I’m not the kind of person who looks down at the currents, tides, and waves passing through a big, deep body of water and think, Hey, I could build a bridge across that.
Not on your life. I mean, where would a person even start?
And who would dare to create a large engineering marvel like the Panama Canal? If you’ve ever been through it, you’ve seen how huge it is: a series of locks on both ends and a lake in the middle. It makes you wonder who in his right mind had the audacity to think it was even possible to build a 48-mile-long canal through mosquito-infested land in someone else’s country.
An engineer, of course … along with a bunch of politicians.
Grand Coulee Dam is another engineering marvel. If you haven’t spent a day touring it, I’d highly recommend you do so.
The Hiram Chittenden Locks
For centuries people in the Pacific Northwest carried or dragged their boats between Lake Washington and Lake Union. If it had been up to people like me, we might still be doing it (or paying someone else to do the dragging). But when logging became big business here, they had to find a way to get their logs down to Puget Sound. In 1883, David Denny and Thomas Burke hired a crew of Chinese laborers to dig a canal.
Connecting the bodies of water was complicated, though, by the fact that the lakes were considerably higher than the saltwater. Call in the engineers.
In 1906, the Army Corps of Engineers sent Hiram Chittenden to be the Army District Engineer. Hiram looked at the various proposals, asked for more money, and proposed a double concrete lock with steel gates instead of a wooden lock.
You can read more here about the history, construction, and operation of the Hiram Chittenden Locks, better known as the Ballard Locks.
Our Argosy Cruise through the Ballard Locks
We were heading from the lower saltwater of Puget Sound into the higher freshwater leading to the lakes. The administrators of the locks are required to maintain the water level of the two lakes at 20.6 feet above mean low tide. They’re also charged with preventing the mixing of sea water and fresh.
The Courage to Create
Engineers have an amazing amount of chutzpah. They aren’t the only people who dare to create of course. Creativity is all around us. Sculptors dare to make that first cut. Gardeners dig up the lawn for flowers which in the beginning only exist in their minds. Cooks try something new and serve it to their family. Entrepreneurs have the courage to start new businesses. Writers dare to write novels.
Here’s to us all and all the creativity we’re courageous enough to attempt.