Our last days in Seattle saw us out on the buses to Ballard. This is quite a famous spot because it is the location of a sophisticated set of locks that connect the salt waters of Puget Sound with the fresh water of Lake Washington. Lake Washington and the streams that flow into it are prime salmon spawning grounds. The locks were constructed in the early 1900s to allow the transport of timber, minerals and agricultural production to Seattle’s seaport.
To build the locks the water level of the lakes had to be lowered by about 8 feet but still kept about 20 ft higher than the Puget Sound sea waters. This height difference together with the digging of a basin on the lake side keeps the salt water from mixing with the fresh water of the lake. Any salt water entering the lake, being denser than fresh water, sinks into the basin and is then ‘drained’ back into Puget Sound. Quite cunning, but it is a bit more complex than this and uses a few other gadgets as well. Allthego and Homealone have been on boats through quite a few fresh water locks; but these ones are different in that, because sea water is denser than fresh water, when the locks open to let you out the sea water side is a bit lower than the fresh water side and a ‘little river like’ flow of fresh water comes into the lock. It’s not just a smooth exit. Also, traditionally you need to throw lines to the top of locks when going upstream and then pull them in as the water level rises in the lock. This can be a bit of a challenge. These locks though have ‘rising’ bollards attached to the side of the lock, so you just tie up to them and they also go up the side of the lock as the water comes in, no pesky tossing of lines and the fun and games of hanging on as the water comes in. They haven’t forgotten about the salmon either as on one edge of the locks a salmon ladder has been constructed. There are over 20 steps in the ladder and a section of it has glass panels so you can view the salmon making their way up into the lake water. As well as salmon we saw a number of commercial and pleasure craft, including a kayak, transit the locks.
Back at the Seatlle Centre we were into more culture at the Chuhily Glass Gardens. Chuhily is a famous glass blower from Seattle who has a whole team of glass blowers that work on big exhibitions of blown glass. He has had exhibitions in various parts of the world. The displays are quite stunning and awe-inspiring. He specializes in garden representations, not only glass gardens but also real ones with his works as centre pieces.
The weather in Seattle has been kind to us. Warm sunny days, a bit of a change from the chill of Fairbanks a few days earlier. Our time though in the north-west has drawn to a close and we have moved south to Houston to have some days with Mitchell and Piper, before heading home to Brisbane. They are both well having seen off the hurricane. The weather in Houston is now fine, hot and humid.
It has been a great trip, we are a little weary though and looking forward to unpacking and doing the washing early next week in Brisbane.