TACOMA, Wash. — Twisting and turning, cameras rolled as Galloping Gertie collapsed and sent chunks of concrete and metal deep into Puget Sound. The notorious black and white film has been watched around the world.
“You watch the bridge twist into a piece of taffy back and forth, it does not look real,” said Carly Vester, 700 Feet Down producer.
Around 11 a.m., Nov. 7, 1940, high winds brought the Tacoma Narrows Bridge down just four months after it opened.
“The idea that a bridge the size of the Golden Gate could fall into the water, fall 700 feet from top to bottom, all the way down into the water, it’s just astounding,” said Peter Bortel, 700 Feet Down director.
Bortel’s an avid deep diver who’s been exploring the marvels beneath the bridge for close to 30 years. He wanted to film a documentary about the bridge, so he teamed up with Vester to give people a look like never before. Together, they created the documentary 700 Feet Down.
“It’s the first ever view of what’s down at Galloping Gertie, of the bridge that fell 80 years ago,” said Bortel.
They spoke with locals, now in their 90s, who watched the bridge fall. Vester couldn’t wait to bring the legendary tale to life.
“I grew up hearing the story, I grew up driving over the bridge, hearing about the giant octopus underneath, how the bridge wreckage is under there,” she said.
Filming the documentary in choppy waters was a test.
Currents beneath the bridge are dangerous. Despite the obstacles, divers strapped on wetsuits and unveiled the wonders hundreds of feet under the water.
“The blocks of concrete are massive, bigger than the size of this house,” said Bortel. “The Tacoma side of the bridge is like a maze, where you’re going through and through concrete blocks encountering different creatures on every turn.”
Bortel hopes the film serves as a history lesson and helps protect the beauty in Puget Sound.
The film will be available on the 80th anniversary of the collapse, which is Nov. 7. It’ll be shown in educational setting, including the Gig Harbor History Museum.
Filmmakers are also producing a longer version, which will be available to stream in 2021.
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