Opened in February of 1915, the “Alexandrino” suspension bridge united Ilha das Cobras, where many naval establishments are located, to Rio’s downtown (between current Museum of Tomorrow and Praça XV). The construction was made in the form of a transporter bridge, meaning it had what’s known as a “flying ferry” (pictured below) which could deliver cargo and people from one side to the other.
With the transference of the Navy Arsenal and the construction of a new Navy Depository on the island, the bridge no longer served its function. It was replaced in 1930 by the current Arnaldo Luz bridge, which lacks the flying ferry and the ability for large ships to travel beneath it. For a brief time, both bridges existed side by side. – Source (PT)
As part of the newly created Naval Aviation School, deputy director Lieutenant Delamare took a seaplane on a test run with Santos Dumont (in black) as passenger, flying under the Alexandrino. This was Dumont’s first time in a military aircraft, in an era when seeing a plane in the sky was still a very rare sight. The date was January 25, 1917. Fifteen years later, battling multiple sclerosis and sad over the military use of his invention, Dumont would commit suicide. – Source (PT)
Also bringing together the subjects of the bridge and death, monetary prizes were said to be given out to those who would attempt the so-called “pulo da morte”, that is, jumping the 137 feet (42 meters) off the middle of the bridge into the waters below. Most notably, a 16-year old Portuguese boy would complete the feat in 1918 with no promise of any pay whatsoever. Source (PT)
A few notes on the Ilha das Cobras / Island of Snakes. The original name of the island, given by the French in the times of France Antarctique, was Ile des Chévres / Ilha das Cabras / Island of Goats. From there, it became the Ilha dos Monges / Island of Monks, and finally it took its current name, after a report from the São Bento Monastary said the island was full of snakes.