Yichang is a relatively small provincial city (a ‘prefecture-level city’) in the Hubei province with a population of just over four million, but it’s several times larger than London! It’s famous mostly for its Three Gorges Dam, which I told you about yesterday. The view of it from my hotel room looked like this:
Tag Archives: industrial
Let’s continue the electricity theme…
Actually, more specifically, in this post it’s a hydroelectric theme; more specifically about a hydroelectric power station; more specifically – the largest hydroelectric power plant in the world. It’s so gigantic you can stare at it for hours, hypnotized: massive majestic concrete walls, vast open spaces… extraordinary in the extreme. And the best bit is the flowing water – which acts as a magnet for the attention of Homo Sapiens.
A dam more than two kilometers (2300m!) long, 180 meters high, with a width of the dam wall at the top of 50 meters, and at the base – 120m (as we were told by the girl who was our excursion guide for the afternoon). I mean – just how much concrete was needed for all that?! Oh my gorges.
I normally do these here blogposts according to the following M.O.: if there aren’t many photos to go on, then lots of text needs to make up for that; if there are plenty of photos, I let them do the talking and ease off on the word count…
Today folks, there’ll be few words. That’s the thing about the UK’s capital: there’s always so much to see and snap. I was there at the weekend with my travel companion A.B. – also a Londonophile – and we ran a veritable photographic half-marathon along stretches of the banks of the Thames I hadn’t checked out before, taking in all the nooks and crannies along the way.
The night before our photo-marathon we stayed in my fave hotel in the capital: Ham Yard. Not the nearest lodgings to the Thames, but just as well: our warm-up in getting to the river took in St. Paul’s Cathedral – and of course we just had to get up to its famous dome…
Taking photos and videos is forbidden inside the cathedral, but the views from the top and also all around it are simply stunning – desktop-wallpaper-able.
The other day our executive director (E.D.) received a note with the agenda of an upcoming business trip of mine:
- Krasnodar: meet with the regional governor, sign a cooperation agreement;
- Krasnodar: meet with our Krasnodar business partners;
- Krasnodar: give a lecture at Kuban State University;
- Flight to Novorossiysk;
- Novorossiysk: meet with our Novorossiysk business partners;
- Novorossiysk: visit the city’s seaport.
Attached thereto was a receipt for prepayment of rental of a helicopter to get from Krasnodar to Novorossiysk. The name of the company that owned the chopper? Abrau-Durso – the well-known (locally) wine-and-champagne producer!
“Aha. I get it. And you call this a business trip?!” joked E.D. :)
Alas, there was no time for us to fit in a visit to the winery for a tasting. See, it was business, E.D. :)
The views from up above were rather spectacular:
I find myself in many different far-flung places on this planet, but quite often they’re… predictable: world capitals, business hubs, Must-See places…
But occasionally I also get to less obvious spots. Example: Sviyazhsk. Heard of it? Probably not!
Well, it’s an ancient town, now a village, located at the confluence of the Volga and Sviyaga Rivers.
According to our excellent excursion guide (I normally trust good guides more than, say, Wikipedia), the short history of the town is as follows:
There are all sorts of unusual phenomena in the world – both natural and manmade.
Other times they’re depressingly dreadful and destructive, like volcano eruptions, earthquakes and tsunamis.
There’s the static symmetry of mountains and volcanoes; there’s the slow and steady movement of things like tectonic plates, glaciers and snowcaps; and there’s the unpredictable though grimly inevitable things like avalanches and other such cataclysms. There are also freak, flash, or full-on floods, which come and go with intermittent regularity. Floods are what we get when the gods forget to turn the tap off when pouring a bath. So man has to intervene. He can’t get them to stop forgetting, so he has to design and construct large protective installations to drain water that’s just about to cause a flood – to make up for this godly absent-mindedness.
One place where heavenly amnesia occurs rather frequently is in the European part of Russia – just off the Gulf of Finland, especially around the delta of the river Neva. And by unlucky coincidence the city of St. Petersburg happens to be situated right there. This is a city known for its heroism, victories and imperial cultural heritage, but also, alas, water-caused catastrophes. Of the latter it’s had more than its fair share. For those interested – here.
The short version:
St. Petersburgers naturally needed to do something about the flooding. Which is just what they did. Now, I’d heard about it before, but only recently did I finally get to see it in the flesh sun: around St. Petersburg there’s now a huge dam to protect the city from flooding. Pushkin’s poetic depictions of floods are now thankfully firmly a thing of the long-gone past – and good riddance.
Turns out, professional hydraulic designers and technicians scoff at the description ‘dam’ for this fantastic feat of engineering. They prefer: ‘complex of protective installations against flooding’. Doesn’t quite slip off the tongue, but if they insist, who am I to question it?
Now for a bit of technical data…
What was needed was a construction that would normally let reasonable amounts of water through from the Gulf of Finland into Neva Bay, but when catastrophically high waves come a-crashing in from the Baltic Sea would create a tall barrier to stop them causing a ruinous flood throughout the city. The installation also had to be able to let ocean-faring ships through on a daily basis, plus also not interfere with the delicate local marine ecology.
Plans to build the ‘dam’ were first made as far back as in the 19th century, but construction only started in 1979 (details – here). Then of course Communism finally arrived… and at the end of the 1980s construction was halted. Fast-forward to the early-2000s and the abandoned project was resuscitated, and in 2011 it was finally completed; and what they got was something truly damtastic!
I tried to find similar flood-control dams on the net but didn’t get very far. They’re all somehow a lot smaller in size. There’s one in London, one in Holland, one on the Elbe… But they’re all tiny compared to the whopping Russian 25-kilometer dam installation. Impressed I was.
There is one anti-flood installation that’s on a par – the one being built in New Orleans. When it’s completed it will be bigger; but for the moment the one in St.P is No.1!
To the layman who may encounter the construction, it’s simply a 25-km-long highway that crosses the Gulf of Finland from bank to bank, much like that one featured in Miami Vice that connects Miami to the Keys (which is much longer – but it ain’t no anti-flood installation:). Smooth tarmac, neat markings and signposts, entry and exit roads…: nice.
People can be divided into two groups: those that use electricity (and let’s face it, that’s the vast majority of us), and those that produce electricity (a very small, select group). And that’s why I’d like to congratulate everyone on Energy Day – 22 December. I’m here on the banks of the Yenisei in the village of Cheryomushki at the Sayano–Shushenskaya hydroelectric plant.