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The White Sea-Baltic Canal

Plane view of the northern site of the canal near Belomorsk

Plane view of the northern site of the canal near Belomorsk

The White Sea-Baltic Canal

The White Sea-Baltic Canal

The canal connects the White Sea (near the town of Byelomorsk) to Onego lake (near Povenets settlement). The waterway from the center of the country to the north was already known in the 16-17 centuries. The famous Sovereign's Road was laid through these places in the summer of 1702 by thousands of Russian peasants. A few construction projects of the canal were developed in the 19 century. However, none of them has been implemented because of a large scope of work which required huge financial expenditure.

The decision on construction of the canal was made in February, 1931 by the Council of Labor and Defense of the USSR. This task has been assigned to the specially organized White Sea-Baltic correctional labor camp. By efforts of more than 100,000 prisoners construction was completed in 21 months, and in the summer of 1933 the WSBC was opened. As a result, the waterway between the Baltic and the White Seas was reduced 4 times, transport communication between northern regions of the country, on the one hand, and central and southern, on the other hand, has improved, and conditions for economic development of extensive territories have been created.

The onstruction has been considered unique so far: the canal is 5m deep on the average, its total waterway length is 227 km, 37km of which are artificial portions, includes more than 100 complex hydraulic engineering constructions - 15 dams, 19 locks, 49 canal banks, 12 floodgates and other devices. It has 2 slopes: southern (Baltic) and northern (White Sea), connected with water-dividing lock pool. The southern slope is located in the valley of Povenchanka river; its length makes 10 km, difference of water levels is 70 m. 7 locks are constructed there. The canal summit pound is 22 kilometres long and consists of several lakes (Uzkoye, Vygozero, etc.) and a water-dividing channel. On the northern slope in the extent of 190 km the WSBC runs on the lakes, straightened channels of rivers (the Lower Vyg, mostly) and to channels connecting separate lakes and rivers. The 102 meter difference of water levels is overcome here due to 12 locks.

During the Great Patriotic War hydraulic engineering constructions of the canal have undergone significant destructions (including 8 locks, 19 dikes and dams), and in 1944, upon liberation of the entire zone of the canal it was restored. In 1946 navigation through the WSBC has renewed.

The canal is a part of a uniform deep-water system of the European part of the country. At developing its design, navigation was considered as a part of the complex program, which was subsequent construction of large hydrostations at dams of the canal. By the beginning of the 21 century water system of the WSBC represents a cascade of water basins and hydrounits.

V. Karpechko, V. Makurov
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Created: May 22, 2009. Last updated: July 8, 2009.
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