The Thames is a river
flowing through southern England, in its lower reaches flowing through
London into the sea. It is one of the major waterways in England.
Westminster from the river Thames.
The Thames provided the major highway between London and Westminster in
the 16th and 17th centuries.
In the 17th and 18th centuries, during the period now referred to as
the Little Ice Age, the Thames often froze over in the winter. After
temperatures began to rise again, starting in 1814, the river has never
frozen over completely. The building of a new London Bridge in 1825 may
also have been a factor; the new bridge had fewer pillars than the old, so
allowing the river to flow more freely, thus preventing it from flowing
slowly enough to freeze in cold winters.
By the 18th century, the Thames was one of the world's busiest
waterways, as London became the centre of the vast, mercantile British
Westminster and the London Eye from the river Thames.
London Eye, also known as the
Millennium Wheel, opened in 1999 and is the largest observation wheel in
the world (a type of Ferris wheel). It stands 135 metres (443 feet) high
on the South Bank of the River Thames
the wheel carries 32 sealed and air conditioned passenger capsules
attached to its external circumference. It rotates at a rate of 0.26
metres per second or 0.85 feet per second (about 0.9 km/h or 0.5 mph) so
that one revolution takes about 30 minutes to complete. The wheel does not
usually stop to take on passengers; the rotation rate is so slow that
passengers can easily walk on and off the moving capsules at ground level.
It is, however, stopped on occasion to allow disabled or elderly
passengers time to disembark safely.
City Hall in London is the headquarters of the Greater London Authority
and the Mayor of London. It stands on the south bank of the River Thames.
Designed by Norman Foster it opened in July 2002.
This video was taken from a river boat.
You can see the place where the bridge opens for traffic
towards the end of the video.
You may need to click the
play arrow twice.
Be a little patient! If you are on dial-up connection, it may take a while
bridge is 800 feet (244 m) in length with two towers each
213 feet (65 m) high, built on piers. The central span of 200 feet (61 m)
between the towers is split into two equal bascules or leaves, which can
be raised to an angle of 83 degrees to allow river traffic to pass.
Although each bascule weighs over 1,000 tons, they are counterbalanced to
minimise the force required and allow raising in one minute. The original
hydraulic raising mechanism was powered by pressurised water stored in six
accumulators. Water was pumped into the accumulators by steam engines.
Today the original hydraulic machinery still opens the bridge, however it
has been converted to use oil instead of water and electric motors have
taken the place of the steam engines and accumulators. The old mechanism
is open to the public.