The day we went to see the stunning mythical creatures the Kelpies, which you can read about here, we ended our day out by visiting another feat of engineering wonder, the Falkirk Wheel, a rotating boat lift – the only one of its kind in the world – connecting the Forth and Clyde Canal with the Union Canal.
In the 19th century a boat had to negotiate a series of lock gates – a task which could all day to go from one canal to the other. These were demolished many years ago and houses built where once the locks stood.
The Falkirk Wheel, opened in 2002, was created as part of the Millennium Link project to re-establish coast to coast navigation of the canals for the first time in over four decades.
We were lucky with our timing and were able to watch several boats going up and down. We also watched as each boat was manoeuvred into place to go up in the gondola.
We were highly amused by the antics of one weekend sailor. Somehow, the person (I am going to try to keep this gender neutral) steering couldn’t get the boat in close enough, nor straight so after one attempt the front stuck out and then the front was moved into place only for the back end to stick out. There was lots of engine revving and churning of water with the boatperson becoming increasingly red-faced and angry looking.
There was a fair bit of eye-rolling from the people who work there helping to get the boats into the right position – and from the boatman’s companion who looked like they might have done a better job had they been asked.
As I can’t begin to explain the engineering behind it – though I do just about grasp the Archimedes principle in that floating objects displace their own weight in water – here’s a YouTube video which does it so much better.