Göta Canal

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The Göta Canal (Swedish: Göta kanal) is a Swedish canal constructed in the early 19th century. It formed the backbone of a waterway stretching some 382 miles (614 km), linking a number of lakes and rivers to provide a route from Gothenburg (Swedish:Göteborg) on the west coast to Söderköping on the Baltic Sea via the river Göta älv and the Trollhätte kanal, through the large lakes Vänern and Vättern.

The canal itself is 118 miles (190 km) long, of which 54 miles (87 km) were dug or blasted, with a width varying between 23–46 ft (7–14 m) and a maximum depth of about 9 ft (3 m).[1] It has 58 locks and can accommodate vessels up to 105 ft (32 m) long, 21 ft (7 m) wide and 2.8 m (9 ft) in draft.[2] Göta Canal is a sister canal of Caledonian Canal in Scotland, which was also constructed by Thomas Telford. The canal is nicknamed the "divorce ditch." It earned this nickname from the troubles that couples have to endure while trying to navigate the many locks by themselves.



The idea of a canal across southern Sweden was first put forward as early as 1516, by Hans Brask, the bishop of Linköping. However, it was not until the start of the 19th century that Brask's proposals were put into action by Baltzar von Platen, a German-born former officer in the Swedish Navy. He organised the project and obtained the necessary financial and political backing. His plans attracted the enthusiastic backing of the government and the new king, Charles XIII, who saw the canal as a way of kick-starting the modernisation of Sweden.[3] Von Platen himself extolled the modernising virtues of the canal in 1806, claiming that mining, agriculture and other industries would benefit from "a navigation way through the country."[4]

The project was inaugurated on April 11, 1810 with a budget of 24 million Swedish riksdalers.[5] It was by far the greatest civil engineering project ever undertaken in Sweden up to that time, taking 22 years of effort by more than 58,000 workers. Much of the expertise and equipment had to be acquired from abroad, notably from Britain, whose canal system was the most advanced in the world at that time. The Scottish civil engineer Thomas Telford developed the initial plans for the canal and travelled to Sweden in 1810 to oversee some of the early work on the route. Many other British engineers and craftsmen were imported to assist with the project, along with significant quantities of equipment - even apparently mundane items such as pickaxes, spades and wheelbarrows.[1]

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