11 September 2009

The Three Gorges Dam

We started our four day cruise up the Yangtze river just downstream of the Three Gorges Dam, the biggest in the world, and our trip ashore on the first day was to the dam.

We were not allowed on the dam itself but were able to skirt around the edges and to go to the visitors' centre.

What we could see of the dam was majestic, particularly if, like me, you like big industrial things. And the cloud added a touch of mystery.

This is the upstream side and, to give you some ides of the scale, there is around 50m from the water level to the top of the dam. If your eyesight is fantastic you can just about see two coaches crossing the dam just to the right of the first red crane.

The Yangtze is a major traffic route carrying lots of people and freight and so lots of big ships have to get past the dam every day.

Here you can see part of the two chains of locks (one heading upstream and one downstream) that run along one side of the dam.

There are five identical locks in each direction and each one takes around 40 minutes to go through.

The locks work well but some commercial traffic is prepared to pay more to save time and now they are adding a lift that will take one ship at a time all the way from the bottom to the top of the dam (and vice versa). Sometime I think the Chinese build stupidly big things like that just to prove that they can!

Passing through the five locks was quite an experience.

This is the view that greets you when the lock doors open. Come into my parlour said the spider to the fly.

Again the scale is deceptive. We were on a large river cruise ship four stories high and the lock easily held six ships like ours.

This is the view from the top deck of our ship and you can see that the walls of the lock tower above.

The side walls have vertical scratches and streak that must be as nothing to the damage that they inflicted on the ships in turn.

There is also a lot of eerie screeching caused by the moorings, housed in channels, moving up with the ships.

All this combined to give us over three hours encased in concrete with dark water rushing past us while steel wailed in protest. Wonderful!

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