And Finally

Cliff hangers

Is this the world’s most dangerous construction job?


No safety harnesses required: fearless workers in Hunan construct a pathway 400 metres up a mountain

When John D Rockefeller Jr wanted publicity for his soon-to-be-completed RCA Building in the 1930s, he commissioned photos showing the fearlessness of the workers on his new skyscraper.

The most famous image was the ‘Lunch Atop a Skyscraper’, which shows 11 steelworkers sitting on a horizontal girder, eating their dinner and reading the newspapers – but 250 metres up in the air.

Now, the Shiniuzhai National Park in Hunan province is enjoying a Rockefeller moment with a series of images showing the construction team of its latest tourist attraction – a pathway cut into a sheer rock face 400 metres up.

Unable to carve the ledge directly into the side of the mountain, the workers are constructing the path alongside it – first by drilling holes, then inserting poles, and eventually building out buttresses that support the metre-wide “floating” track.

The 21-man construction team – which doesn’t seem to bother with safety harnesses – is bemused by the attention that the pictures have brought.

“It’s no different from any other job. It’s not as dangerous as people think,” China News Service quoted one worker as saying. Another confirmed: “As long as you are careful, you are okay.”

The men are paid up to $65 a day for their work and are as proud of their craftsmanship as their courage. “We don’t use a blueprint. The company gives us a starting point and an end point and we do the rest,” one explained.

“We work and think at the same time. Skill comes from practice – and a knowledge of mechanics is important,” he added.

At least a foreman on the current project acknowledged that working at such heights has its challenges.  “We only pick workers who are psychologically stable,” he advised.

The Shiniuzhai park is already home to a glass bridge, which allows visitors to stare down into the canyon 180 metres below. Fortunately, tourists who are disinclined to amble on the park’s newest cliffhanging attraction can opt to ride a cable car to the top.

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