• Paul

OUT OF GUAM’S WAY



Good old Guam, getting its second shoutout here on the Yes or BS blog. One more and we might have to think about giving it its own category tag.

But what makes Guam worthy of two blogposts in six months? Well, everyone’s favourite western Pacific island is a lot more interesting than you might think. For one, it has no railways. Two, it has no motorways. And three, it has no sand.

Yep, the “sand” on all those beautiful, tropical Guamanian beaches is actually mostly hundreds of millions of fragments of smashed coral reef. That makes for lovely scenic photographs like the one above. But it also, alas, makes building roads on Guam something of a logistical nightmare.

The problem is that sand is used in construction. And a lack of sand—moreso on an isolated island lying some 500 miles from its nearest neighbour—makes constructing things on Guam oddly difficult.

But the Guamanians are an innovative bunch, and so instead of building their roads from a standard mix of sand, asphalt and aggregate, they build their roads from a mixture of their own home-grown crushed coral sand and oil byproducts.

That blend still hardens and sets to form a perfectly usable road surface, of course, but there’s a problem: coarse-grained coral sand, Guamanian oil, and tropical storm rainwater are not, it transpires, a great mix.

As everyone who’s ever endured a school science class knows, oil floats on top of water. So when it rains in Guam, droplets of the oil used to make the island’s roads get loosened and squeezed out from in between the bulky grains of coral sand and float to the surface of the road, trying their best to slip and slide their way on top of the rainwater. And that makes those scenic Guamanian roads extraordinarily slippery.

In fact, they’re so slippery—and the problem is so widespread across Guam—that almost the entire island now has an upper speed limit of just 35mph.

But hey, at least at that speed you can enjoy the scenery.


#geography #technology #transport

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