Cranes are an inherently fascinating piece of equipment that due to centuries of reliable use is often taken for granted.

When people choose a crane hire, they are choosing a relatively light piece of equipment that can carry considerable loads very high into the air, with some of the biggest cranes in the world being the size of skyscrapers.

Because of this rich history, they have also built up a legacy over the years filled with fascinating facts about their construction, innovation, uses and even the people at the controls.

Here are just some of the most fascinating facts about cranes.


The Earliest Crane Was Used For Irrigation

The earliest known lifting cranes were used in Ancient Greece around 500 BC, according to archaeological evidence and relatively contemporary recordings of architecture.

However, thousands of years before this, the same lifting principle was used in the ancient irrigation tool known as the shaduf. It used the same system of a counterweight, a pivot and a pole, and it was used to lift water from a river or lake.

Whilst it has since been superseded by wells and more elaborate waterways and aqueducts in most of the world, it is still used in some rural areas.


When Cranes Make Magic

Because cranes are so versatile, they have been used in a lot of film and television productions but became the star of one of the most infamous stunts in televised history.

David Blaine, a street magician who had become famous for an increasingly elaborate set of endurance stunts, including being buried alive, stood in a block of ice and stood on a 30m pillar for hours.

His most infamous stunt, however, was Above the Below, where Mr Blaine was suspended 30 feet in the air via a crane in a transparent plexiglass case where he would spend 44 days with water but no food.

He lost nearly 25kg of his body weight during the stunt and suffered a range of complications during the complex refeeding process after being hospitalised.


A Crane Operator Lifts The People

A lot of famous people have worked as crane operators, including former British Member of Parliament Frank Marsden. Arguably, however, the most famous crane operator was a hard-working Polish woman who became the catalyst for one of the largest strikes in history.

In then-Communist Poland Anna Walentynowicz became known as a ‘Hero of Socialist Labour’ for her hard work but had quickly become disillusioned with the corruption and injustice she found, quickly falling foul of the Polish Secret Police for her open activism for a free trade union.

In 1980, five months before she was set to retire at 51, she was fired and became the symbol of a worker’s strike that included over a million members that spread initially from the shipyard in Gdansk she worked at across Poland. 

Three days after the strike started, management gave in to their demands, and two weeks later the Gdansk agreement allowed for the very first free trade unions in the Communist bloc, which led to the formation of Solidarity, a trade union that at its peak had ten million members.

After the formation of the Third Polish Republic, she continued her activism until her untimely death in a plane crash in 2010.