JANUARY 18 ENGINEERING AND ENVIRONMENT UPDATE
Much of the work involves preparing for storm waves which pass through the structure. This makes the Pier an excellent platform from which to watch the power of the surging wave as it tumbles towards the shore before breaking its run in a rush up the shingle to be returned by the sea wall and sweeping the beach clean. It was fascinating for Victorians who found it exhilarating to experience this without the danger of being afloat.
The great storm of 1st January 1877 attracted a number of sightseers to Margate Pier Head to view the crashing waves. Unfortunately, along with Hastings Pier and Eastbourne Pier which suffered structural damage at the shore end, Margate Jetty (Pier) had a failure in its middle which left 40 people marooned at the head of the Pier until they were rescued the following day.
Also to be experienced is a heaving wave which curls and dumps onto the beach and shakes the structure giving a woo-err moment whilst enjoying a coffee in the Pavilion Café.
Despite the excitement of this experience, the waves of course bring structural challenges for the Pier. In order to minimise them, we de-stress the sub-structure by removing jetsam and checking the diagonal bracing tightness as well as monitoring the horizontal bracing. The components are essential to prevent the 148 year old columns from buckling and the structure from swaying. There are also parts of the Pier that are designed to be destroyed: the chunky abrasion guards at the base of the columns. They prevent the columns from being worn away by the constant blasting of shingle against the cast iron columns. There are now 13 in need of urgent replacement.
Fatigue failure of components constantly under attack is common in piers and we responded to the most recent by welding and reinforcing clamps supporting Bull Head rails. This sort of failure has to be responded to swiftly or it leads to much more costly problems.
Storm Eleanor proved interesting by not only battering the structure but also scouring thousands of tonnes of shingle and sand from under the Pier. This exposed buried steel beams and trusses and tossed them along the beach with one 3 meter I beam being deposited on the beach over 1000m east, just short of the Harbour Arm.
If the steel is ignored, another wave event can pluck the steel off the beach and toss it against the cast iron columns, which happened when St Leonards Pier was destroyed by storm on 13th March 1951 and its components severely damaged Hastings Pier.
For this reason, we have taken measures to recover all the steel (below left) and make the beach safe. Further work was needed to dig and winch out (below right) what was exposed and may have been hidden for the past 50 years or more. Good basic engineering skills were employed to use fulcrums and to balance heavy loads before block and tackle winching to deck level. All the steel was hand cut to make it manageable and maneuverable.