Ever wonder how the world’s biggest boat lift moves boats? You might think it works similar to elevators, wherein they make use of counterweights to reduce the energy needed to move the load up and down buildings. Actually, it’s similar but moving heavy boats needs a lot more precision. YouTuber Tom Scott created a video to explain how this gigantic boat lift works.
Source: YouTube, Tom Scott
Scott explained the basic physics behind the Falkirk Wheel, the world’s biggest boat lift. This gigantic wheel lets boats travel between two canals in Scotland, one of the canals running 80 feet higher than the other.
The wheel has to lift the entire canal boats which are often 60 feet long. The design utilizes ‘cassions’ or water-filled pods that the boat stays in on either end of an arm which is centered on the main wheel. The cassions will then counterbalance each other: As they are filled with 500 tons of water, and when the boat enters, it would displace the same amount of water as it weighs. This is in accordance to Archimedes’ principle.
With both arms perfectly balanced, the amount of energy it takes to lift a boat through the air is reduced.