Where elevators are concerned, this new ship lift is an engineering marvel. Built to carry cargo ships over the controversial Three Gorges Dam on China’s Yangtze River, the elevator knocks down the travel time past the dam to 40 minutes from the three hours or so it took previously via five stages of locks.
Some bigger ships will still have to use the locks, but the elevator will allow six million more tons of cargo to cross the dam every year. The elevator lifts both the ship and the water it floats on some 370 feet. It can carry about 7 million pounds, including ship and water.
The dam is the world’s biggest hydropower project, but its construction 13 years ago was controversial. It forced the displacement of over a million people and has apparently caused deadly landslides along the river.