the curve assumed by an idealised chain or cable, hanging by its own weight, when supported only at its ends. That people would even think to theorise and consider scientifically something so apparently mundane, suggests to me that I’ve gone through life with my eyes closed.
A storm brewing meant a few hours R & R.
We’ve worked in all sorts of conditions but the one that mostly halts operations, is the wind. When it starts to gust around 40kn, things can get a bit hairy if the ship and the shore are connected – nearly 10,000 tons of ship swinging about on the end of a not particularly flexible cable, can prove expensive if it gets out of hand. A rope is substituted at a convenient point and we stand down until the wind dies.
Time for some research. Our nearest town is Kirkkonummi which, like most of the towns around here, sports one of these charming railway station buildings; you almost want to catch a train, just for the pleasure of being in the station.
With the sky clearing and still an hour or two to kick my heels, I took the road to Inga. It looked on the map like it would be a coastal village, steeped in history and ancient wooden houses. Wrong, it was a small, relatively modern development, centred around a marina and a few rather expensive looking shops. Only a 700 year old stone church – its ‘Flintstone’ style oddly out of kilter – suggested a past. I later learnt that, not unlike parts of the Norfolk coast, only about a third of the residents are permanent. Inga is pretty much empty out of season. I didn’t stop, but carried on along a gravel road that took me deep into the forest….
… where I stumbled across the Fagervik Rautatehdas. Once a thriving enterprise, the preserved ironworks and estate is still owned by the same family, nine generations on. Everything was closed when I passed by but there’s a fine manor house, gardens in the French style and a Chinese pavilion, all dating from the latter half of the 1700’s and very reminiscent of the Fabrica de Orbaitzeta in the Pyrenees.
Back at work, as the sun rose over the bay, the spiders webs on the pontoon sparkled with dew.
The silk joining the spokes of the webs are catenaries too.