A team of divers will be braving the depths of London’s Docklands this week to carry out an essential survey of the dock walls.
The survey will also include an underwater investigation of West India Dock Lock. The giant lock gates, each weighing 160 tonnes, are the only entrance for boats to Docklands from the River Thames.
The team will work in West India South Dock, the walls of which are the foundations of Docklands. The divers will search for any possible voids and gaps in the walls that may have developed over the years, as well monitoring the bed of the dock for debris. A sonar image of a dumped car in nearby ‘Dollar Bay’ gives an indication of the unusual items that have been found when searching the deep waters in previous years.
Over the past 12 months, we have joined forces with the Port of London Authority to survey the four miles of dock walls that we own, with this final diving inspection completing the project. This will then enable engineers to decide what, if any, repair and restoration work will be required.
Construction began on the Isle of Dogs in the early 19th century as London became the hub for world trade. The docks continued to boom into the 1960s, handling as much as 61 million tonnes of goods in 1964. However, changes to shipping methods stimulated a decline and general cargo operations stopped in the 1980s, before the area was reclaimed for business, housing and entertainment, creating the Docklands that we know today.
Charles Baker, Canal & River Trust senior project manager, said: “Docklands is ever-evolving, with loads of history and stories, and it continues to fascinate. It’s no exaggeration to say that the walls we are examining keep Docklands standing and functioning, so this is an essential piece of investigation and safety work. We’re using the data we’ve collected to compile a hugely detailed picture of all our under water infrastructure, which will tell us the type of works that we’ll need to do to maintain and improve it into the future - and this dive is the last piece of the jigsaw.”
It is hoped that the findings from this surveying and diving work, along with some additional research from the Canal & River Trust archives and local museum journals, will be made available in a public exhibition later on this year.