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Getting There - Aneel's Travelogue

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To Dundee Dundee, Scotland, Thursday, 06 August 2015 4:00am

Today I managed to see four large technical artworks, though I think only one of them was explicitly intended to be one.

I took a bus to the airport and picked up a rental car, which took much, much longer than it should have. It's taking a bit of effort to drive. Driving on the wrong side is easy enough, it's the roundabouts that are tricky. My GPS is not great about telling me what the label on the exit that I want will actually read, so it's easy to take the wrong one.

My first two stops were in Falkirk. I stopped to see The Kelpies, a huge sculpture of two horse heads made out of steel. They're quite striking: huge, but porous. You can see between the skin plates to some of the structure within. There are postcards of them lit from inside at night. Might be worth a stop on my way back.

Next was a visit to The Falkirk Wheel. Normally, when you want to move a boat from a lower canal to a higher one, you use a series of locks, where you float a boat progressively higher on more and more water. The wheel instead lifts the boat (and the water it's sitting on) up over 100 feet. The weight of the boat and the water is countered by another container of water at the other side of the wheel, so the whole process is very efficient (I'm not sure if the wheel is designed to move two boats at once, but it seems like that should be possible). One of the remarkable things was how quiet the operation of the wheel is. I expected to be able to hear engines straining or things clanking against each other.

From Falkirk, I drove up to Dundee, where I visited two ships. One, the Frigate Unicorn was mostly interesting to me because I've read a bunch of novels written about the British Navy during the Napoleonic period. This ship was launched in 1824, which is only ten years after many of them were set. A frigate of the period is shockingly cramped after being on bigger ships. I almost had to crawl to move around the lower decks.

The other ship was the RRS Discovery, which was used for Antarctic exploration. It was an interesting hybrid ship. Intended for sail most of the time, but with a coal-powered steam engine for operating in pack ice. It was made of wood, because the steel ships of the day would have buckled under the pressure of the ice. It's definitely in better shape than the Unicorn (not surprising, since it's 75 years newer), and much more spacious.

Somehow, despite this being a car day, I managed to walk nearly 8 miles.

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