Image courtesy of Alieninliberia.wordpress.com
A fact that many don't know about Liberia is that, until yesterday, it was home to the tallest man-made structure in Africa. This wasn't an office building, or inhabited skyscraper, and wasn't even freestanding. It was the Omega Navigational Transmitting Tower, a 1,410foot steel spine standing in northeastern Paynesville which was built by the US Navy in 1973 as a node in a global navigation and broadcasting system that, in the age of Global Positioning, has become obsolete. The Omega Tower has been inoperational since 1997, when the system was shut down. Since that time, the tower had become a hazard, with a risk of collapse. The Liberian government asked for assistance in demolishing the tower.
Yesterday, in what was reportedly something of an elaborate ceremony, attending by both President Sirleaf and Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the United States government assisted the Liberian Government in dynamiting the Omega Tower. The structure set a new record for apparently being the tallest structure in the world brought down by explosives, which the Executive Mansion Press Liaison promises to be entered into the Guiness Book of World Records.
Above images courtesy of FrontPage Africa
The area is reportedly be transformed by a $500,000 donation by the American Sorority Alpha Kappa Alpha into a new marketplace, to relieve congestion at Paynesville's Red Light market zone.
Radio transmission towers of all types are somewhat invisible to many people: they are simply part of the landscape, the infrastructure of utility, like their smaller cousins, telephone and electricity poles. However, in an underdeveloped country like Liberia, the sight of such substantial pieces of modern equipment can be somewhat startling.
Elsewhere in Paynesville, closer to ELWA Junction and SKD Stadium, the Liberia Broadcasting System (LBS) has multiple transmission towers off of the main road, in an area that is often called "LBS Community." Albeit much smaller and shorter than the Omega mast, these towers are still quite substantial for the country. One of them even has a tapered frame, something of a Equatorial Eiffel Tower.
Its of course understandable that the Omega Tower was not only obsolete, but dangerous in its dilapidated condition. Its surely progress that a half million dollars will be brought into the country, especially for what sounds to be such a worthwhile project, that will improve market conditions and efficiency, while moving the bustling exchange off the main northern highway out of the city, which causes such an agonizing headache to pass through almost any time of the day or week.
All the same, I didn't welcome the news of the Omega Tower's razing with much happiness. I can't find a link now, but a few years ago, there was a story about Monrovia's large metal transmission poles being torn down and showing up mysteriously at the Freeport. I wish I could find the reference; the implication was that in the midst of postwar recovery, Liberia was losing what little precious infrastructure to theft.
Again, this is not the same sort of incident, but it is sort of lamentable that Liberia's pride as host of the continent's tallest tower was lost down this week, and to a violent explosion no less. Its also one more small step apart for the United States and Liberia, from that golden age of the 51st State to a different future. There is no more giant maypole on the horizon.
A video taken from atop the Omega Tower in November 2007: