Day 70 – Suez Canal
As we left Aqaba, Jordan, we were held up waiting for 5 passengers who were still ashore. Normally, the ship will only wait for passengers if they are part of a ship sponsored tour, which these folks were not, but they had gone over to Israel, on their own, and after returning to ship in the late afternoon, were called back to the border by Jordanian immigration authorities for some paperwork irregularity. Jordanian authorities told the Captain he would be required to wait, otherwise we would have left. They finally showed up and we cast off about an hour late, which, in this case was critical for us to be able to join our convoy through the Suez Canal. Due to emergency dredging on the canal, traffic was limited to one way traffic, so we needed to be ready to enter the canal by 11:00am the next day.
We reached the canal with 15 minutes to spare, and were assigned our spot in the convoy – number 30. Waiting for us was the Amsterdam, from Holland America, which was number 29, having left Aqaba just before us. Notice the small boat tied up to the Amsterdam – each ship through the canal must have a small boat at the ready in case the ship loses power to carry the ships lines to the shore so it can be moved out of the center channel, or towed to a wide spot. Our ship carries a small boat that can be used for this purpose, so we didn’t have to have one attached to us.
The Suez, unlike the Panama Canal, is a sea level canal with no locks. It is about 100 miles long, with some lakes near the middle, and narrow canals to the north and south of the lakes. Normally, a convoy starts from the north in the morning and one starts from the south. The two convoys pass in the middle, in the lakes, continuing north or south in the one way canals. The normal transit time is 8 to 10 hours. At this time, due to the dredging in the lakes, it is one-way traffic all the way.
We entered the canal about 3:30 pm, immediately behind the Amsterdam.
As we entered the canal, number 31, a huge container, ship queued up behind us.
Beginning in 1858, it took 120,000 Egyptians 11 years to dig the canal, and it handles 8% of the total world’s shipping.
It has been three years since we transited the canal and it looks much the same, with the exception of noticeably increased security by the Egyptian Army. Guard towers are located on both sides of the canal about every ¼ mile, manned by armed soldiers. The land between the few towns along the canal has been cleared back about ½ mile from the canal.
These “blocks” are used to block the canal in case of war.
These are the only power lines crossing the canal – the towers are 700 feet high.
These trucks are lined up for ferry crossing of the canal – I guess they go between convoys. Other means of crossing include a railroad swing bridge, a highway bridge with a 225 foot clearance, and a tunnel.
Due to our late entry, it was dark when we passed the bridge – way past my bedtime.
We exited the canal at 2:30 am, completing our relocation from the Middle East to the Mediterranean – from the land of Mosques to the land of Cathedrals.