Posts Tagged With: locks


At breakfast, we get our last glimpse of the mighty Yangtze and prepare to leave the ship. The night before, the wait staff  put on a terrific show with karaoke, dances, the Macarena and line dancing with the crew. It was great fun. If you’ve ever been on a cruise before, tipping is done by putting the money in an envelope. Vicki warns us not to turn our tips in to the desk as instructed. Give them directly to your servers and she handed us two envelopes instead of one.  She told us the management skims the tips and dispenses a small portion to the staff. Thank you Vicki!  We did as we were told. Our waiter actually broke down in tears when Michal and I gave him his tip. He thanked us over and over again, though he  could hardly talk through his tears.

After breakfast, we leave the ship for good and we take a bus to the largest dam in the world.

The air quality this day is very bad. This dam has no fish ladder. Farmers below the dam love it because the sturgeon get 3 feet long and they can’t travel any farther upstream. Of course, the people above the dam hate it.Not such a wise decision for a country where people are always hungry.

The grounds are beautifully landscaped and my partner takes my picture. I’m remembering reading in the 1990’s from the magazine, China Reconstructs, about the plans to remove over a million families from the River Valley. And, of the first pour with faulty concrete. I never read where they repoured or replaced that concrete.  What a bad start.  I wondered then how this is going to turn out?

There is a huge overlook structure and we climb it to look down over the dam.

In our county, I helped videotape the building of Spicer Dam, and it surprised me not to see trucks and heavy equipment churning away, waiting in line to dump their gravel or pick up dirt to be moved. The scene below showed very little activity though Vicki assured us it was a work day.

On this day, they were testing the locks with three barges waiting to be lowered.

Two barges can fit in the lock side by side.  The project as you can imagine is immense. The dam will generate millions of megawatts of electricity but only provide 5% of China’s electrical needs.

I was glad I came though it wasn’t my favorite thing to see. We walked much of the grounds, visited the visitor’s center and viewed a table sized mock-up of what the project will look like when completely finished. A picture of the completed dam is visible on the Wikipedia site below.

And, now, in 2012, the project is still controversial.  You can read a short article in the New York Times at this link where China admits to some problems with the dam.  Pollution, placing displaced people in the job market, and controlling water flows inadequately, etc.

More seriously, the dam has silt problems, has caused serious land slides, it is blamed rightly or wrongly for seismic activity that contributed to the earthquake landslide that killed 87,000 people.  This long article from Wikipedia gives much statistical and environmental information about the dam.

It started with controversy, and it is still a controversial project.  It hasn’t passed the test of time-yet!  The dam is as wide as the Golden Gate Bridge and 600 feet tall. It backs up water into a 244 square mile lake. If it ever gives way…

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Aboard our ship, we eat sumptuous meals and last night, we danced the macarena. Our guide is obviously a political person. She tells us that the employees aboard the ship work horribly long hours. They get up before dawn and begin breakfast, cleaning and all those things that make our trip a smooth, seamless adventure. It is the army of workers that, after their toil, stay up late to entertain us. The costumes, the music, the dance.  It is a sobering experience and for our group, not unwelcome information. Today, we offload from the ship and are delivered to a landing where we take a motorized sampan ride up one of the canyons.

Many fishing families live on their sampans, most are motorized like this one. At one time they were hand paddled or poled along the river. The boatman demonstrated the woven rush garment the old-timers once wore when it rains. Now they have plastic tarps and jackets. Several members of our group were invited to try out the rain coat and pole the sampan.

We happen upon just such a family as we continue up the gorge.  Like the subsistence farmers, these people live hand to mouth. They have no medical care. We see a few monkeys and birds in this gorge and our guide tells us the locals kill and eat them.  In fact, it is eerie to realize that you hardly ever see a bird except domesticated ducks. You see no insects or animal life of any kind in the “wild”.  The monkeys are the rare survivors in this steep canyon where they cannot be hunted to extinction-yet!

This entrepreneurial fellow has positioned himself in this cliff house to take pictures of the tourists in sampans. Then he scurries ahead to the ship and has the pictures posted for sale before we leave the following morning.  Our guide says he also catches sturgeon and delivers it to the back-end of smaller tourist boats that serve meals. Fishermen below the dam love it. Sturgeon get three feet long. There are no fish ladders and they cannot get past the dam. Their environmental problems are still ahead of them.

From the sampan we see a wall of inaccessible caves.

Those that are within reach are not lived in as much as simply used for night-time shelter.

The next morning, we stop at a newly built city with modern apartment buildings where many farm families have been relocated. Farmers have few city skills but many of their wives work as maids. This is part of  Hubei (hoo-bay) Province. We stopped at a brand new beautiful tourist center only to find the worst awful pit toilets on the trip so far. It kind of boggles the mind, this newly built center, in a newly built town has pit toilets? At the tourist center we saw a fight between two bus drivers from two different tours. We wondered if the Mau Zedong government had somehow erased every human emotion, but this proved it had not.

At the dam, this lock was in working condition and the engineers were testing operations by putting these empty boats through the lock.

This is the kind of traffic they will be getting through the locks. Notice the workers “hotel” at the back end of the barge.

They built a wonderful overlook to see the dam being built.You get the idea of the immensity of the project even through the morning haze.

This is a view of the unfinished “front” of the dam. Our guide told us the power generated here  will only supply 5% of China’s electrical needs. Seems kind of a shame to have displaced 1.24 million people, over one thousand villages, and I’ve forgotten how many cities for 5% of their power.

The visitor’s center did a good job of explaining the dam, its building process and design. They had a mock-up of the dam in a reflecting pool of water and it was all very interesting.  And this sculpture on the side of the overlook?  I was disappointed that it didn’t have one dragon sculpted in the stone.  In fact, the dam has been a very controversial project. You can read more about it here:

There were many sites on the internet covering the controversial issues of this dam if you wish more detail.

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