Trying To Get Upstream

I’ve mentioned many times in this blog that I am originally from a small isolated community in the North and the extent of my knowledge … long before the days of internet and the all-knowing Mr Google … was formed through a single TV channel and the narrow view of the world as seen through the 1960s Catholic school system.

My first encounters with the bigger world outside of Northern Ontario created a sense of wonder and endless fascination with things that others might consider mundane.

That brings me to my most recent adventure – a trip to St Catharines and a visit to Lock 3 on the Welland Canal.

For those of you who might not be familiar with it, the Great Lakes / St Lawrence Seaway represents a mighty waterway of freighter traffic to and from the Atlantic Ocean.

GreatLakesMap

Image from piratefest.homestead.com

The challenge however, is that the Great Lakes don’t all sit at the same elevation.  One has to only look at the mighty Niagara Falls at the tip of Lake Erie to understand this point.

Print

Image from commons.wikimedia.org

A series of locks were developed at various points along the Seaway to move these large freighters up or down the waterway as required.  To solve the problem posed by Niagara Falls, a canal needed to be built.

The original Welland Canal was opened in 1829 and has undergone a number of changes over the years.  It is 44 km long to bypass Niagara Falls and has a series of 8 locks – all Canadian operated.

I’ve known in theory how locks work and I’ve seen pieces of the canal system through my various travels around Niagara Falls.  I had not, however, ever witnessed a freighter actually moving through a lock.

That brings me back to Lock 3 in St Catharines.

I had received a last minute invitation to meet with Torrie from APromptReply.  We met for the first time last winter on the American side of Niagara Falls. This time she was proposing we meet on the Canadian side and I suggested Lock 3 in St Catharines – a short distance from the Falls.

Why lock 3?  It just happened to work with the logistics I had planned for the day, but I’ve since learned it is not the most famous on the Great Lakes system.  Apparently lock 8 is the largest in the world and locks 4/5/6 raise and lower a boat a spectacular 140ft over the Niagara Escarpment.

I sense future field trips might be required to investigate.

Welland_canal_profile

Image from Wikipedia

However, back at Lock 3, it was one of those beautiful November days we’ve been graced with this autumn and I arrived shortly before Torrie.

I was thrilled to discover there was a freighter already in the lock going downstream and – Holy Poseidon Adventures! – there was another one waiting to go upstream.

Canal2

1st freighter passing through the lock while the 2nd one waits on the far left in the distance.

Canal1

The empty canal waiting for the 2nd freighter

Canal3

2nd freighter entering the lock

Canal4

2nd freighter is now in the lock waiting for the water level to be raised so it can proceed upstream

I can’t say whether Torrie was as excited watching the mechanics of this engineering marvel as I had suggested it was going to be … it was a bit like watching paint dry.

I had naively assumed that once the boat was in the lock, the flood gates would open dramatically – like the theatre curtain on opening night – to fill the lock with water and the boat would rise quickly to the next level.

We were profoundly disappointed.  The reality was lacking in grand spectacle.

The engineers of this process decided that a slow gradual rise in water level would be more appropriate.  The key word here is sloooooow.

If Torrie and I had been in charge, the experience would have been very different.  Boats might have been damaged in the process, but the tourists gathered around to watch would have had an unforgettable show.

Canal5

Finally!! the 2nd freighter is at full height to pass through the lock to the ‘upper’ lake.

Thank you, thank you, thank you to Torrie for inviting me on this adventure.  It was wonderful to meet her and her family again for a bit of sightseeing, shopping, lunch and the amicable conversation of two people fast becoming old friends.

As an aside, I’m offering my availability as a consultant to the St. Lawrence Seaway Authority.  I’m sure there are opportunities to add some razzle-dazzle to this experience. Engineering and safety concerns? Pffft.

