History of Technology 2: How to Build a Canal

Is one of your bucket list goals to build a canal? Well, a) what a weird bucket list, but b) we've gotcha covered. Find out how in this video.

LanguageEnglish Language
TechnologyHistory of Technology

Transcript

00:27

immigrant laborers came in during the 1820s and 1830s [backhoes pictured]

00:30

it was slow hard work and a bulldozer free world. what a way to say you know

00:35

welcome to America. the next step is waterproofing the hole. canal Builders

00:41

had to convince tons of waters to stay in a big ditch and not you know seep

00:45

away underneath. otherwise the canals would have become giant mud wrestling [locks pictured]

00:49

pits. which may have been fun but not too much good for trade. to solve this

00:54

problem they used a strategy called puddling, which is more than just a

00:59

really cute sounding word, but puddling is basically smooshing natural

01:05

play along the bottom and sides of the ditch. all that time playing in the dirt [men smile with shovels]

01:09

his children really paid off, but last but not least they added water. probably

01:14

piping it in from some nearby river otherwise they would have needed a large bucket line. well of course

01:21

there's no current in a canal, but most canals had wide paths on either side

01:26

where horses could tow the barges along. a single horse could tow 30 tons of

01:31

stuff on a barge . 30 tons each! mister Edie have you been working out. [horse drawn carriage on a bridge]

01:35

there and found and what if they couldn't find a perfectly flat route for

01:40

their canals well easy. they built locks. out not to lock folks

01:45

out but to let them sail on the higher elevations. how to locks work? little

01:51

tricky to explain but here goes. a boat sailing down a canal at a certain

01:54

elevation glides into a steel and concrete structure called a lock. big [boats in canal]

01:59

gates then closed on either side of the ship and the Box steadily fills with

02:04

water. if the boat is going to a higher elevation

02:08

or if it's going to a lower elevation water to slowly drain from the lock so

02:12

that the boat sinks to that lower level. the locks were totally essential in

02:16

making canals a practical and profitable means of transportation. we'll take the

02:21

Panama Canal for example this massive feat of Engineering cuts through the [map of panama shown]

02:25

skinny Central American country of Panama providing a convenient sea route

02:30

between the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans. Oh Panama's skinniness made it a

02:35

great choice for building the canal but it had the trouble of not being totally

02:39

flat. so the engineers that designed the canal created huge locks some nearly

02:44

eight stories tall and only 12,000 or so workers had to die of yellow fever and

02:49

malaria to make it all happen. and some might call that a bargain. I might call [contract papers pictured]

02:53

those who call that a bargain terrible people! well there were definitely other

02:57

problems with canal engineering as well. like the ones in the north tended to

03:02

know freeze in the winter. but in a world without trains could they really

03:05

complain? plus frozen locks provide some of the world's longest ice skating rinks.

03:10

pretty cool well sales in bedazzled spandex outfits [figure skaters pictured]

03:14

and cheesy soundtracks went through the roof.