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See below for floating pontoon failures and disasters.

Mughal emperor Akbar the Great riding the ferocious elephant Hawa'i, pursuing another elephant across a collapsing bridge of boats (left), in Basawan and Chetar Munti's "Akbar's Adventure with the Elephant Hawa’i", dated 1561 In ancient China, the Zhou Dynasty Chinese text of the Shi Jing (Book of Odes) records that King Wen of Zhou was the first to create a pontoon bridge in the 11th century BC.

The supporting boats or floats can be open or closed, temporary or permanent in installation, and made of rubber, metal, wood, or concrete, the decking may be temporary or permanent, and constructed out of wood, modular metal, or asphalt or concrete over a metal frame. combat engineers commonly pronounced the word "ponton" rather than "pontoon" and U. If the maximum load of a bridge section is exceeded, one or more pontoons become submerged.

The spelling "ponton" in English dates from at least 1870, when temporary floating bridges were used extensively throughout the European theatre. Flexible connections have to allow for one section of the bridge to be weighted down more heavily than the other parts, the roadway across the pontoons should be relatively light, so as not to limit the carrying capacity of the pontoons.

A floating bridge can be built in a series of sections, starting from an anchored point on the shore.

Modern pontoon bridges usually use pre-fabricated floating structures.

For Emperor Darius I The Great of Persia (522–485 BC), the Greek Mandrocles of Samos once engineered a pontoon bridge that stretched across the Bosporus, linking Asia to Europe, so that Darius could pursue the fleeing Scythians as well as move his army into position in the Balkans to overwhelm Macedon.

The buoyancy of the supports limits the maximum load they can carry.

The Greek writer Herodotus in his Histories, records several pontoon bridges.

The Persian Emperor Darius used a 2-kilometre (1.2 mi) pontoon bridge to cross the Bosphorus and Emperor Caligula built a 2-mile (3.2 km) bridge at Baiae in 37 AD.

Pontoons were formed by simply lashing several barrels together, by rafts of timbers, or by using boats, each bridge section consisted of one or more pontoons, which were maneuvered into position and then anchored underwater or on land.

The pontoons were linked together using wooden stringers called balks, the balks were covered by a series of cross planks called chesses to form the road surface, and the chesses were secured with side guard rails.

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