 

About Joanne Sisco

Retired but not idle. Life is an adventure - I plan to continue to embrace it.
This entry was posted in 52 New Things, Adventure, Nature, Travel and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

73 Responses to Trying To Get Upstream

  1. mickscogs says:

    I don’t think I read this story first time round. It’s very good. Thanks Joanne

    Like

  2. Thanks Joanne for the post on the “locks”. Carol and I hiked past them when we were on that section of the trail and I’ve been to St. Catharines many times but never stopped to marvel at a ship going through the locks. Thanks to this post it is now on my “bucket list”. Maybe we’ll meet up and you can give me some tips on how you would make the process FASTER.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Wow! This is so cool! I lived in Rochester, N.Y. for a number of years, and the Erie Canal was an important part of family life. I never saw freighters this big though! But when I lived in Chicago I was always amazed that there was a whole U.S. Navy there, with ships that came in via the SLS. I could never quite visualize how they got there, but now I can, thanks to your amazing photos and graphics!

    Like

  4. ChristineR says:

    It would be a terrific experience and I’m really impressed by the lock diagram. Wow, all those levels. My dream is to go through the Panama Canal. When we first got the internet, Mr R and I spent hours watching the ships go through two locks – via the live webcams. Before broadband, and when our work meant we were up at a ridiculous hour to see the action in daylight – it’s dark there at the moment.

    We had a mini version going through a lock on the Murray River at Mildura, northern Victoria, Australia. Gosh, the brain is going – I can’t actually remember if I watched from afar or was on a boat! I had to ask Mr R and he said yes, gave me a funny look, and reminded me that we’d also went through one at Goolwa, where the Murray River runs out to the sea in South Australia.

    The experiences didn’t make lasting impressions on me, obviously. I’m sure your speed-fill up would make it memorable. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • joannesisco says:

      The diagrams were a huge wow for me. I had no idea of the logistics involved to get around Niagara Falls.

      I’ve never actually gone through a lock on a boat. Maybe I should put it on my Things To Do list 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Great post and I was fascinated by the schematics of the lakes – especially that second one! Did you ever read Paddle to the Sea by Holling C. Holling? The little canoe that makes it all the way down the Great Lakes – one of my favourite children’s books and your post made me think of it😊

    Like

  6. hilarymb says:

    Hi Joanne … I’ve been waiting til I had time to read this with some degree of intelligence. What a great post – brilliant to know about … I had no idea and of course, had never given it a thought … who thinks about different levels of lakes etc …

    Absolutely fascinating … and look forward to when you post some more anon .. cheers Hilary

    Like

    • joannesisco says:

      Thanks Hilary. This post started to take on a life of its own and became something I hadn’t originally intended.
      It seems the more I tried to make sense of the lock system, the more interested I became.
      Glad you found it interesting too … thanks for taking the time to read and understand it 🙂

      Like

  7. treerabold says:

    Even though I’ve known of the Soo Locks for my entire life I have never once watched them in action OR even given much thought to how they work.
    By your description I appears I may have dodged a bullet…thanks!

    I do believe you could add a bit of flair to this (as you described) boring adventure. So if you need a reference…I’m your girl!

    Like

  8. badfish says:

    JOanne, you know I’ve known about the St Lawrence since…forever. But I don’t think I actually knew there were locks there. I find that fascinating…if not the watching of it…the idea of it, the mechanics of it. The doing of it. But they have to be ships of a certain size, eh? Like a supertanker wouldn’t be able to navigate the thing, right?

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    • joannesisco says:

      You are right BF … there are restrictions on the size of freighter that can travel to the upper lakes. Supertankers would definitely not fit.
      Quite frankly, this is stuff I never really gave much thought to until we went to visit the lock … then I was intrigued.
      Travel does that to us, doesn’t it? 🙂

      Like

  9. Pingback: MORE THINGS ABOUT JOANNE…… | A.PROMPTreply

  10. Thanks for the navigation and geography lesson, Joanne. And yes, a sudden rush of water would have been much more entertaining for the tourists. I don’t think you have a future in the Seaway Authority. You might think about Hollywood though! Ha ha. 😀

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  11. TheLastWord says:

    Loved the way you described it and the clean sunny pictures.

