In Part 2, we described how construction workers risked their lives every day they went to work on the BrooklynBridge. Picking up where we left off, a worker describes what it was like going in and out of the airlocks. The account, “In Sandhog: Building the BrooklynBridge, 1871,” was published on the website Eyewitness to History.
“When we went into the air-lock and they turned on one air-lock after another of compressed air, the men put their hands to their ears and I soon imitated them, for the pain was very acute. Indeed, the drums of the ears are often driven in and burst if the compressed air is brought in too quickly. I found that the best way of meeting the pressure was to keep swallowing air and forcing it up into the middle ear, where it acted as an air-pad on the innerside of the drum.”
If that daily torture wasn’t enough, the worker described what it was like working in the claustrophobic caisson:
“Six of us were working naked to the waist in a small iron chamber with a temperature of about 80 degrees Fahrenheit: In five minutes the sweat was pouring from us, and all the while we were standing in icy water that was only kept from rising by the terrific air pressure. No wonder the headaches were blinding. The men didn’t work for more than 10 minutes at a time.”