Yangtze river cruise: two sides of the Three Gorges - Telegraph
Rivers flowing over gently sloping ground begin to curve back and forth across the landscape. These are called meandering rivers. Meandering rivers erode sediment from the outer curve of each meander bend and deposit it on an inner curve further down stream. This causes individual meanders to grow larger and larger over time. Meandering river channels are asymmetrical.
The deepest part of the channel is on the outside of each bend. The water flows faster in these deeper sections and erodes material from the river bank. The water flows more slowly in the shallow areas near the inside of each bend. The slower water can't carry as much sediment and deposits its load on a series of point bars.
Click to view larger and see the legend. Oxbow lakes form when a meander grows so big and loopy that two bends of the river join together. Once the meander bends join, the flow of water reduces and sediment begins to build up. Over time oxbow lakes will fill with sediment and can even disappear.
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The point where the two bends intersect is called a meander cut-off. At mealtimes I was sharing a table with a family of Germans: Gottfried, the father, had just opened a Chinese factory that made zips. That was at 7. The views were so shrouded we might have been on the Thames, except for the early-morning karaoke coming from the motels clustered along the shore.
I could hear some of the British contingent humming The Dam Busters theme and glanced sideways at Gottfried, but he was reciting verse: Goethe in old age, he said, pining for his youth. The soldiers, the massive walls, the loudspeakers and a subtext of global domination a Chinese man assured me that the planet had tilted as a result gives it the frisson of a James Bond set; you half-expect Blofeld to burst forth demanding to know why thousands of tourists with cameras have invaded his lair.
The man-made shape you really notice at every tourist spot across China, however, is an inverted pyramid: a single child, his two parents, his four grandparents. One of these little emperors wailed at the stalls. It was lunchtime and the place was deserted. Stirring in the breeze were the orange trees, whose scent pervaded the courtyard where I sat.
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Inside, two human bodies lay floating in glass cabinets. The feet of one of them had rotted completely and were floating in a separate container, like abalone in a Hong Kong seafood restaurant; but the flesh of the other was still, mostly, intact. They were a man and a woman, dating back to the Qing dynasty, who had been discovered, somehow preserved in the river, when dam-work began; and I thought of them often in the next few days as we sailed over the ghost towns.
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The chamber of each lock is so gigantic it can hold six Selina-sized 4, tons ships. We entered with several huge barges.
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China has a habit of exhausting superlatives and this was one of those occasions: the gargantuan gates closing, the water rising, the strange, high, singing sound as if the boats were a school of whales floating up together under what felt like the biggest floodlights in the universe, made the experience superhuman. Early the following morning, coddled within the dam, we went through the second gorge, Wu which means foggy, and was , boarding smaller boats to see the Lesser Gorges and then even smaller ones to explore the tributaries, like a riverine version of nesting dolls.
The farther in we went, the lovelier the sheer cliff faces became, softened by brushstrokes of bamboo and waterfalls and the occasional pavilion. But it had taken six months to flatten Wushan, her 2,year-old hometown, so that not a stone of it would hinder future ships as they sailed across what had once been sky.
When I saw the year-old statues outside Fengjie, decapitated during the Cultural Revolution but subsequently fitted with new heads, I also saw the metaphor. Fengjie itself is a decade old, as orderly as a stage-set or a Potemkin village. You walk through it on the way to White Emperor City, a temple complex which was built on shore 2, years ago but which the dam has converted into an island. By now, the weather had improved and the passengers were happy.
I can say this with confidence because on my floor, the cabin doors were propped open and half-naked men were lolling contentedly on their beds.
No one moaned about the food anymore, and the British passengers were working up to their farewells. My only complaint was when the lights failed in my cabin.