21 June 2005

Sea Life. 1951. The Modasa. The Suez Canal.

First draft:
We got our orders via the radio station to start moving. The anchor winch started up and soon the clanking of the anchor chain could be heard from up forrard. The Bridge was informed and we started to move away in our numbered order. At the same time we could see in the distance a single in-line convoy of ships leaving the Canal and heading north into the Mediterranean. We had an Egyptian pilot taken on board earlier to guide us on our way.

As we enter the Canal from the northern end The Canal crosses a shallow bay before we see the canal banks We proceed in convoy at a slow speed so that our bow wave does not damage and erode the low banks of the canal. This first leg for 40 kilometres or more is straight as a die and looking fore then aft a line of ships can be seen looking almost as if they are sailing through the sandy desert.

On our right, the starboard side is Egypt with roads and population, but on the left hand, the port side is the Sinai Desert and little to see but dry sand and no vegetation. Occasionally on the Sinai side there is a rich green patch, an orchard or a farm complex with a few dwellings. No doubt fed from underground wells and irrigation.

Then, after we traverse this long straight section the canal bends a little, a slight dog-leg and a further 20 kilometres along the canal opens into a wide waterway, a lake and we can see the beautiful white city of Ismailia with its waving palms in the distance. We move on for another 10 - 15 kilometres and we enter the Bitter Lakes and we drop anchor for a while. We wait for a convoy of ships steaming north before we can complete the last leg of our journey.

Our journey ends at the southern city of Suez and the open Gulf of Suez is before us. We drop the pilot and then the Bridge rings the engine room for full speed ahead. The convoy fans out the faster passing the slower and we plough our way across the beautiful still turquoise waters.

This was the year of 1951. No doubt there have been many changes since then, more building and I believe a road bridge now across the Canal. Empty space built upon and land irrigated as the population of Egypt swells and increases.

Note: In the years ahead I would pass through the Suez Canal a number of times but this first trip is the one most etched into my memory and it is the description I write in detail.

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