White Sea – Baltic Canal, Russia 4K
The White Sea–Baltic Canal often abbreviated to White Sea Canal (Belomorkanal) is a ship canal in Russia opened on 2 August 1933. It connects the White Sea, in the Arctic Ocean, with Lake Onega, which is further connected to the Baltic Sea. Until 1961, its original name was the Stalin White Sea–Baltic Canal (Belomorsko–Baltiyskiy Kanal imeni Stalina).
The canal was constructed by forced labor of gulag inmates. During its construction by a total of 126,000 workers, about 12,000 died, according to the official records.
The canal runs partially along several canalized rivers and Lake Vygozero. The total length of the route is 227 kilometers (141 mi). As of 2008, the canal sees only light traffic, carrying between ten and forty boats per day. Its economic advantages are limited by its minimal depth of 3.5 m (11.5 ft), inadequate for most sea-going vessels. The canal was originally proposed to be 5.4 m (17.7 ft) deep; however, various cost issues forced completion to a much lesser depth. This depth typically corresponds to river craft with deadweight cargo up to 600t, whilst useful sea going vessels of 2,000–3,000 dwt typically have drafts of 4.5–6 m (15–20 ft)
The total waterway length is 227 kilometers (141 mi), of which 48 kilometers (30 mi) are man-made. The current flows north from Lake Onega to the White Sea, and all navigation marks are set according to it. Once in Lake Onega, ships can exit the southwest shore through the Svir River (and its two locks) to reach Lake Ladoga and then proceed down the Neva River to Saint Petersburg and the Baltic Sea. Alternatively, from Lake Onega river ships can sail eastward into the Volga–Baltic Waterway.
The canal begins near Povenets settlement in Povenets bay of Lake Onega. After Povenets there are seven locks close together, forming the "Stairs of Povenets". These locks are the southern slope of the canal. The canal summit pond at 103 meters elevation is 22 kilometers (14 mi) long between locks 7 & 8. The northern slope has twelve locks numbered 8–19. The route of the northern slope runs through five large lakes; Lake Matkozero between locks 8 & 9, Lake Vygozero between locks 9 & 10, Lake Palagorka between locks 10 & 11, Lake Voitskoye between locks 11 & 12 and Lake Matkozhnya between locks 13 & 14. The canal empties out into the Soroka Bay of the White Sea at Belomorsk. The settlements of Povenets, Segezha, Nadvoitsy, Sosnovets, and Belomorsk are located along the canal.
Minimum lock dimensions are 14.3 meters (47 ft) wide by 135 meters (443 ft) long. The navigable channel is 36 meters (118 ft) wide and 3.5 meters (11.5 ft) deep, with a radius of curvature of 500 meters (1,640 ft). Speed is limited to 8 kilometers per hour (4.3 kn; 5.0 mph) in all artificial portions. In conditions of low visibility (defined as less than one kilometer) navigation is halted.
For the navigation seasons of 2008 to 2010, the canal locks were scheduled to operate from 20 May each year until 15–30 October, giving 148–163 navigation days per year.
The canal and Russian writers
A carefully prepared visit in August 1933 to the White Sea–Baltic Canal may have hidden the worst of the brutality from a group of 120 Russian writers and artists, the so-called Writers Brigade, including Maxim Gorky, Aleksey Nikolayevich Tolstoy, Viktor Shklovsky, and Mikhail Zoshchenko, who compiled a work in praise of the project, the 600-page Stalin White Sea–Baltic Canal, published at the end of 1934. Shklovsky visited Belomorkanal on his own and did not travel there with the group organized by Gorky. Gorky himself did not travel with the Brigade but instead organized the trip. Gorky had previously visited the Solovetski Islands labor camp in 1929 and wrote about it in the Soviet journal Our Accomplishments.
Additionally, it is doubtful that all of the writers involved in the project were unaware of the brutality or actual living conditions present in the camp. In fact, one of the contributors, Sergei Alymov, was a prisoner at the Belomor camp and was the editor for the camp newspaper Perekovka, ("Re-forging"). Similarly, Aleksandr Avdeenko's account of the trip to Belomor includes conversations between OGPU chief Semyon Firin and Prince Mirsky that reveal at least some of the writers were aware of the true nature of Belomor.