Do you need a crane to build a crane?
In this extract from the QI Elves' new book, they solve the puzzle of which came first, the construction crane or the crane that built it?
If you’ve ever walked past a building site and tilted your neck back to look at the top of a crane, you might have imagined it was built by an even bigger crane, which was in turn made by an even taller one – like a never-ending set of nesting dolls.
However, most cranes build themselves.
What's in a crane?
A crane is made of a cabin, a base and a long tower in between. The tower is made of lots of identical sections that lock together, along with a special piece called the ‘climbing frame’. This frame, which is slightly wider than the rest of the tower, can push all the sections above it upwards, creating a gap where a new section can be slotted in. The process is repeated over and over until the crane reaches the required height.
What goes up...
The world’s tallest land-based crane is 250 metres tall, can lift the equivalent of 1,600 cars at once and is called ‘Big Carl’.
Once completed, the cabin is a long way from the ground, so it needs to be accessed via a ladder inside the tower. And once you’re up there it’s a long way down, especially if you need to use the toilet, so crane operators tend to take a bottle up with them.
... Must come down
A urinating crane driver in China got into trouble in 2019, when a gust of wind blew his wee out of the cabin. Someone had looked up to see what was happening, and it landed in their mouth.
So next time you’re admiring a crane, maybe don’t get too close.