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The world's deepest lock

In December 2005's Waterways World, we looked for the world's deepest lock - and found it at Oskemen, in Kazakhstan. Here's how we described it:

Oskemen is on a resurgent river route from northern China to Russia. Its rise of 40m-42m (around 138ft) is seven times the deepest on the British canal system.

Information on Kazakhstan's three river Ertis locks is hard to come by. Their tourist office doesn't answer e-mails, and the country's few websites are geared more towards Russian-speaking investors in heavy industry. But it is clear that, after a period of neglect in the 1990s, the country is now investing heavily to restore through passage on the river Ertis (or Irtysh) and replace its national cargo fleet.

Closed for several years, Oskemen or Ust-Kamenogorsk (its Russian name) was reopened to navigation in 2004. It provides passage around a vast hydro-electric dam. A new lock was opened at Shulbinsk earlier this year, narrowly missing out on a place in our list with a 24m rise (79ft). Bakhtarminsk completes the three.

Cargoes reflect the local industry: lead and zinc smelting, titanium and magnesium. We have not yet found any cruise operators - but we'd be delighted to hear from any readers who have.

We scoured the world to find a picture, but now, thanks to the wonders of Google's aerial photography, you can see it from the air. Click here for the close-up.

What are the chances of Terry (Narrow Dog) Darlington or Chris Coburn taking a narrowboat through, do you think?

Wednesday 23 January  | Richard Fairhurst  | 12.17pm, Wednesday 23 January 2008


I'm an Englishman living in Oskemen. Last week I took the number 4 bus to the hydroelectric plant and deep lock. I took a picture of the lock. Would you like this picture?

Peter Ellis  | 4.31AM, Friday 12 April

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