    I spent 2 years living in Niagara Falls and I have seen this. Out in Mystic Seaport in Connecticut there is a drawbridge and I’ve seen draw and swing bridges operating elsewhere.

    They’re just as slow…..

    On the other hand, if they were any faster we wouldn’t have been able to see the Blues Brothers go for it over the rising bridge…

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Joanne, James and I are also fascinated by the locks and amazed by the whole system. Your photos are great. We’ve only seen a few in action, but you have definitely given us the nudge to get back up there. Thanks! 🙂 ~Terri

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    • joannesisco says:

      Thanks Terri – I must admit that my fascination with the Welland Canal grew as I research more information on it.

      I really do think it deserves another trip someday to check out more of the system 🙂

      Like

  13. Sammy D. says:

    Joanne, I’m thrilled you posted this. I’ve wanted to write about the Great Lakes, the locks and the intricacies of freight movement ever since I started blogging but couldn’t figure out how to ‘get my arms around it’. You’ve selected descriptive pictures and encapsulated the ‘big picture’ in a stellar post!! Thank you !

    Like

  14. mickscogs says:

    Enjoyed that story muchly. I ain’t no engineer but I have always loved moving water around. Hang on, what’s that water running noise, have I left the pump on again?

    Like

  15. Sue Slaght says:

    Like Lynn your enthusiasm shone through Joanne. How wonderful that you could meet with Torrie again. I loved the images with your narrative. You taught me a lot today. Thank you!

    Like

    • joannesisco says:

      hahaha – I ‘might’ have got a bit carried away.
      The more I looked into info on the canal, the more interesting it became.
      Good thing I wasn’t on the team of the early engineers. I would have said ‘nope, can’t be done’. I’ve climbed up and down that escarpment multiple times. It’s a formidable barrier.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. jannatwrites says:

    I’d write a recommendation for you to head the department of razzle-dazzle 🙂

    I live in the southwestern U.S. and have never been that far north… oh, and water- what’s that? It rains like twice a year, haha. (Maybe a bit of exaggeration, but it’s pretty dry! )

    Like

  17. LB says:

    Fascinating!! I’m so glad you included the maps / drawings as they really helped me to GET it. I really want to visit now … after, of course, you do your consulting so that I can see the razzle dazzle!

    Like

    • joannesisco says:

      Yay! Another one who appreciated I got my geek on 🙂

      What’s funny is that this 2nd boat was really scraped up badly along the side of it. It implies that it got bedazzled somewhere along the way 😉

      Like

  18. Mrs. P says:

    Oh, how fun! I have never seen a freighter go through a lock before. But I do know the fascination of seeing locks in action for the first time. Rick is from Syracuse and on our honeymoon, we toured his old stomping grounds and we visited Niagra Falls (US side) as well.

    About a half hour away is the town Lockport which as the name implies is where one of the locks on the Erie Canal is located. We took a river cruise that went through several locks and got to see the operation from the water side as well. The canals are much smaller and I am certain a freighter would be too big for them. But I got to see what Rick kept trying to explain…and until you see it in action, you can only get a vague idea. We also saw the original lock which was very, very small, no wider than a small roadway that would allow a compact car to squeeze through. I could only think of wood hewn boats. And to think…this was huge progress at one time as these canals went from the ocean to western New York and Pennsylvania.

    Like

    • joannesisco says:

      That’s very interesting about the old canal. I had done a bit of reading about the Welland Canal and learned that the original had been built of wood.

      There are so many things we take for granted and don’t give much thought to. When we get a peak into how something works, the mundane can become quite fascinating.

      Like

  19. Su Leslie says:

    Love this! I’d never even thought about the lakes being at different heights, let alone how they’d be navigated! I’ve been through canal boat locks in England, including a couple where there are several in series. Smaller waterways = shorter times, but I still found it pretty boring. I like the idea of making you engineer-in-charge-of-navigation-and-tourist-experiences. Hehe.

