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Rising Tide

Rising Tide

In the book, “Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and How it Changed America, “ shows many different aspects of engineers and their lives. The stories that are told help the reader to better understand the practice of civil engineering. During the time period of the story, there are two engineers who contribute to a main part in controlling the Mississippi River, Eads and Humphreys. As the two race and compete to see who can better the Mississippi River, many important details about civil engineering come about. The author explains how a river flows and floods in way that most can understand. He helps show ways to help prevent flooding on the Mississippi. Eads and Humphreys are always striving to out do one another and in doing so comes many ideas to better the river. A levee is one in particular that is spoken of quite often. The “levees only” policy was debated between these two engineers. This policy discussed how a system of levees would control floodwaters not only by damming the banks but also by increasing the velocity of the river’s flow and its tendency to scour the bottom. The theory provided that when the river is flooded, it could be made to dig its own channel out. This was not the only idea expressed by the engineers. Another was the idea of producing outlets and reservoirs. With outlets and reservoirs, the water level of the river would stay below a flood range. Another idea discussed is a system of jetties. The jetties would help increase the speed of the current even at low water. These ideas all help to teach the reader what civil engineers may attempt to better a river with potential to flood.

With all of these ideas being pursued, not all would have the chance to use them. Those who were more powerful got the chance to actually take a stab at their proposals while others were left behind. Humphreys had power because he went to a U.S. Military Academy, which was made possible by his family’s connections. He pursued to be educated at West Point, which was a school of engineering. As he grew older within the military, his ranks did as well. With his high ranks he began to get to know some very important people and have some power of his own. So whenever Eads would want for a project of his own to be done, Humphreys would try and put a stop to it and in some cases did. This just shows how competitive and how much hatred they have. Their ethical behavior seemed to be very poor at times. They would constantly be at one another’s throats, always trying to be on top. There wasn’t much that wouldn’t be done to keep their competitor from being unsuccessful.

A level of experience in different areas also helped the civil engineers. For instance, Eads started his own business on the Mississippi salvaging vessels on the bottom of the rivers bed. He was unable to see at the bottom so he had to feel it. Not only did he feel the bottom he also got to understand the current. Eads was able to experience how the river acted and what minerals were in the river. This helped him better understand the Mississippi, which would help him in later projects with the river. Eads also was able to learn about various types of metal, such as iron and steel, from experience he had working with them from his salvaging business. This would later help him build the first ever- steel bridge.

Humphreys on the other hand got experience from school and the military. It was very common for West Point graduates to advance quickly. Humphreys did so as well. He went from captain of engineers to brigadier general and commander of a combat infantry division. All this was accomplished in a short span of eight months. With the experience that Eads had with his own business helped him with his civil engineering career. He had an understanding of how the to do business and how to negotiate business deals. This assisted him to get certain jobs that were related to civil engineering. Eads would as well know how to organize a job and what procedures would be needed to for the job.

Humphreys on the other hand had power and knew a lot of people that had power. He had acquaintances that were involved in politics that could pull a lot of strings to get Humphreys where he needed to be. In one case, there was a bridge that Eads was constructing and Humphreys, having hatred for Eads, didn’t like it and demanded that it be tore down. By this time Humphreys knew a lot of people and he as well having a lot of power himself with the Corps. But Eads ignored the demand of it to be brought down.

It seems as if they weren’t always following the engineer’s code of ethics. The code of ethics says that engineers shall hold paramount the safety, health and welfare of the public. They were not always following this. It was more of a competition to them and they would do whatever they could to stop the other one from succeeding. The two would always be focused on each other on how to out do their competitor.

The story does help in some ways to contribute to the readers’ better understanding of the practice of civil engineering. It provides information on how experience helps to bring along new ideas that would benefit civil engineering. With the experience comes hard work as well. It is not a simple task to accomplish. When a C.E. first starts out there are not too many that are going to know who they are. This makes a struggle for one to get started. After years of hard work and successful projects, your name begins to be known by many important people. With a well known name you then can move on to bigger and better jobs. It also helps to know people who have power and to have power yourself. But to abuse the power is not very wise like Humphreys did. When it gets to the point like Eads and Humphreys where it is nothing but a competition, one begins to lose focus on what is actually trying to be accomplished. This will also tend to make you lose focus of the Engineer’s code of ethics.

Barry, John. “Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and How it Changed America.

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