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The Thames Tunnel (continued)

September 5.—It is much to be regretted that such a work as the Tunnel should be carried on by the piece. Obliged to drive on, no time is left to make any repair, or to recover any lost advantage. Isambard is most active. Mr. Beamish shows much judgment in his exertions, and zeal in his attendance.[1] [marginal notes: Water breaking in at back of frames.] [marginal notes: How to check it. Isambard’s exertions.]

September 8.—About 2 P.M. I was informed by Munday that water was running down over No. 9. I went immediately to it. The ground being open, and consequently unsupported, it soon became soft, and settled on the back of the staves, moving down in a stream of diluted silt, which is the most dangerous substance we have to contend with. Some oakum was forced through the joints of the staves, and the water was partly checked. Isambard was the whole night, till three, in the frames. At three I relieved him. He went to rest for about a couple of hours; I took some rest on the stage. [marginal notes: Things improving.]

September 9.—Towards noon the stream changed its character. The clay, being loosened by the water, began to run, but it thickened gradually. It was late in the evening before the loosened clay acquired the consistency of a loose puddling, which covered the staves, and made them a complete shield against further irruption, or rather, oozings of mud. If we consider that at this place we have at the utmost 9 feet between the top staves and the gravel, over which the river flows, it is most satisfactory and most encouraging to have this additional proof of the protection which the shield affords. At nine o’clock at night Isambard sent me word that ‘tout va à merveille;’ indeed it was so, for it was like a stopper interposed between the river and the top-staves. Instructed as the men were by the first accident, they went on as usual in the irrespective occupations. Pascoe, junr., and Collins were remarkably active and persevering, and some other men equally so; while old Greenwell encouraged them by a speech of his own in high commendation of the security of their situation [marginal notes: Water more abundant. Is it from the river?]

September 12.—The water, bringing with it a sort of clay broken in small particles, increased to an alarming degree. In consequence of this continued displacement of the silt and clay, a cavity had been formed above the staves. At about three, when I had gone to the Court of Directors, the ground fell upon the staves with great violence, causing a surge most alarming as to probable consequences. Isambard was at that moment in the upper frames, and he gave directions for increasing the means of security. On my return I found things much worse than I left them, but every means of security was judiciously applied. During the night in particular things presented a very unfavourable appearance. The men, however, were as calm as if there were no other danger to be dreaded than wet clothes or the splashing of mud. I observed the men in the lower cells were sound asleep. [marginal notes: Exertions by the men.] [marginal notes: Slight improvement.]

September 13.—Every means were resorted to in the course of the night and during the early part of the day to stop the water. The men have shown great zeal and good management in their respective avocations, and above all the utmost confidence. Isambard has not quitted the frames but to lay down now and then on the stage. I have prevailed on him to go to his bed, or rather, used my endeavours to induce him; but he has not since last Friday night (the 8th). Things were rather better at the close of the day.

September 14.—Things upon the whole have assumed a more favourable aspect. The situation is nevertheless very critical. Nothing but the utmost precaution in following up what has begun can bring us out of it. This has been a most eventful week!

September 18.—Isambard was the greater part of the night in the works, and the benefit of his exertions is indeed most highly felt: no one has stood out like him! Everything is quite safe, the water is kept back, and the work proceeds in a most satisfactory manner.

[1] Mr. Beamish had joined the works on August 7.

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