Blog 12 Trollhätte Canal, Sweden 2015 18 July - 2015
Vänersborg and Trollhättan to Göthenberg
I promised to reserve a complete blog entry for the Trollhätte Canal alone. Although the entire journey took only two days - in fact there are people who do it in one - it is remarkable in so many ways that it deserves its own space.
There is a misunderstanding that the other, and more well known Göta Canal, runs approximately from Stockholm to Göthenberg - not true. An entire "canal" system cuts Sweden in two, North and South, by joining existing fjords, lakes and rivers with two canal projects running from East to West ( OK also West to East if you want to be like that. ) The Göta Canal section to the East is long and goes as far as the huge Lake Vänern which is the largest European lake if you exclude Russia, and was built in the 19th C to open up the vast agricultural, forests of the interior and develop industry.
The chronologically earlier Trollhätte Canal system runs from Göthenberg in the West the relatively short distance of 82 km with only 10 km man made, and connects into the great lake. What is remarkable is that for centuries, it was thought impossible to create. A mighty river swirls and roars down from Lake Vänern out to the sea cascading down waterfalls and rapids and falling great heights through massive rock terrain which, until explosives and blasting techniques were developed, was impossible to contemplate cutting through. Eventually rock cutting became possible around 1800 and after two improvements in the locks staircase, a series of only six modern double bottom locks now smoothly caters for the drop of 44 mtrs and regularly takes ships up to 4000 tons.
At the town of Trollhättan the river has been tamed by a massive hydro electric power station but in Summer when there is too much water coming down from the Lake ( snow melt,) crowds gather each day to see the flood gates opened at 3 o-clock when the excess water is released showing how the river used to be. Roaring cascades of water crash down over the rock face, a veil of hazy vapour rises into the air and where the water surges and drops itself through bouldered channels it is slashed by solid lines of white and pale green in a terrifying display of force. For a while the river below responds with dangerous whirlpools and cross currents then slowly absorbs the energy to carry on as normal, flowing at between 1 and 2 knots which for a river is pretty fast.
Along the way, the evidence of rock blasting is astonishing both in the magnitude of the achievement and also in the majesty of the earth we live on - the scale and beauty of the rock is simply humbling. Less so are the canal depth edge markers which populate the entire canal to keep traffic away from shallow or rock infested edges. These are spaced about 250 mtrs apart and stretch out on booms from the side like someone with a fishing rod - unfortunately they are not always easy to see and can merge into the background and being industrially immovable are definitely not something to run into - it would be catastrophic.
Stopping for the night it was not altogether surprising to discover yet another meeting of the Swedish lovers of American cars oo-ing and aa-ing among a large collection of yesterdays automotive fashion - what a mad world we live in - cars that in some way I suppose are no more ridiculous in design than the most exotically decorated birds of South America, perhaps it is a way of fulfilling an animal need in us.
Far less a design statement was the railway bridge at Vänersborg. Technically ingenious in that it does what it says on the tin - and now I come to think of it, railway bridges are often less than chic - this one resembles a tyrannosaurus rex in attack posture which has been made from a giant Meccano kit. I could not pass it by without getting the camera out. Always intriguing for the nerd out there is the way the problem of overhead electric conductors are managed when you lift / swing / raise a railway bridge on an electric railway which they all are here - think about it......or not. I can tell you a story or two about that.
The river finally runs through the industrial landscape of Göthenberg, an interesting experience in itself to contemplate the contrast between the Satanic industrial areas of old, soot blackened places where souls were broken and yellow fumes spewed toxic dust on the land, to the modern face of industry, coloured glass pleasure domes with gleaming pipework and mysterious vessels sculpted in surreal and imaginative ways, almost works of art - or perhaps they are indeed valid works of art.
The city waterside with magnificently renovated old buildings standing beside the attractive new - only the hectic harbour waterway pulsed and thrashed with the rush of countless ferries crossing and arcing in what appeared to be random and unstoppable journeys. Sailors beware.
So, due to the forecast of a short twelve hour fair weather window to be followed by a full SW gale we passed on, out into the islands ready to "break out" and cross the Kattegat to Denmark..... The story will continue in the next episode of "What Clive did next"...........