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  • Ellen Frazer Jameson

DAY 11-12 / SUEZ CANAL & EGYPT

Updated: Jan 24, 2023

TRANSITING THE SUEZ CANAL

102 days, 31 ports, 18 countries.

Queen Mary 2 World Centenary Voyage

Here's the UPDATE for 24 January. If you're a subscriber, we send the wrong link:




Ellen Frazer-Jameson reporting live from Queen Mary 2


SUEZ CANAL EXPERIENCE



At 6pm on Saturday 21st January 2023 Queen Mary 2 reached her anchorage position in the Mediterranean Sea to await transit of the Suez Canal. In the early hours of the following morning, a pilot came aboard for the duration of QM2's transit. Almost 100 miles long, the Suez Canal is a man-made passageway between its beginning at Port Said, Egypt to the exit at the Gulf of Suez.


Everywhere we look out, there are ships achored resembling a car park for ships. We join the waiting cargo ships and marine vessels who will form a convoy for the journey through the canal. Officials, agents, mooring men and canal electricians board QM2 as we pass through the Port Said Bypass. The pilot acts in an advisory capacity to the Captain and navigation staff as we navigate the canal until we disembark them at the Gulf of Suez and exit the canal.



Unlike the Panama Canal which is a narrow gulley through which cruise ships’ pass with what looks like only feet to spare, the Suez Canal is more like a wide river with banks on either side. Also, there are no locks to navigate on the Suez Canal.


Before dawn, QM2 began her transit, which would take approximately 12 hours. By sunset at 6.45am the open decks are full of passengers taking photographs and determined to capture every moment of their Suez experience.



As we sail at an unhurried pace between the two banks, the water is smooth and rippled, bright blue and palest green; all around there is a mysterious quietness. Sand dunes on either bank reflect in the sunlight displaying colours from the palest white sand to darkest brown. The path through the dessert changes from working sites and military bases to areas of vegetation, palm trees and canal side communities of over a million people.



There are romantic oasis with reservoirs of brilliant blue water and palm fringed landscaping. Military bases are visible with high rise towers of radio communications and service vehicles travel between encampments on specially built single track highways.



The work of maintaining the canal is never ending and excavations to enlarge the canal and allow shipping vessels to pass each other in one channel going North or South were completed at Great Bitter Lakes in 2015.



Official estimates claim that the volume of goods travelling the canal annually is $2.6 trillion and 70% of Europe’s fuel transits the canal. It is a crucial maritime thoroughfare and over the years has been the scene of blockades, feuds and international incidents.


One officer one board described the dessert scene as “the largest beach in the world” but there is little in the way of regular people using the waterway. Security is extremely strict on the banks of the canal.


Sentries are placed in small outbuildings all along the route. We pass luxury villas on the banks of the canal and local communities with minarets and gold domed mosques.


Areas of urban development can be seen and one ginormous round sandstone building, large as a stadium, stands proudly on the canal bank with its round windows and domes on top with look out places.


Sand coloured encampments are camouflaged in the landscape and a design feature of the resort style housing is sandstone with terracotta detailing.





Passengers on board QM2 line every inch of railing and observation spaces, and there is a sense of awe as people speak in hushed tones and stare mesmerized at this man-made wonder of the world.


The journey through the Suez Canal has mystery and a feeling of

being transported to a secret land


It is late afternoon when we disembark the pilots and QM2 is on its way out to the open sea. Few travel experiences deliver such a unique and unforgettable adventure. This is definitely one to tick off the bucket list. Suez Canal, been there, done that, will treasure the memory.



 

ELLEN'S SUEZ CANAL COLLAGE

(click an image to enlarge)


The journey continues...Next port, Safagar. Egypt...

