The Statue of Liberty aside, few American landmarks exert such a hold on the imagination. Like a rainbow, the Golden Gate Bridge rises above functionality.
Designed by dreamy engineer and poet Joseph Strauss, the bridge embodies the questing spirit of San Francisco, California – even the nation. You could forget that the revered and rugged engineering marvel serves a purpose: joining happening San Francisco with laid-back Marin County across the water.
The Golden Gate Bridge came about through necessity – ferry congestion. On completion in 1937, the elegant steel-and-concrete solution to the transport snarl ranked as the world's longest suspension bridge.
Since then, new bridges have surpassed it many times. But, at 2.7 km, the Golden Gate Bridge still feels vast. To whet your appetite for seeing the structure in the raw, here are 10 intriguing Golden Gate Bridge facts.
10 things you didn't know about Golden Gate Bridge:
1. It is not actually golden but "international orange" – great for hiding any rust that might want to poke through. The color was picked because it blends with the setting yet shows up in fog.
2. The Golden Gate Bridge's misleading name comes from the strait that it spans, which opens into the Pacific.
3. At first, the bridge was called "Chrysopylae": Greek for "Golden Gate".
4. During construction, only 11 workers died. Only? Well that was a safety record back then. Just don't ask how many people have dropped and jumped off since (over 1200).
5. Architect Joseph Strauss was a pioneer in building safety, making history with innovations including hard hats and daily sobriety tests. Presumably, vertigo was insufficient stimulation for some workers.
6. The most striking precaution on the Golden Gate Bridge was the safety net hung under the floor from end to end. During construction, the net saved the lives of 19 men who became known as the "Half-Way-to-Hell Club".
7. Today, collective contenders for the title of ‘world's coolest job’, a team of 17 ironworkers and 38 painters grapples with biting wind and fog to keep the icon in perfect condition.
8. Film directors are captivated by Golden Gate Bridge. The structure has featured in countless films. Movie credits run the spectrum from Superman and Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo to Mega Shark versus Giant Octopus.
9. About 40 million commuters and travelers cross the bridge every year. That's the population of Kenya.
10. In a handy get-out, despite its international orange coat of paint, when the sun shines the Golden Gate Bridge looks gold. So those shimmering Golden Gate photos you see may be undoctored.
PS: Golden Gate Bridge architect Strauss was so pleased with his creation that he wrote a celebratory poem about it. Strauss probably should have stuck to architecture. Like the Australian national anthem, the poem in question – The Mighty Task is Done – is sentimental, yet sulky.
Strauss moaned that the bridge was, "Launched midst a thousand hopes and fears/Damned by a thousand hostile sneers..."
But the poem has its moments. Strauss memorably described the bridge as "lithe" and claimed that it had been ordained by fate.