World oceans may be the deep frontier; we have explored just 5% of the seas that give name to the water planet. Great cities were built for ocean access: Amsterdam, port of the Netherlands; Singapore, hub of the trade winds; New York, joined inland by the Erie Canal, celebrating its 200th anniversary. Other ocean to inland waterways include the Grand Canal of China, the world’s longest; Suez and Panama, both led by Ferdinand de Lessups. Will the Channel Tunnel inspire a TransAtlantic Hyperloop? Ocean Portal, by the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, offers educational resources for teachers and students. June 8 marks World Oceans Day, when over 100 countries honor, and protect, our oceans.
Ra, Egyptian sun god. Artist: Jeff Dahl. Image: wikimedia commons.
Earth Day. Could the answer to our planet’s energy problems and resultant climate change be found by looking up? Every culture on earth has myths about the sun. For example, Egypt worshipped Ra, the sun god whose falcon head was crowned with a solar disk. In 1973, building upon the success of COMSAT and the Apollo Moon Landing, Peter Glaser was awarded the United States patent for solar power from space, via satellite. Honored in the spring, as the sky glows with a stronger light, Earth Day might call us to look up.
Thanks to Jacques Horvilleur, and Lucien Deschamps, and Sociéte de électricité et des électronique et des technologies de l’information et de la communication (SEE), Société des Ingénieurs et Scientifiques de France (ISF).
The water-energy-food nexus may influence the growing of oranges, in competition for lightbulbs and drinking water. Image: wikimedia commons.
Did you know that growing one orange requires 13.8 gallons of water? Next time you crunch into an almond, you’ll consume the result of one gallon. California grows both: a result, in part, of the Colorado River Compact. Edward Spang of the University of California Davis, as well as colleagues including David H. Marks of MIT, predict competition for water use will increase in the water-energy-food nexus. Spang developed a water consumption for energy production (WCEP) indicator, comparing the use of water for different forms of energy in over 150 countries. Fossil fuels and biofuels require the most water; wind is less thirsty. The United Nations cites the World Water Development Report: “If water, energy, and food security are to be simultaneously achieved, decision-makers, including those responsible for only a single sector, need to consider broader influences and cross-sectoral impacts. A nexus approach is needed.”
Amneris, in “Aida” by Verdi. Photographer: Marty Sohl, Metropolitan Opera, www.thirteen.org.
“Aida,” the opera by Guiseppi Verdi, was written in honor of the opening of the Suez Canal. Now there may be an encore. Egypt is widening the canal with a second lane. Before, 49 ships transited per day; the improved waterway will accommodate 97. Wider and longer, the new Suez Canal will also be faster, cutting southbound transit from 18 hours to 11. Building the improved canal, at a cost of $8.5bn, is expected to generate revenue of $13.5bn by 2023. Suez commands 7% of all global water-transport business; this expansion caused the Suez Canal Authority to term the achievement a “rebirth.” Built by diplomat-developer Ferdinand de Lesseps in 1869, the Suez Canal was dedicated, by firman Article VI, for “tariffs of dues for passage…always equal for all nations, no particular advantage ever stipulated for exclusive benefit of any one country.” Should projects of connectivity, such as canals and tunnels, be chartered channels of inclusiveness and peace? On August 6, one year after construction began, the new Suez Canal opening is planned. Will there be a new opera? “Aida” had a sister; Elton John wrote a second version. What artists of today might celebrate the current widening of Egypt’s gateway waters? Verdi, and John, might advise such gateways include a budget for the arts.
Panama and Nicaragua will both offer canals. Image: wikimedia.
Nicaragua, once intended site for a canal that changed location due in part to a postage stamp, has announced the building of a waterway that will challenge the Panama Canal. The controversial decision weighs benefits of employment and commerce with environmental and other concerns. What might Nicaragua learn from Panama and Suez?
When friends pitched their tent against a high wall to shelter from winds, during their reunion expedition, campfire conversation soon accelerated to boasts and dares. To prove his point, one of the group jumped upon his steed, prepared for a gallop and jumped the wall. No one else dared attempt such a feat. The party’s organizer offered the horse-rider anything in his power to grant. The answer: permission to build the Suez Canal. It was thus that Mohammed Pasha al-Said of Egypt gave authorization to Ferdinand de Lesseps to build the Suez Canal. Many years later, a very different story resulted in a very different canal, Panama. First envisioned by Sesostris, used by the Egyptians in 1380 BCE, connected to the Red Sea a millennium later by Ptolemy Philadelphus, the Suez Canal opened to great fanfare in 1869. Verdi’s opera “Aida” was commissioned to celebrate the waterway.
The Panama Canal from Hofstra University at hofstra.edu.
The Panama Canal saved 7,872 miles in transit for cargo, and people, when it opened to applause from shippers around the world. No longer was it necessary to sail around South America. Difficult to build, the Panama Canal’s story is a drama involving changes in leadership, tragedies and victories in public health, and perhaps one of the greatest achievements in public relations. The Panama Canal caused a new era in shipbuilding. The new and improved version, technically known as the Third Set of Locks Project ,doubles capacity with new locks on both the Atlantic and Pacific sides, as well as raising Lake Gatun. The reason for the expansion? Accommodation of “Post-Panamax” megaships carrying ever-bigger loads of cargo and ever-more decks of tourists for transit of one of the world’s most famous cruise itineraries. Expansion of the Panama Canal caused ports to enlarge their capacity: Baltimore, Norfolk, and Miami are among United States ports accommodating post-panamax ships in a post-2015 world. Where will the world’s next cut-through be? Cuba? Or will Ernst Frankel’s design for the Bering Strait, delivered in the Annual Frank P. Davidson Lecture in Paris, 2012, be next short-cut to transform world transport?
Suez Canal Bridge, from Wikimedia Commons, at wikimedia.org.
Opening a waterway for shipping transport from the Mediterranean to the Indian Ocean through a passage in the Red Sea, the Suez Canal was under one form of construction or another for 3,700 years. Winding 101 miles (163 kilometers) through desert, connecting lakes until reaching the Isthmus of Suez, the canal links Mediterranean Port Said with Suez on the Red Sea. Over 1.5 million people worked on the project, whose ceremonial opening on November 17, 1869, was celebrated by the commissioning of Verdi’s opera, Aida. It’s one of the world’s most important waterways; in just one month (May 2002), 1,135 vessels transited carrying total tonnage exceeding 27.6 million. Significantly, the firman of 1854, granting concession to Ferdinand de Lesseps by Pasha al-Said, mandates the canal be open on equal terms to ships of all nations: “tariffs of dues for passage shall always be equal for all nations, no particular advantage can ever be stipulated for the exclusive benefit of any one country.” Does the Suez Canal set a precedent for the cooperation of nations, especially through international and transnational infrastructure?
“Aida,” music by Elton John and lyrics by Tim Rice, is based on Giuseppe Verdi’s Italian-language opera that was written to celebrate Egypt and the Suez Canal, also called, “Aida.” It follows the story of the Nubian princess, Aida, the future pharaoh of Egypt, Ramades, and his betrothed,, Amneris. The show debuted on Broadway in March 2000, but the clip below is from the Egyptian opening at the Giza Pyramids.