Legends from our own lunchtimes

Sunday, August 01, 2010

A question of scale

Sunday in a world where everything stops is a trip back in time for us as well.   We rather like the thought of everything being closed and a complete absence of traffic in urban areas means that cycling can be haphazard and carefree, so we haphazardly crissed the lanes and alleys of Toul and found ourselves wandering aimlessly for another half dozen kilometres or so to the village of Gondraville, which to my ear always sounds like a cross between a place somewhere over the mountains from Hobbit Town and a social disease.

Gondraville not at all surprisingly is very quiet on a Sunday so we took a spin down to the nearby commercial lock on the Moselle to check out the action.

For those who were (rightly) squeamish about where our effluent may eventually end up, here are some statistics to set the mind somewhat at ease.

On the "inland" canal systems since 1879 the locks have been standardised to a size 38.5m x 5.2m, so with an average lift of say 2.4 metres, each "flush" is around 500,000 litres.  That is about the same as pressing the full flush button on the old Caroma duo about 50,000 times in ten minutes, surely more than enough to get things moving!

On the rivers, it is a bit more exciting.  Here the locks are 185m x12m and the one pictured for instance, has a 4.4m lift and thats about a ten million litre flush each time we go through. 

Ships are designed to fill them, although this one had about eight metres to spare at the stern, so someone in the office probably got fired.   Our boat can do a U-turn in one of these locks with four and a half metres to spare, we are about the size of the "tinny" on the back of the ship in the picture (see the car on the cabin top for scale!), so we must give the keepers of these locks some giggles as we bang our way up the side desperately looking for something to tie to, lest we too should be flushed away with nary a further thought.

The pilots of these ships sit back in reclining chairs driving them to millimetre accuracy using what looks suspiciously like Nintendo controllers.  They never raise their voices, let alone a sweat, and they've probably got proper holding tanks for their loos as well.

Oh, and even if we are there first, they get first dibs on the lock!

On the waterways, size matters.

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