23 January 2023


Ellen Frazer-Jameson

 

ABOUT THE SUEZ CANAL

(Source: Britanica)


Suez Canal, Arabic Qanāt al-Suways, sea-level waterway running north-south across the Isthmus of Suez in Egypt to connect the Mediterranean and the Red seas. The canal separates the African continent from Asia, and it provides the shortest maritime route between Europe and the lands lying around the Indian and western Pacific oceans. It is one of the world’s most heavily used shipping lanes. The canal extends 193 km (120 miles) between Port Said (Būr Saʿīd) in the north and Suez in the south, with dredged approach channels north of Port Said, into the Mediterranean, and south of Suez. The canal does not take the shortest route across the isthmus, which is only 121 km (75 miles). Instead, it utilizes several lakes: from north to south, Lake Manzala (Buḥayrat al-Manzilah), Lake Timsah (Buḥayrat al-Timsāḥ), and the Bitter Lakes—Great Bitter Lake (Al-Buḥayrah al-Murrah al-Kubrā) and Little Bitter Lake (Al-Buḥayrah al-Murrah al-Ṣughrā). The Suez Canal is an open cut, without locks, and, though extensive straight lengths occur, there are eight major bends. To the west of the canal is the low-lying delta of the Nile River, and to the east is the higher, rugged, and arid Sinai Peninsula. Prior to construction of the canal (completed in 1869), the only important settlement was Suez, which in 1859 had 3,000 to 4,000 inhabitants. The rest of the towns along its banks have grown up since, with the possible exception of Al-Qanṭarah.Physical features


Geology

The Isthmus of Suez, the sole land bridge between the continents of Africa and Asia, is of relatively recent geologic origin. Both continents once formed a single large continental mass, but during the Paleogene and Neogene periods (about 66 to 2.6 million years ago) the great fault structures of the Red Sea and Gulf of Aqaba developed, with the opening and subsequent drowning of the Red Sea trough as far as the Gulf of Suez and the Gulf of Aqaba. In the succeeding Quaternary Period (about the past 2.6 million years), there was considerable oscillation of sea level, leading finally to the emergence of a low-lying isthmus that broadened northward to a low-lying open coastal plain. There the Nile delta once extended farther east—as a result of periods of abundant rainfall coincident with the Pleistocene Epoch (2,588,000 to 11,700 years ago)—and two river arms, or distributaries, formerly crossed the northern isthmus, one branch reaching the Mediterranean Sea at the narrowest point of the isthmus and the other entering the sea some 14.5 km (9 miles) east of present Port Said.


Physiography

Topographically, the Isthmus of Suez is not uniform. There are three shallow water-filled depressions: Lake Manzala, Lake Timsah, and the Bitter Lakes; though distinguished as Great and Little, the Bitter Lakes form one continuous sheet of water. A number of more-resistant bands of limestone and gypsum obtrude in the south of the isthmus, and another significant feature is a narrow valley leading from Lake Timsah southwestward toward the middle Nile delta and Cairo. The isthmus is composed of marine sediments, coarser sands, and gravels deposited in the early periods of abundant rainfall, Nile alluvium (especially to the north), and windblown sands.

When first opened in 1869, the canal consisted of a channel barely 8 metres (26 feet) deep, 22 metres (72 feet) wide at the bottom, and 61 to 91 metres (200 to 300 feet) wide at the surface. To allow ships to pass each other, passing bays were built every 8 to 10 km (5 to 6 miles). Construction involved the excavation and dredging of 74 million cubic metres (97 million cubic yards) of sediments. Between 1870 and 1884 some 3,000 groundings of ships occurred because of the narrowness and tortuousness of the channel. Major improvements began in 1876, and, after successive widenings and deepenings, the canal by the 1960s had a minimum width of 55 metres (179 feet) at a depth of 10 metres (33 feet) along its banks and a channel depth of 12 metres (40 feet) at low tide. Also in that period, passing bays were greatly enlarged and new bays constructed, bypasses were made in the Bitter Lakes and at Al-Ballāḥ, stone or cement cladding and steel piling for bank protection were almost entirely completed in areas particularly liable to erosion, tanker anchorages were deepened in Lake Timsah, and new berths were dug at Port Said to facilitate the grouping of ships in convoy.


Plans that had been made in 1964 for further enlargement were overtaken by the Arab-Israeli war of June 1967, during which the canal was blocked. The canal remained inoperative until June 1975, when it was reopened and improvements were recommenced. In 2015 the Egyptian government finished a nearly $8.5 billion project to upgrade the canal and significantly increase its capacity; nearly 29 km (18 miles) were added to its original length of 164 km (102 miles).




