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Notes on the Geography of The United Kingdom: Liverpool: Photo 2

world pictures The United Kingdom: Liverpool

The solution was the "wet dock," a stone-walled basin that ships entered at high tide from a so-called "dry basin," which was enclosed by walls but allowed to drain at low tide. At high tide, the wet dock's gates were closed, keeping the ships that were inside the dock afloat as the tide fell. The first wet docks were so much higher than the river at low tide that ships of substantial draft could only enter at the very peak of the tide, but early in the 19th century this problem was rectified by replacing "dry basins" with "half-tide basins." In Liverpool's Historic Waterfront (1984), Nancy Ritchie-Noakes explains that "the principle of a half-tide basin is that by possessing an outer lock gate and a lower sill than the wet dock to which it gives access, it is itself a wet dock which ships can enter for a time on either side of the flood, and thus be better placed to enter the inner dock or the river when the state of the tide allows" (p. 9.) Such wet docks and half-tide basins, interconnected with one another, stretched for seven miles along the Mersey, with downstream ones capable of handling the biggest ships. The view here is from the Albert Dock, opened by Prince Albert in 1845. The gate at the far end opens into the Canning half-tide basin. The buildings in the distance are Liverpool's waterfront icons; we'll return to them later.

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