The first "Gierponte" or "flying bridge" on the Rhine was used in the 1680s. It was actually a ferry which moved across the river without man or animal power!

Here’s how it worked: A strong rope was anchored in the middle of the river. This rope, about 400m long, was tied to the mast of the ferry, at a height of about 7m. It was held out of the water by several small hulls, which also kept it from wearing out. The ferry started from one bank by taking a diagonal yaw position. The rudder maintained an angle such that the current would push the ferry sideways. The necessary resistance was provided by the double-anchored rope.

The trip across the river took only 19 minutes.
Canadian Heritage Information Network
Alexander Von Humboldt Schule, Canadian Museum of Civilization, Carl-Friedrich Gauß Schule, Confederation High School, Deutsachherren-Gymnasium, German Historical Museum, Gymnasium Isernhagen, Horton High School/Acadia University, Integrierte Gesamtschule Bonne-Beuel, Federal Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF) and Deutsche Telekom, Ananas Productions, Schule ans netz,

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