Resposted in case you missed it...

PIRACY THREAT AT SEA - GULF OF ADEN

A message from the Captain of Queen Mary 2

Saturday 21st January 2023


* This is standard protocol for all passenger ships


During our sea passage between 25-27 January, we will be transiting the Bab el Mandeb and Gulf of Aden. This is an area well documented in the global media with regard to the threat from piracy. Therefore, when at sea during this period we will be operating a higher level of security alertness.


Queen Mary 2 will be routed through an internationally recommended transit corridor and we will be under the protection of an International Task Force assigned by a United Nations mandate to protect merchant ships from a piracy threat.


Our security plan is in place to protect the ship and all on board at all times and therefore during the dates detailed above and whilst operating at the higher level of security, I strongly request your assistance and cooperation.


In order to familiarise yourself with the actions required during a piracy threat, we will be holding an anti-piracy drill. The drill will be conducted in the interests of your personal safety and security and I therefore respectfully request your full cooperation in this important exercise.


The following actions will be required of all guests.


· You should move quickly and calmly to the inside of the ship. Do not remain on any open-deck area or near external windows.


· You should proceed directly to your staterooms. If your stateroom has a window or balcony you should move to the corridor immediately outside your stateroom and sit on

either a chair or the floor.


* If you occupy an inside /inboard stateroom please remain in your stateroom.

* Your stateroom stewards will conduct a full check of their section to ensure all guests are accounted for.


I recognise that some of the measures being implemented may impact the guest experience, however I must stress that the safety and security of every individual on the ship is our highest priority. While the risk to the cruise industry is considered to be extremely low, we still need to remain vigilant and alert.


Master -RMS Queen Mary 2


* * * * *


COMING UP

  • Next Port: Safaga, Egypt

  • JD Schwartz' Queen Mary 2 iconic photography

  • On the horizon: Salala, Oman


* * * * *

 

Current position of Queen Mary 2:

Under way from Passage Suez Canal to Safaga

  • Departure was 8 hrs 8 min ago. (at 16:00 h local time)

  • Arrival will be in 5 hrs 52 min. (at 06:00 h local time)

  • Traveled distance since Passage Suez Canal: 165.63 nm (306.75 km)

  • Remaining distance to Safaga: 120.55 nm (223.25 km)

  • Traveled distance since Southampton: 3,657.81 nm (6,774.26 km)

  • Course: 140°



 

Photo of the day (from the archives of JD Schwartz)

"STANDING TALL"

DECK SEVEN FORWARD

Further updates will be posted as soon as we get them from Ellen onboard Queen Mary 2.


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3 Comments


tony.molyneux2
Jan 31, 2023

Thank you for posting your ‘portfolio’ of truly wonderful pictures taken on various voyages on board the magnificent QM2. They have to be rated as some of the most interesting / quality photographs of the ship, I have ever seen. I have sailed on her on several occasions, the first time was in Princess Grill departing New York for the Caribbean. It was the occasion when QE2 was leaving New York for her final World Cruise before her retirement in Dubai, we sailed down the Hudson River in convoy - QM2, QE2 and QV,a truly wonderful experience.

Best wishes

John Molyneux

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berndtgueckel
Jan 23, 2023

Great pictures, impressive description! But something must be corrected. The captain does not relinquish his authority – in no way! - as long as he is on duty on board. In no place on earth and at no time. The pilots advise the captain. Only the captain decides, without exception. If the captain is not on the bridge, he has previously handed over the watch to the officer in charge. Now the officier in duty decides whether to follow the pilot's advice. By God, yes, the pilots should be trusted very much. But the responsibility lies entirely with the captain. These are the rules that apply worldwide.

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terryfwall
Feb 02, 2023
Replying to

Coincidentally, Berndt, isn't that exactly what Ellen said?: "The pilot acts in an advisory capacity to the Captain and navigation staff as we navigate the canal until we disembark them at the Gulf of Suez and exit the canal."

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