A passage to the Med….
Day 111/138 2022/2023 Viking Neptune World Cruise. The Suez Canal transit.
I promised you Luxor, but it will be on another day. We are so busy it is hard to get blogs written so here is a quick one on Day 111 and then I am still 3 days behind on blogs! I need some more sea days!
Last night around 11:40pm I felt that the ship had stopped moving. I was working on a blog post and decided to go out on the balcony to look and see what was going on.
The pilot boat dropping off the pilot that will help us transit through the Suez Canal. The lights of Port Tewfik at the city of Suez, in the distance.
I felt the Neptune swaying a bit and realized that the port thrusters were working to turn us left and position us behind this cargo ship (who was also taking on a pilot), so we could get in line to transit the Suez Canal. Only about an average of 56 ships a day transit through the canal so we had to be in place to make sure we didn’t miss our spot!
The Suez Canal was constructed by the Suez Canal Company headed by Ferdinand de Lesseps from 1859 to 1869. The Canal offers a direct route between the North Atlantic and northern Indian oceans via the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea, avoiding the South Atlantic and southern Indian oceans and reducing the distance from the Arabian Sea to London by 8,900 km or 5500 mile. The original canal featured a single-lane waterway with passing locations in the Ballah Bypass and the Great Bitter Lake. There are no lock systems, with seawater flowing freely through the canal. In general, the water in the canal north of the Bitter Lakes flows north in winter and south in summer. South of the lakes, the current changes with the tide of the Suez. The canal is the property of the Egyptian government, but European shareholders mostly British and French owned the concessionary company which operated the Canal until July 1956 when Egypt’s President Nasser nationalized the canal, which led to the Suez Crisis of 1956. Under the Convention of Constantinople the Canal may be used “In time of war as in time of peace by every vessel of commerce or of war without distinction flag”. A new side channel to the canal was opened in 2016 after expansion of the Ballah Bypass for 35 km to speed up canal transit time and double the capacity of the canal. In March 2021 the Suez Canal was blocked in both directions by the ‘Ever Given’ a G class container ship which ran aground after strong winds blew the ship off course, which turned the ship completely sideways, blocking the canal. The ship remained aground for 6 days and backlogged 450 ships. The Suez Canal Economic Zone (SCZONE) was created along the Canal, to attract investment with customs rates of zero. The SCZONE is 178 square miles or 461 square km wide. The plan is to encourage economic ties between Israel and its neighbours.
The colour of the water in the Suez Canal was a beautiful turquoise colour.
Following through the narrow Suez Canal. Dredging the canal is a constant effort as you can see from the equipment on the left side of the photo.
Car ferries along the Suez which transport people across the canal to the other side of Egypt.
With Lyle and Linda on our balcony, transiting the Suez Canal.
The Suez canal access point to the West passage of the canal. We were in the East passage of the canal.
More dredging machinery in the Suez Canal.
The Suez Canal sign.
We could see down this adjoining canal to a very large cargo ship passing south through the West canal, as we were going north in the East canal.
A statue dedicated to the workers of the Suez Canal.
The Suez Canal construction had 120,000 deaths among its 1.5 million workers during the 11 year excavation project - the most construction worker deaths of any canal construction project. The Suez Canal was dug almost entirely by conscripted Egyptian labourers, by hand, with the French who had the idea to build the canal, providing no digging machinery. The workers had to dig a trench 100 feet wide, 50 feet deep and 100 miles long and they received only enough food and water to survive and no pay for their efforts. Working conditions were horrible and disease was rampant. Workers died due to starvation, cold and physical exhaustion. De Lesseps who built the canal, was a hero in France after building the canal so he decided to dig another one - the Panama Canal. De Lesseps decided the Panama canal did not need any locks, but after 14 years of blundering around in the hostile Panamanian terrain, he abandoned the project with investors losing nearly everything and he died a broken man a year after abandoning the project.
El Ferdan Railway Bridge is the longest swing bridge in the world with a span of 1,100 feet and runs from the west side of the Suez Canal to the east into Sinai, This photo only shows one side of the bridge which is joined by another bridge which I didn’t photograph. The bridge carries 2 rail lines and was built at a cost of $80 million in 2001. The bridge is no longer functional due to the expansion of the Suez Canal in 2015, which added a parallel shipping lane just east of the existing bridge, cutting off the railway into Sinai. As of 2021, a second swing bridge spanning the new eastern shipping lane will be built. Bridges over the Suez tend not to have very long lives and this was the fifth bridge built over the Sinai with others having been damaged by ships, closed after the Suez Crisis, and destroyed by the Six Day War with Israel. This bridge has had the longest life though lasting from 2001-2015.
The Suez Canal Bridge which we came upon at noon is also known by quite a few other names: Egyptian-Japanese Friendship Bridge, Al Salam Bridge, Al Salam Peace Bridge, or Mubarak Peace Bridge. The road bridge crosses the Suez Canal at El-Qantas linking the continents of Africa and Asia. The bridge only opened in 2001. The main contractor for the bridge was the KAJIMA Corporation from Japan. Japan gave Egypt a grant for 60% of the cost of the bridge with Egypt picking up the remaining 40%. The towers are designed in the shape of Pharaonic obelisks.
As we were transiting through the Suez Canal we heard the crew of the Neptune blow our horn. These guys who were fishing in the Canal were in our path and they were struggling to pull up their fishing nets in time to get out of our way. It was a bit of a game of ‘chicken’ which probably happens all the time for the fishermen, but we knew who would lose if they did not get out of our way!
I went to Art Class in the afternoon as I sit in the window of The Restaurant on the port side, and I was able to keep watching our transit through the Canal, while I attempted to paint. I had a bad day at Art Class and frankly had to start my project over again. I think the two very long days in Petra, and Egypt without as much sleep as I needed to recover has me a bit testy and frankly no patience for art. I have a half finished project, which I will get to at some point, when I feel like attempting it again.
The two shipping lanes of the Suez Canal, as we are about to exit the Suez Canal at Port Said.
Port Said, Egypt as we exited the Suez Canal and entered the Mediterranean Sea.
Good bye Egypt! Hello Mediterranean!
We transited the 193.3 km (120.1 miles) today through the Suez Canal. The sailing was very pleasant and after we came back to our cabin at the end of the day, Viking had prepared us certificates confirming our passage through the Canal. In this World Cruise we have had a lot of firsts: Transiting the Panama Canal, Crossing the Line, and Transiting the Suez Canal! Very cool…
Our official Suez Transit certificates!
As we were getting ready for dinner this evening I went to check our private tour tickets through Viator for our visit to Jerusalem and Bethlehem for tomorrow and when I went to download the tickets, the tour had been cancelled! Oh no! No what? Earlier this week we had seen that all of the Viking tours to Jerusalem and Bethlehem had been cancelled for tomorrow as well, but we had not heard from our tour operator that our tour would not be operating. Yeesh. Now we have nothing to do in Israel tomorrow. Stay tuned for what happens next!