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Suez Canal Info

Crumbly Writer

Looking for some generic information about the Suez Canal for a story (The Great Death, book 4). The results will definitely affect the outcome of the story, and may even determine whether it gets written at all.

For those unfamiliar with the series, it's a post-apocalyptic story where the world's electrical system and communications have been wiped out by a global meteor storm lasting for several days. In this books, the Americans who've discovered a cure are finally venturing overseas to spread the cure to other countries. However, their passage is problematic.

Since few resources remain available, they can't really pick up a new ship, especially since the ship they recovered is especially suited for military uses (reinforced steel complete with weapons) while also extremely good in low-water conditions, so the characters really don't want to jump ship.

I need to know the likelihood of their traveling the Suez canal without any electrical power other than what they can generate themselves (or by transferring fuel from their ship).

It's been suggested that traveling downstream in a canal is easier than upsteam, as it's relatively easy to drain a canal, while it's problematic filling it up again, but I'm really unfamiliar with which direction the canal runs (I'm guessing it's both uphill and downhill).

This is probably a fool's errand, as I doubt a canal as large as the Suez would hold up to such sustained damage without collapsing (a wall breaks, or several container ships sink, making the entire passage unnavigable). However, there's a world of difference between their visiting 2nd and 3rd world cities, and their visiting 5th and 6th world cities which have been reduced to warlord status in Africa. (Yes, yes, I know, there are several developed locations in Africa, but I'm doubtful they'd manage to protect their resources as well, changing the entire tenor of the story if they attempt to sail around the Horn of Africa.)

What's more, if they go around the Horn, then there's really NO reason to even venture into the Mediterranean, which removes many obvious stopping points and reduces the travel time to India and beyond substantially.

Is anyone familiar with the functioning of the Canal, it's layout and resources? I can rely on Google Maps to provide elevation data for the entire expanse, calculating for myself whether each link is uphill or downhill, but I figured I'd fish in the SOL pool of knowledge first before casting wider nets.

Technically, bypassing a damaged canal section wouldn't be a huge problem, since there's an access road paralleling it it's entire route, but again, the unavailability of undamaged seaworthy vessels on the other side would be a more substantial hurdle.

I've been contemplating finishing this series for several years, but have only begun to physically plan their route recently, so I'd hate to have to can the entire story at this late of a stage (or drastically alter the basic plot). Any help will be greatly appreciated.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suez_Canal

There are no locks on the Suez, water flows freely from one end to the other. Power won't be an issue.

However, there is a limit to the size of ships that can traverse the canal

Max Draft (height of the ship from keel to waterline) 20m

Max Height above water 68m

Max Beam (Width of the ship*) 77.5m

Power is not an issue, but if the ship is larger than the above parameters there would be a risk of the ship becoming trapped in the middle of the canal.

*Measured at the widest point of the ship at the waterline.

Capt Zapp

@Dominions Son

Power is not an issue, but if the ship is larger than the above parameters there would be a risk of the ship becoming trapped in the middle of the canal.


The other thing that could affect the passage is if there are damaged vessels blocking part of the canal. Even a small ship that was damaged and sank could effectively block most ships from getting through.

Ernest Bywater

I read somewhere they do have ships in some parts of it to check the canal's depth and conduct minor dredging operation to remove sand that's blown into it. There isn't much, usually, but if left undone for a long enough period is could be an issue anyone traversing the canal would have to deal with. Having to go through or over sandbars under the water.

Crumbly Writer

@Dominions Son

Power is not an issue, but if the ship is larger than the above parameters there would be a risk of the ship becoming trapped in the middle of the canal.

That's not a problem. The ship they selected is a newer ship the Navy developed for shallow water engagements, but which they subsequently abandoned and the Coast Guard took over. Since the transfer hadn't taken place before the first book begins, it was still in Navy possession. I've have to double check the ship's stats, but I'm pretty sure it fits all the listed restrictions.

@Capt Zapp

The other thing that could affect the passage is if there are damaged vessels blocking part of the canal. Even a small ship that was damaged and sank could effectively block most ships from getting through.

That detail I considered. Since Egypt is almost 17 hours later than the East Coast of the U.S. when it was knocked out, they'd have plenty of time to evacuate the Canal (blocking the entrances and pushing ships along). Thus it's somewhat conceivable they'd have cleared it in time (assuming they did the reasonable thing).

Thanks for the info. It's a relief knowing my story is still a go. I have another other issues to resolve as I write the story, but at least my basic assumptions hold up.

JimWar

I was onboard USS John F. Kennedy (CV-67) during Desert Shield (immediately prior to Desert Storm)in late 1990 when we transited the Suez Canal with our battle group. It wasn't a very long transit as I remember and this was the third transit by our ship at that time. CV's and CVN's routinely transited the canal normally taking around 14 hours to do so. Kennedy's draft is 35' with a width of 252' and a length of 1,052'. Nimitz class carriers which frequently transited the canal are even larger with a draft of 37' a width of 252' and lengths of 1,090'. Those drafts are considerably less than the maximum given above while the width is close to maximum and yet there seemed to be a lot of room from side to the edge of the canal.

Just an added note: The ship manned 50 caliber machine guns during the transit and had a SH-3H Sea King helicopters from our squadron (HS-7)flying continuously during the transit. These were manned by ASW aircrew who were qualified on the 50 caliber machine gun deck mounted in the door. (This mount was a jury rig as there was no provision or authorization for this weapon on this helicopter.) We also deployed with two older SH-3D helicopters that had the ASW equipment stripped out and were to be used ostensibly for cargo / passengers but were mainly there to carry 9 to 11 Seals from the attached Seal Team that were there to fastrope to the deck of suspected cargo ships that were suspected of carrying cargo headed for Kuwait or Iraq. We had trained in the states prior to deployment with the Seal Team for this very operation to see if it was feasible. It was never formally approved but the team deployed with us anyway. The Seals tended to overload the aircraft by either taking more men or more equipment than the aircraft was designed to carry. After the transit the exercise worked well as they boarded several ships with no loss of personnel. In the end, however, we lost one of these aircraft when the pilot had to go single engine with 11 Seals onboard. The flotation bags deployed and the helicopter was floating on a relatively calm sea and the Seals and crew professionally deployed the 7-man life rafts on board and were boarding the same when someone shipboard had the bright idea to drop a third, larger, raft from the cargo ramp of an CH-53 that had been added to the ships complement at Rota, Spain. The turbulence from the downdraft of the CH-53's rotor blades sank our aircraft. I was on deck watching as it seemed to be pushed under the sea. That brought an end to fastropes with overloaded aircraft and many queries from those higher in the chain of command who had ordered the operation but not approved our methods because of the haste in deployment.

Dominions Son

@JimWar

Nimitz class carriers which frequently transited the canal are even larger with a draft of 37' a width of 252' and lengths of 1,090'. Those drafts are considerably less than the maximum given above while the width is close to maximum and yet there seemed to be a lot of room from side to the edge of the canal.


I just double checked my original link. the canal has to support two way traffic with a single navigation channel in places. So the max beam is probably slightly less than half the width of the navigation channel.

Crumbly Writer

@JimWar

Jim, I may have to use you as a resource when I get the story underway. There isn't likely to be many shipboard combats, as the American crew in this scenario vastly overrates everyone else, but the story focuses on combating everyone's reluctance to trust everyone else, so that plays into the story's theme. Still, I'd like to get a better feel for deployment. My father was a career Navy man, but alas, I never went with him.

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