Thursday, July 10, 2014

Peterborough Lift Locks

Across a large part of central Ontario runs the Trent-Severn Waterway, which is a series of lakes, rivers, and locks that run from Lake Simcoe to Ottawa.

The last time we were in Peterborough Ontario we had the pleasure of hooking up with some old friends, launch a boat onto the river, and ride the waterway up to a historic lock: The Peterborough Lift Lock.

The boat is a decent size pontoon boat, so not exactly a small craft. However that didn't stop us from going for a geocache hidden in a culvert that is only accessible from the waterway.  There was only a few inches of clearance on either side of the boat.  Tight fit indeed - also lots of spiderwebs... nasty business, really.
We ended up DNFing that cache, but it was still fun to attempt it.

We launched in a small bay, and the mouth of the bay had a pedestrian bridge across it.   It looks cool, but we barely squeaked underneath it.  The kids loved it tho, as did the two gentlemen standing on the bridge.
Our goal was the Peterborough lift lock, but we had to navigate the Ashburnham lock first.  This lock are 8ft high, and are the much more traditional type of lock.  You can see me here manning the ropes to keep us close to the walls as the lock filled with water to rise us up.

Our next stop was the Peterborough Lift Locks.  What makes these locks special is that they are really a pair of gigantic hydraulic powered water elevators.  One side goes up, while the other side goes down, all riding on two giant pistons.  There are only 8 lift locks of this type in existence, and at 19.8 metres in height, these locks are the highest hydraulic lift locks(queue Jeremy Clarkson)... in the world.

(note: there are higher lift locks, but they do not use the same simple mechanism to achieve their movement).
The locks themselves are impressively large. When build in 1904, these locks were the largest non-reinforced concrete structures in the world (the non-reinforced part was on my mind a lot whilst experiencing these locks first hand).  It contains 20,000 cubic metres of concrete.

This is one of the chambers that goes up and down.  Each one is about the size of the other locks on the Trent-Severn system.

The view from the top.  An interesting fact is that due to the Archimede's Principle, no matter how many boats are in each chamber, the weight in the chamber will not change.  This is because the boats displace a quantity of water equal to the weight of the boat.

None of these locks use any power.  In the case of the regular locks they use humans to open and close the doors.  For the lift locks they use the weight from one chamber to lift up the next one (the chamber that is going down has more water in it, so they do not get stuck in the middle).
Once we finished exploring the locks, we headed off to a lake.  The kids then took turns piloting the boat.  Zeke had a great time at the wheel.
Abigail didn't want to drive the boat, but she still had a great time on the water.
If you ever find yourself in Peterborough Ontario I highly recommend you check out the lift locks for yourself, either by land or by water.  It is impressive, a great use of practical science, and a national treasure.