Day 82 Mar 26 (Suez Canal passage)

I was up at 6:30 AM (groan) to video and shoot pics. I didn't realize it takes about 11 hours to transit the canal. It is over 100 miles from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean Sea. The canal separates Africa and Asia. It is completely in Egypt. The Sinai Peninsula is on the east side of the canal and mainland Africa (Egypt) is on the west side. this area has been fought over for millennia. I can't imagine why. Egypt is about 95% desert. They get about a half inch of rain a year. D R Y ! ! ! The east bank of the canal is mostly just sand. The west has more greenery and towns. Most of what breaks the monotony of sand are military posts. When the canal was built in the mid 1800's the Egyptians went bankrupt. The Brits were nice enough to buy the shares the Egyptians had in the canal which bailed them out financially but left them without control over a canal in their country. (The Brits did this lovely thing because they couldn't risk letting the French control the canal - the French were actually the builders. The same guy who later tried to build the Panama Canal and failed - De Lesseps was the one who succeeded in engineering and supervising the Suez Canal project.) All the history lessons I've been attending are really helpful in understanding the whys and wherefores of some of these key events.

This canal, like the Panama Canal, has some lakes in its path. This helped speed construction and allows convoys of ships to start at both ends (daylight transits only) and pass each other in the wider lakes. The closest description I can give you of what the canal looks like is perhaps a dusty irrigation canal in El Paso. It is quite wide but other than that the appearance is similar. They apparently can accommodate the width of the supertankers but not the draught (depth) of them when they are fully loaded. To deal with this, until they complete a dredging project already begun, they have smaller tankers which can take some of the crude oil from the supertankers until they float high enough in the water to pass through the canal. The smaller tanker follows the big one and on the other end they return the transferred crude
back to the supertanker. It is that or go around the Horn of Africa, a much longer trip.

Went to bed early tonight because I had an early wake up for Alexandria.

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