Helen Mark takes a cruise on Scotland's Union Canal to the Falkirk Wheel, the only rotating boat lift in the world and an exceptional feat of modern engineering. She climbs aboard The Govan Seagull with Captain Andrew Staddon of the Seagull Trust, which provides cruises for disabled people on Scottish Canals. In 2002, 11,446 disabled people took advantage of the Trust's cruises.
The Forth & Clyde and Union Canals between Glasgow and Edinburgh were linked in 1822 by a flight of 11 locks, but they closed in 1932. The largest ever UK canal restoration and the Falkirk Wheel have now linked the two canals, making it possible to travel from Edinburgh to Glasgow. The Govan Seagull was the first boat to travel from the Union Canal to the Forth & Clyde Canal in 70 years and was the first boat to be carried by the Falkirk Wheel.
Local historian Ian Scott is the first passenger to join the boat as the canal travels under the Antonine Wall, which was built by the Romans to keep the Scottish clans in their northern lands and was the most northern frontier of the Roman Empire.
The only structure of its kind in the world, The Wheel is the height of eight double decker buses and is capable of lifting loads equivalent to the weight of 100 African elephants. The Falkirk Wheel boat lift is an exceptional feat of modern engineering and is already being recognised as an inspirational sculpture for the 21st Century.
Helen meets George Ballinger, Scotland's Chief Engineer, who has been involved with the development of The Wheel since the ambitious plans were first conceived.
Olivia Lassiere, Environmental Scientist for British Waterways, has been working on the regeneration of the canal wildlife. In 1992, the canal was found to be contaminated with mercury. Upon investigation, they discovered that Alfred Nobel (who set up the Peace Prize) had owned a detonator factory near the canal. The factory used mercury formulate, which created very high levels of mercury contamination in the canal. The clean-up project removed 72,000 tonnes of silt, rescued 40,000 fish and dredged part of the canal. Wildlife moved back into the canal as soon as the dredging was over.
Helen meets Master Craftsman Irwin Campbell who made the dry stone seats that overlook The Wheel. The seats were built using dry stone walling specifications drawn up in 1819.
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