The loss of “Galloping Gertie,” the initial Tacoma Narrows bridge, and also the rise of brand-new life in the remnants


Hunks of metal sit twisted prefer the eight of one octopus, the end of ar in the foyer of Harbor history Museum in Gig Harbor. These metal scraps space remnants the the collapse of “Galloping Gertie,” the initial 1940 leg that reached throughout the Tacoma Narrows strait.

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The sister pieces to this metal, ripped far from the bridge by the sheer pressure of nature, have all found various resting spots. Some checked out scrap when others cleared up at the bottom the the strait whereby they have actually laid for almost 80 years.

“Galloping Gertie” — once deemed an design triumph — stood for only four months. A wind storm fight the Narrows top top Nov. 7, 1940 with gusts reaching 40 mph. It caused a structural failure, sending one auto and big pieces that the leg spiraling into the depths below.

When entering through the Harbor background Museum’s front doors, it’s easy to walk previous the item of “Galloping Gertie” — now a twisted heap — there is no a second glance.

Nora Thompson, membership coordinator at the museum, looked in ~ the metal as she recounted her understanding of the 1940 accident. Luckily, no person lives were lost, she said.

“One guy came close,” Thompson said.

Leonard Coatsworth, one editor in ~ the Tacoma News Tribune, escaped his automobile but went back to shot and acquire his daughter’s dog the end of the car, follow to the Washington State room of transportation website. The dog, a three-legged cocker spaniel called Tubby, to be the just life shed in the accident.

“The dog was so frightened that he i will not ~ come and that man just barely made it throughout before the bridge went down,” Thompson said.

The component of the roadway that collapsed into the waters listed below has become an fabricated reef for the naval life the the Puget Sound. It’s now a destination spot because that recreational divers, marine biologists and those that think in a regional legend that claims the biggest octopus in the world lurks about those parts.

“Some that the stuff that’s tho under there is tough to acquire to due to the fact that it’s deep, and of food it’s super, at sight windy,” Thompson said. “But the course, divers do like it just to go down and also take a look at everything.”

Brian Bingham, interim director of the marine science regimen at Western, claimed the Narrows is teeming with marine life.


Photo through MATHEW ROLAND

“It it s okay very solid current exchange underneath there so you see a real solid movement of water,” Bingham said. “Lots of different kinds of animals really like that type of environment.”

The strong current creates a water exchange that brings in food come the marine life the populates that area, Bingham said. “That’s a ar that’s famous for lots of octopus and wolf eel which are several of the an ext impressive naval fish around here,” Bingham said. “You’ll have huge fields the sea anemones, very huge barnacles, sea stars and also sea slugs, just a really huge diversity of maritime invertebrates space there.”

Diver Greg McGowan has actually jumped right into the it will be cold waters that the Narrows himself. McGowan is a Puget Sound native and has been diving for upwards that 30 years.

“I have always been fascinated with diving — with things under water,” McGowan said.

His salt and also pepper hair and also Boeing-approved office attire is juxtaposed through a motorcycle helmet hosted under one arm and also a padded jacket spanning his top half. V three decades of endure in underwater excursions, Greg is tho able to recount his trip under the Tacoma Narrows Bridge back in the early on ’80s vividly.

“Well, a girlfriend of mine was a advertising diver,” McGowan chuckled. “He had a boat and also it to be moored the end of Tacoma. Us would use it to go through different types of dives about the Puget Sound and, gift a little bit of a thrill-seeker, it’s constantly about, ‘Well, okay, what haven’t us done?’”

The Puget Sound is a huge marine life exploration facility for anyone that loves the water. There is many to find for those interested in the deep blue, native commercial divers to underwater photographers.

“The Tacoma Narrows dive is an amazing dive in the one — you have that dilapidated bridge framework on the bottom,” McGowan said. “Also, it’s a very, really deep dive and kind the a technological dive, the currents there are simply outrageously fast.”

McGowan and also his diving companion Rick Meyers would dive on the west next of the Narrows, towards Gig Harbor. McGowan said they would certainly swim down about 110 feet, which made it an ext of a technological dive than a recreational one as recreational diving is in between 30 and 60 feet.

When divers with waters 100 feet deep, they have the right to start to gain nitrogen narcosis, a buildup of nitrogen in the blood. It makes it complicated to think straight, forcing them come concentrate, McGowan said.

“We set everything up, chose to make points interesting and also go spearfishing as well, got in the water at the appropriate time and also then we descended, complying with the anchor all the way to the bottom,” McGowan recalled of your Tacoma Narrows dive.

Meyers and McGowan obtained separated throughout their dive and that’s when he ran across the bridge decking.

“There is a lot of of simply flat, cracked-up piece of concrete stack on each other,” McGowan remembered. “You have the right to see part twisted steel and also there’s a most pockets underneath wherein the things have actually stacked up and that’s wherein we were in search of fish.”

Meyers, McGowan’s old diving partner, carried some friends under to the Narrows dive. One of them stumbled top top an octopus hiding in one of the crevices created by the wreckage and also decided he want to with in and grab it.



Photo through MATHEW ROLAND

“After the truth he realized this to be a mistake due to the fact that now he had eight eight swinging approximately grabbing his challenge mask, grabbing everywhere his body and you know — two arms against eight legs, he couldn’t get control of him,” McGown said, his eight flailing together though he was the one in the incident.

When speaking around the opportunity of the world’s biggest octopus hiding under the bridge, Bingham sharp out how long the legend has actually been around — decades.

“Well, climate we recognize it’s false,” Bingham laughed. “Giant Pacific octopuses live a max of five years, most likely closer to three. Lock grow very fast but there’s no going to it is in one under there that stays for twenty years or 10 years even.”

While huge octopuses room seen relatively routinely under the bridge, the “world’s largest” is probably not there, Bingham said. Although the legend could be dispelled, large octopuses space seen relatively routinely under the bridge.

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While the glamorized hunks of metal in the foyer of the Harbor history Museum serve tiny purpose various other than to notify visitors about the fateful incident, the piece that never ever made it out of the water are simply the opposite. Since they have actually been under water for virtually 80 years now, they have grown to host so lot life, wonder and secret that one can only imagine unless they dive there themselves.