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Iron Gates - Sip Canal
Most of these photographs come from http://orsova.xhost.ro/_sgg/f10000.htm, which has many superb historical photographs of Băile Herculane, Orsova and the Iron Gates area.
The Iron Gates are, in Romanian Porțile de Fier, in Serbian Gvozdena Vrata, also Djerdap.
"Gerdap", in Turkish, means a place dangerous for navigation, a whirlpool. The Djerdap gorge, which is some 100 kilometers long (from Golubac to Tekija), is actually a compound river valley made up of four gorges (Gornja klisura, Gospodjin vir, Veliki and Mali kazan and Sipska klisura)
The part of the Iron Gates gorge of the Danube River in which the canal was constructed, Sipska klisura, is 2 mi (3.2 km) long and 550 ft (170 m) wide, on the Serbian and Romanian border between Orşova and Drobeta-Turnu Severin. There the river narrows and swiftly flows through a gap between the Carpathian and Balkan mountains.
Near the town of Sip a large rock reef (called Perigrada) obstructed nearly the whole width of the river until the construction of the Sip Canal in 1896.
The Iron Gates, formerly an obstacle to shipping, was cleared of many rock obstructions in the 1860s; the Sip Canal (opened 1896) permitted large river craft to get past the gorge. The water gushed at eight meters per second, 15.6 knots, through the Sip Canal, two kilometers long and 80 metres wide. After the completion of the Djerdap dam in 1976, the canal constructed with such expense and labour is now 50 metres underwater.
The canal was part of a larger project to clear some 80 kilometres of the Iron Gates of rapids and shallows. The canal, designed in one report to be two hundred feet wide and ten feet deep, was cut through five dykes crossing the bed of the river.
Text above adapted from: http://www.infoplease.com/ce6/world/A0825502.html and http://www.britannica.com/ebc/article-9042801
Many drilling ships were needed to break up the rocks in other parts of the Iron Gates gorges, in shallow areas. These drilling holes were then filled with underwater explosives and the rock blasted apart. The spoil was then removed by dredges.
In the case of the canal, excavation and levelling was completed after the canal site was isolated from the river by levees.
This is a bagger, or dredge, called "Vaskapus", the Hungarian name for the Iron Gates. It was used to haul up the spoil from the floor of the river, using a conveyer belt. This would have been useful for smaller rocks, gravel and sand. It appears to have a flag flying with the name of the vessel.
This much bigger dredge uses just a single bucket to remove larger rocks from the river bed.
It would seem that drilling ships and excavators were brought from around the world to help in this project. No two items of equipment are the same.
An American drilling ship. Note the large number of drilling rigs on this huge vessel, the large crew, and the multiple anchors lined up on the shore.
Everything's bigger and better in the USA, it seems to say!
A drilling raft. This was probably only used in very shallow water, where the other rigs could not go. Note its position close to the levee, and the duck boards across shallow water leading to it.
This photograph portrays vividly the large number of men and the equipment needed to create the canal. This is the upstream entrance to the canal, temporarily barricaded by a levee bearing a railway, so that the work could be done in relatively dry conditions.
Water can be seen in the background, where work has been completed on the downstream end, perhaps because the levees at that end were breached when no longer needed. The shallow water on the canal floor in the foreground could be leakage through the levee, or it could be water lying around from recent rain.
Note the locomotives on the levees, used for carrying equipment and rock spoil, and the women in the foreground.
The Sip Canal was nearing completion in this view. As can be seen, the base of the canal has been levelled, and levees constructed on either side. Note also the temporary railways on top of the levee and on the canal floor, both used for hauling spoil and equipment to where they were needed.
Note the locomotives, both on the canal floor and on the levee, and the family group in the foreground.
This photograph shows the upstream entrance to the canal after it was completed and flooded, with the railway used to pull river craft up the canal on the right bank. The river flows from left to right in the photograph.
Historical photograph showing the shipyards based in Orsova. This site is now underwater.
The company now known as SC Santierul Naval Orsova SA began operations in 1890, as a small workshop designed for repairing of the ships used for the construction of the navigable channel between Portile de Fier (Iron Gates) and SIP Yugoslavia.
Alexis Project Filiasi/Romania
RC J/263/230/2007 CIF 21464151