Sunday, August 9, 2009

Voyage of the Vikings, Day 16 - Queensferry/Edinburgh

Another day, another tour. We arose on the late side, being fatigued from yesterdays tour. Keith very much wanted to be in the Crow's Nest early to watch our approach into the Firth of Forth. Man plans, God laughs.

Today's tour destinations are the Falkirk wheel and the Antonine Wall. As a bonus, Keith is looking forward to seeing the Firth of Forth bridge, which is historically significant. The good news is, this is just a morning tour, so we shouldn’t be so tired from it.

As we approach our anchorage at Queensferry, Keith is excited to find us anchored just downstream of the bridge. Photo follows later.

The port of Queensferry, Scotland

Following breakfast, we board the tender for a short ride to the dock, where we are greeted by bagpipers.


Bagpipers Greet Our Arrival on the Dock in Queensferry

The Falkirk wheel is a boat lift device that replaces a series of locks to connect the Union and the Firth & Clyde Canals. Like a ferris wheel in principle, the wheel picks up boats from the lower canal at the bottom of it's rotation , and delivers them to the upper canal at the top of it's swing. It is a very interesting structure, claimed to be unique in the world.

Being oppositional, Keith must point out another such boat lift on the Trent-Severen Canal in Canada. While different in the details of it's operation, the principal, and the function are the same.

Jump shift - we are now on a canal boat, waiting to enter the lower gondola of the wheel. Kathy is mildly annoyed with Keith because he declined to be photographed by a sweet young thing who wants to sell us a picture of Keith & Kathy on the tour boat. Just go along quietly, Keith! You don't have to buy the damned thing!

About 15 minutes ago Keith photographed a private vessel entering the lower gondola. He waited and waited, to observe and photograph the operation of the wheel. Nada. It seems they wait to operate the wheel until the gondola is full. It takes 18KW (180, 100 watt light bulbs) to start rotation, 12 KW to maintain rotation. Our tour guide bragged that in 4-1/2 minutes the weel draws 1-1/2 KWH, just enough energy to boil 8 kettles of tea. I guess that's enough energy to justify waiting for a full load. The accompanying photo of the wheel in rotation was stolen from the internet.

Falkirk Wheel_1

The Falkirk Wheel, Viewed From the Lower Dock & Visitor’s Center


Boat Entering the Lower Gondola of the Falkirk Wheel


The Falkirk Wheel in Rotation, Halfway Up

(or Down, Depending on Your Point of View)


Boat Exiting the Falkirk Wheel Gondola at the Top

After a 4_1/2 minute ride up 86 feet, we sail out of the gondola, and into the Union canal, and through a tunnel under the Antonine Wall. Past the tunnel the Union Canal proceeds up two more locks, then onward 31-1/2 miles to the center of Edinborough. From the lower end, the waterway enters the Firth & Clyde canal to Glasgow. At the entrance to the locks, we turn around and head back to the wheel for our descent back to the visitor’s center. During our ride we learn that the Scottish canal system was abandoned in the middle of the 20th century, and was neglected for nearly 50 years. It recently has been restored as a recreational facility.


Recreational Canal Boaters


The Canal Passes Beneath the ruins of the Antonine Wall


Proving That There Really is Light at the End of the Tunnel


The Scottish Countryside as Viewed From the Approach to the upper Gondola


View From the Upper Gondola

Our other destination on this tour is the Antonine Wall. Built 2000 years ago by the Romans, the Antonine wall stretches 60km from sea to sea. It separates England from Scotland, sort of duplicating the function of the earlier, and much better known Hadrians Wall. Why two walls? Don't know. Belt & suspenders, maybe. As indicated above, the canal cuts through the wall, as do many other structures such as homes, roads, condominiums, etc. As we rode through the town of Falkirk we heard from our excellent tour guide "that ditch is part of tew moat", or "that mound by the garage is part of the wall". It reminds Keith of our Oregon Trail, which is built over, ploughed over, and generally ignored by modern America.

The Antonine Wall tour was basically a 1 hour walk in thru the woods. We chose instead to sit in the cafeteria with a cuppa.

As we sat in the café we, watched the Falkirk wheel operate as we eat and drank. Keith is having generic tea, which is excellent. As we have proceeded east, the tea has gotten better. The tea in Iceland was quite good. Tea in the cafe's in Scotland has been terrific. Much stronger than tea available in the US, it seems to want less sweetener to bring out the flavor. Keith loves it.

On the way back to the ship we passed Lithgo Palace , the birthplace of Mary Queen of Scotts.

Our tour guide also pointed mountain ash trees, also called Rowan. They grow beautiful red berries and are planted to keep witches away. Keith had one in his back yard in Wethersfield, and was never troubled by witches, so it must work.

Following our return to the ship we were faced with the question of whether to take the shuttle bus into Edinberg, or take a nap. Nap won, hands down. But not before taking photographs of another major engineering marvel in Edinburg, the famous Firth of Forth cantilever bridge.


Firth of Fourth Bridge

Built of cast iron in 1890, this railroad bridge is to cantilever bridges what the Golden Gate is to suspension bridges, in iconic terms. It is the bridge whose photograph appears as the quintessential example in encyclopedia articles about the cantilever bridge. Keith is tempted to launch into a technical discussion, but will restrain himself.

Before napping we enjoyed a poolside lunch. Kathy had a really good burger, while Keith enjoyed the taco bar.

Following our naps Keith spent some time in the computer lab, while Kathy went to a Scottish music show. Kathy enjoyed it very much. It was a variety show with pipers, dancers, a fiddler and a singer-comedian emcee. The talent for this show was brought in from shoreside.


Scottish Dancers on the Rembrandt Stage


Scottish Fiddler

We enjoyed a late (very late, for us) dinner in the Lido at 8, Then to bed. We are at sea tomorrow, and Keith has a busy day planned in the computer lab, sorting our photos. However, before retiring, Keith took a couple of shots of passing boats from the deck outside our room.


A Passing Freighter


Seems Everywhere We Go, We are the Sightseeing Attraction

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