By DONALD WITTKOWSKI
Run for your lives! Sea Isle City has been invaded by aliens from another planet!
Actually, the towering, three-legged contraption that has been crawling along Sea Isle’s beachfront and appears to be something from outer space is a giant CRAB.
Not your typical, run-of-the-mill Jersey Shore crab, mind you. CRAB is a massive piece of machinery that stands for “Coastal Research Amphibious Buggy.”
Standing 33 feet high and lurching along the sand at speeds of up to 6 miles-per-hour, the CRAB is being used for Sea Isle’s beach replenishment project overseen by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
“The Coastal Research Amphibious Buggy, or CRAB, is used by our contractor to survey the nearshore area. The surveys are used in tandem with land-based surveys to provide information on the quantity and profile of sand placed (on the beaches),” Steve Rochette, a spokesman for the Army Corps of Engineers, explained in an email Monday.
Perched on three wheels, the 29,000-pound CRAB moves along both in the water and on land. It deploys instruments on the bottom of the ocean, collecting data for the purpose of monitoring the progress of beach replenishment projects, according to the Army Corps of Engineers.
Its unorthodox looks, straight out of a sci-fi movie, are serving as the inspiration for comical comments and “What the heck is that?” speculation on social media.
“War of World’s giant laser shooting mechanical alien spider,” one poster joked on Facebook.
Other Facebook posters suggested that the CRAB was a “giant crab,” a “shark tower,” a “weapon to use against the murder hornets” or a device that “keeps a lookout for Megalodons and Saltwater Crocodiles.”
“I’ve heard people describe the CRAB as something out of an alien invasion movie,” Rochette added.
The CRAB is part of an army of heavy construction equipment being used for the beach replenishment project. The project is designed to restore two major sections of Sea Isle’s storm-eroded shoreline with more than 750,000 cubic yards of new sand.
Work is being broken into two parts. Plans call for 510,000 cubic yards of sand to be pumped on the beaches from about 74th Street to 93rd Street in Townsends Inlet. Another 250,000 cubic yards of sand will freshen up the beaches from around 28th Street to 52nd Street in the center of town.
The first part of the project is underway between 28th and 52nd streets. It is expected to take about two or three weeks to finish.
Next, the contractor will replenish the beaches between 74th and 93rd streets in Townsends Inlet, taking four to five weeks to finish that stretch of shoreline.
Most of the replenishment work involves widening the beaches. However, in some areas the dunes, beach access points and sand fencing will be repaired, according to the Army Corps of Engineers.
Restrictions will be in place to minimize any conflicts between the beachgoers and the network of pipes and heavy equipment used by the contractor. No more than 1,000 feet of the beach will be closed at any one time while the work proceeds.
In addition, sand mounds will be built over the pipes at each beach so that beachgoers will have access to the ocean, city officials say.
The Army Corps of Engineers has a website that provides detailed information on the project.
Sea Isle City is also providing regular updates on its municipal website at http://www.sea-isle-city.nj.us/. Click on the “Beach Fill” tab for information.