National Geographic : 1935 Nov
THE SUEZ CANAL: SHORT CUT TO EMPIRES BY MAYNARD OWEN WILLIAMS AUTHOR OF "GREAT BRITAIN ON PARADE," "BY CAR AND STEAMER AROUND OUR INLAND SEAS," "EAST OF SUEZ TO THE MOUNT OF THE DECALOGUE," ETC., IN THE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE With Illustrations from Photographs by the Author THE khamsin, bringing heat and dust from the Sahara, had blown itself out. Now heavy seas were helping pile up cabin sites on the Port Said beach, and massy spray, breaking completely over the western jetty, reached up to wh ie statue of the Suez Canal hero exteii a bronze arm in welcome to this maritime turnstile between East and West. Outside the long sea wall a small Yugo slav tramp wallowed under a deck load of lumber, her signal flags snapping, her en gines at rest (see illustration, page 615). Wrapping himself in an oilskin, the pilot entered the boat at our stern and the hawser was paid out till solid water slapped the faces of its crew. Then we turned in a half circle and swung the smaller boat as children play snap-the-whip. Steered nicely to the sway ing rope ladder, the agile pilot clambered aboard. A landlubber at Port Said does not often have a staunch pilot boat under his com mand. So we visited the harbor and talked "shop"-the Canal. Those who man the narrow sea lane be tween the two hugest continents never tire of singing its praises. From Port Said to Port Tewfik, in squealing dredge and quiet office, in lonely station and noisy machine shop, the workers love it. The British most of all-for your Britisher knows the sea and all that pertains thereto. DISRAELI MAKES AN INVESTMENT FOR BRITAIN Frederick Greenwood, entertaining Lord Beaconsfield at dinner, told him that Khedive Ismail's Suez Canal shares could be bought. It was nearly six years since the French yacht L'Aigle, with banners flying and the Empress Eugenie on board, had proudly started the procession of 68 ships which, except for four days during the rebellion of Arabi Pasha, has never since stopped. There was no wireless then. But poor communications could not deter Disraeli. The 176,602 shares were definitely offered to him on November 23, 1875. On Novem- ber 24 Rothschilds guaranteed the $20, 000,000. On November 25 the contract was signed in Cairo. On November 26 the British Consulate had possession of the shares. Only then did the editor of the Pall Mall Gazette publish the news of the transaction. We swung past a dredger and were op posite the statue of Ferdinand de Lesseps (see page 613). The statue, which once stood at the end of the jetty, is now miles from the outer buoy. The lighthouse, which was built at the edge of the Mediter ranean, is blocks inland. The hundred mile short cut is getting longer. If the sea and wind keep on their work, the Sunday promenaders on the Port Said jetty, which protects the Canal entrance from the Nile mud, may some day be able to walk halfway to Cyprus! A BUSY, LOCKLESS "SAND DITCH" The Suez Canal is a lockless sand ditch connecting two landlocked seas and three lakes (see map, page 612). From the aver age crow's nest one may look down upon the highest earth ridge through which it cuts. But with industrial Europe at one end and the populations and raw materials of the East beyond, this sand ditch is a barom eter of world life. Each separate cargo adds its clue. Coal, moving in the inverse direction; grain brought from unfamiliar fields; wood com ing from Burma instead of Kamchatka; the appearance of unusual numbers of ships making their maiden trip; the use of Diesel engines instead of steam or oil fuel instead of coal; the numbers of soldiers sent out or brought back-thus world life registers its symptoms on the records of the Com pany (see text, page 619). In normal times, along this short cut between hand and mouth, loom and back, and rubber tree and balloon tire, cargoes almost assemble themselves. Freight pays the profits, but it is the demand of the passenger for more palatial accommodations, the vogue for round-the world cruises, that makes the dredges squeal.