    Like

  20. I’ve watched boats go through locks and did wonder why it took soooo looong! I’d totally enjoy it if you worked at the locks. .. I’m sure you’d spice it up 😃

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  21. I see you found some inspiration to get our journey down in writing. I’m so glad. I think I may have to do a follow-up post from the other side of the coin. Have to keep our usual m.o. and all, you know? Dearly, dearly, dearly, loved this phrasing…”Holy Poseidon Adventures!” So totally you….I do believe you are a 5-year-old inside as you claim, but the advantage is now you can call your GPS unit bad names! LOL

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    • joannesisco says:

      I can hardly wait to read your version. It’s always fun to get the other side of the same day 🙂

      If I should ever meet with foul play, please notify the authorities to suspect my GPS. She’s the devil … and not a mere minion either.

      Like

  22. RuthsArc says:

    Wow, what impressive locks. I’m used to small ones on London’s River Thames for pleasure cruisers. They are fascinating though.

    Like

  23. I’m also surprised that the whole process isn’t faster. Going through the Panama Canal is on my bucket list so, hopefully I can experience the raising and lowering of the locks from the inside of a ship (in which case, I guess I’ll be happy that they don’t offer too much dazzle-dazzle). Great pictures!

    Like

  24. Great pictures – great explanations – great post.

    Like

  25. bikerchick57 says:

    What a marvelous adventure and on such a beautiful day. I was at the Soo Locks many years ago, but didn’t have the opportunity to see a big boat go through. Still, it’s a very interesting place to visit. Glad you had the opportunity to meet up with a blogging friend…I’m hoping some day we can meet up with our bikes or a bottle of wine 🙂

    Like

  26. [psst: Don’t tell Gilles, but I think a bit of his geek has rubbed off on you!]

    Liked by 1 person

  27. Yeah, really, I mean, who decided this was a spectacle? Let’s crash some ships here!! Let’s add a roller coaster ride around the whole thing while we’re at it!! Besides don’t they know that the famous Joanne at My Life Lived Full and Torrie at A Prompt Reply are reunited?? A momentous event in and of itself!! You don’t need no stinking ships!

    Liked by 1 person

    • joannesisco says:

      … but I need a foil from which to bounce my limited and mediocre creativity.

      However, I’m thinking if we added one Marissa Bergen to the party, there would be a triple threat unleashed on the world.
      As long as there are no heights involved because then Torrie would be pulling us away from the edge 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • I would love to be the triple in your threat. Wish I was able to travel more. As for the heights, no worries. I’ll be hanging back with Torrie!

        Like

        • joannesisco says:

          Drat! I was hoping you would help me coax her into playing with more risk 😉

          Like

          • Sorry to disappoint. I just went on the world’s highest roller coaster in Las Vegas this summer and could barely move the whole time we were ascending. Oddly enough, as soon as we began descending, I felt much more comfortable, even though we were still quite high. Anyway, I’m betting we couldn’t even get Torrie to ride.

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            • joannesisco says:

              Nope – we wouldn’t get Torrie even close to the queue. Oh well 🙂

              Liked by 1 person

              • Hey! How is this whole behind-my-back plan being hatched and I have no idea! You two are really something….I’m quite fine on the ground. Though I will have you know, I did ascend the Eiffel Tower! I wasn’t good at it. It wasn’t pretty. But I did manage it.

                As for future endeavours and your dastardly plots when the three of us meet up, you two conquer the heights and I’ll document your efforts with photos from the ground and all sorts of interesting angles.

                Geez. Turn your back for one minute and they’re plotting to drag you up a mountain.

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              • Further…Joanne…I do believe you’re forgetting my grand achievement at the lock that day…did I not make it to the SECOND LANDING to see the sights thanks to your encouragement? Hmmm….yes, I think I did and more even felt quite proud of my inner daredevil in doing so!
                Oh, how quickly they forget! 🙂

                Like

  28. Lynn says:

    I love your enthusiasm Joanne. Sounds like you had a wonderful day!

    Like

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