Monday, February 13, 2012

Shortcuts

When his wife grew ill in the early 1960s, Indian farmhand Dashrath Manjhi took her from their home in Gelaur to the hospital in the neighboring town of Wazirganj. Unfortunately, this meant a journey of 19 kilometers, as a hillock of solid rock lay between the two villages.
When he returned to Gelaur, Manjhi resolved to improve matters. Working alone with a hammer and chisel, he spent 22 years cutting a passage through a solid mass of rock 360 feet long, 25 feet high, and 30 feet wide. When he finished in the 1980s, he had reduced the route from 19 kilometers to six and the travel time from six hours to one.
When Dasrath died in 2007, the Indian state of Bihar gave him a state funeral. He is remembered today in Gelaur as “the man who moved a mountain.”



Prospector William Schmidt was overjoyed when he struck gold on California’s Copper Mountain, but he faced one problem: He was on the north side of the mountain, and the road to the smelter was on the south side.
So he dug a tunnel.
He started in 1906, at age 35, working with a pick, a 4-pound hammer, a hand drill, and dynamite. When he finally broke into daylight on the mountain’s south side, it was 1938 and he was 66 years old. He had single-handedly dug a tunnel 1,872 feet long, displacing 2,600 cubic yards of granite.
Alas, success had to be its own reward. While Schmidt had been digging, rail and road links had been built around the mountain — so the tunnel was unnecessary.

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