Thursday, November 17, 2011

This Day in History November 17, 1869

Anyone recognize this from this space image?  Any guesses?  Well, it just so happens that it is the Suez Canal.  The Suez Canal is a man made waterway that connects the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea.

It seems that you can go all the way back to the times of the Pharaohs when there was first a canal that fell in this general area.  Connecting the Red Sea to the Mediterranean has been something that was important.  It seems that over time this rudimentary canal fell into disrepair. Others evidently built it up again, but there were continued problems.

Fast forward to 1854.  Ferdinand de Lesseps, the former French consul to Cairo, secured an agreement with the Ottoman governor of Egypt to build a 100 mile canal across the isthmus of Suez.  In 1856, the Suez Canal Company came about, and they drew up construction plans.  They were also granted the rights to the canal 99 years after the completion of the canal.

April 1859 was when construction officially began--initially by hand with picks and shovels by forced labor.  Then came European workers, labor disputes, and a cholera epidemic.  This put the Suez Canal construction behind schedule--4 years to be exact.  It was on this date in 1869 that the Suez Canal officially opened to navigation.

Initially, the canal was only 25 feet deep, 72 feet wide at the bottom, and 200-300 feet wide at the surface.  Less than 500 ships navigated the canal in the first year of operation. Improvements began in 1876, and before long, this canal was the one of the most heavily traveled shipping lanes in the world.

I could go on and on about the Suez Canal history, but I think I'll stop here.  I always find it amazing what people were able to accomplish way back when with rudimentary tools and hard labor.  The Suez Canal is definitely an amazing waterway whose importance in trade and commerce has continued to this day.

For a lot more information that I did not include, please check out these links:


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