Dirk Puehl‘s Today’s Memory
The Suez Canal opening
Originally shared by Dirk Puehl
17 November 1869, #onthisday the Suez Canal was inaugurated in the presence of a host of European guests with a three-day event costing the Khedive of Egypt more than 20 million Francs.
In the middle of the night, with her lights doused, Commander George Nares sneaked his 145’ gunboat HMS “Newport” undetected through the crowd of ships waiting for the opening ceremony of the canal, put her right before Napoleon III’s imperial yacht “L’Aigle” and when the sun rose over the newly constructed harbour of Port Said on November 17th, the Royal Navy vessel stood in the entrance of the canal, unmovable like the Rock of Gibraltar. The French were aghast, the “Newport” was the first ship that sailed through the canal, Commander Nares was officially reprimanded and received an unofficial pat on the shoulder and a promotion to the rank of captain. Actually, the British had tried with diplomatic wire-pulling if not to stop then at least delay the construction of the canal over the previous 15 years. During the 1850s and 60s, lots of goods traffic with the East was still handled by square-rigged sailing ships, more or less unable to pass through the new waterway. The opening of the canal was an immense time-saver for steamships only and meant a quick and costly conversion of large parts of the merchant fleet was necessary. Six years later, the Disraeli government bought the majority of canal shares from the bankrupt Egyptians and the British kept the guardianship over the Canal until 1956.
But read more on:
Depicted below is a contemporary German illustration showing the ships’ procession after the opening ceremony, omitting, of course, the “Newport”
#culturalhistory #engineeringhistory #europeanhistory #history #victoriana