Digging for globalization
Water has been fascinating people in a special way for millenniums. Larger settlements were initially established on coasts, rivers and estuaries. However, even early civilizations complemented natural waterways by artificial ones. At first, narrow canals secured the irrigation of fields, soon to be followed by wider, navigable waterways as safe and lucrative trade routes. Rivers were connected to each other or even circumnavigated, very long ocean routes drastically shortened via canals between oceans and seas, many additional artificial waterways planned.
In addition to serving purposes like irrigation and trade, canals affect the world humans live in. Cities that flourished thanks to connected shipping routes were able to achieve further growth with sophisticated canal systems. Angkor Wat in Cambodia, historic Suzhou near the Chinese metropolis Shanghai, Venice, Amsterdam and Hamburg are just a few examples. Canals, however, are also exposed to the winds of change and the evolution of economies. Former widely ramified systems of old, narrow inland canals have fallen into a deep sleep. Supplanted by rail and hardtop roads, they at least still attract tourists in large numbers. By contrast, consistently extended, broadened and deepened canals as links to navigable rivers have retained their importance for domestic transportation. Even a lot more important, though, for the growing flow of goods in a globalized economy is ocean shipping. Canals – large enough to be navigated by huge sea vessels with thousands of containers – are the uncontested champions in terms of the number of passages and volumes of goods. Explore the following pages to find some amazing facts and stories from the world of artificial waterways.