The Good Side And The Bad Side Of A Statue At Port Said

Statue of Ferdinand de Lesseps in a garden at Port Said Shipyard
Statue of Ferdinand de Lesseps in a garden at Port Said Shipyard

As you’ve probably already guessed, I am quite fond of old stuff. Especially when it has some relation to dredging. Last post on Omar’s graduation1 not only brought back my memories on the interesting lectures by professor de Koning2, it also rekindled my inspiration to write about something that I have up my sleeve for a long time already. Although, due to the current global turmoil3, the message that I want to convey has been drastically altered. It turns out to be more of an opinion than an informative perspective on the history of the Suez Canal.

It was in the early years of my career, that I was building dredge ‘10th of Ramadan’ for the Suez Canal Authority4. We designed the dredge and prepared the components at Damen Dredging Equipment5, but the actual construction took place at Port Said Shipyard6, a subsidiary of the client. I’ve spent many hours roaming over the yard to locate components that were sent there and we needed them to inspect or install. On one of those excursions, I encountered the statue of Ferdinand de Lesseps.

Ferdinand De Lesseps was an interesting figure7, who owed his success to being the right person at the right time at the right place. In his earlier career, during a quarantine period in 1832 in Alexandria, he received a book that discussed Napoleons ideas about connecting the Mediterranean with the Red Sea8. Captivated by this idea, he was able to use his connections and positions to get the concession to dig the canal as we know it in 1859. In honour of this achievement a impressive statue was placed at the beginning of the Canal at the Port Said side after the opening in 1869.

As it happened in those days, the Compagnie Universelle du Canal Maritime de Suez, claimed the canal and all involved land and business for the French government. All revenue from the Canal ended up in France and not in the country that had worked so hard for the Canal. This has been a great disappointment for Egypt. When Nasser declared the Suez Canal a national property in 1956, the statue was removed as a gesture that Egypt was independent and no European country had any business ruling it as a colony. In a careful act of historical awareness, the statue was not destroyed, but placed at the Port Side Shipyard to be taken care of until the future would find an appropriate purpose. There it is kept in honour by a select group of craftsmen, who depend for their subsistence on his legacy.

Statue of Ferdinand de Lesseps at the entrance of the Suez Canal (Credit: Google)
Statue of Ferdinand de Lesseps at the entrance of the Suez Canal (Credit: Google)

In 1956 it was not so much vandalism by the people that the statue was removed from public space.7 It was a statement by a public conscious government with history awareness that prevented further harm from mindless destruction. Now, over half a century later, we see more acts of iconoclasm to historical statues, and then in a so called civilized world… A lot of historical figures were children of their own time. And for sure, those times were not very civilized in hindsight. OK, I am history aware and enjoyed my history lessons. There I had to learn that the raids of the barbarians on Rome, the Crusades to occupied Jerusalem and the iconoclasm in our own Reformation era were to be condemned. So, imagine when a lot of historical figures were removed from the street by emotional destruction, would later generations not condemn us in turn? What I would find even worse, is that future generations would not be aware of the dark side of those old ages as there are no statues to remind them to it. Maybe we can reintroduce a penalty for those ‘heroes’ from their own days: ‘the pillory’9. Just as with all sentences, the penalty can only awarded by the government, or an appointed committee, not the public. If that fails, store them under the custody of people who take good care of them without reverence. And at least let the pedestal remain to remind people of their history. ‘Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.’ (George Santayana)10

Possible implementation of a statue with a pillory sign?
Possible implementation of a statue with a pillory sign?

References

  1. Graduation Omar Karam: Rock Cutting The Egyptian Way, Discover Dredging
  2. Boundary Conditions for the use of Dredging Equipment, Lecture notes i82 A+B, prof. J. de Koning
  3. Violence and controversies during the George Floyd protests, Wikipedia
  4. The Ancient History of the Cutter Suction Dredge ‘10th of Ramadan’, Discover Dredging
  5. DTC – Think Global, Act Local, Damen Shipyards
  6. Port Sid Shipyard, Suez Canal authority
  7. Ferdinand de Lesseps, Wikipedia
  8. Mémoire sur la communication de la mer des Indes à la Méditerranée par la mer Rouge et l’isthme de Soueys (p.352), Google
  9. Pillory, Wikipedia
  10. George Santayana, Wikiquote

See also

Graduation Omar Karam: Rock Cutting The Egyptian Way

Graduation presentation of Omar Karam
Graduation presentation of Omar Karam

Egypt is a great nation when it comes to ancient engineering. No other country has such a concentration of impressive monuments and such an interesting history as over there. If you are not convinced that modern Egyptians are not capable of great engineering feats you are wrong. Last Monday, Omar Karam graduated at our R&D department of Damen Dredging Equipment1 on his thesis about ‘CSD Rock Cutting.’

Cutting processes have been extensively described by Sape Miedema in ‘The Delft Sand, Clay & Rock Cutting Model’2. Omar has been using the frame work of Miedema to make some useful tools for the estimation of the production of our dredging equipment in rock. In due time, you will find the results of his thesis in the online dredge selection tool ‘Sandy’. Omar’s curiosity and ingenuity does not end here. He will continue studying at a university, but I do hope to meet him again, as he would be a valuable asset for our dredging community. Keep an eye out for him.

Program structure diagram of cutting force calculations
Program structure diagram of cutting force calculations

His graduation brings me back to my first lessons in dredging technology at the Delft University of Technology by the illustrious professor de Koning. In a sense he was an old school engineer, who hammered it in to us that thinking is done by doing it with your hands3. Back than the Polytechnic School was just rebranded to University and he was mocking that as a university, we had to set the topics in a broader perspective. So, he started his introduction on cutting technology with some slides of the unfinished obelisk at Aswan4 as every aspect of the cutting process could be illustrated.

Phases of chip forming in rock cutting
Phases of chip forming in rock cutting

The story according to de Koning is: ‘Around the quarry of the obelisk, they have found diorites5. These are some sort of volcanic balls of rock. In combination with the marks and scratches all around the obelisk, archaeologists believe these stones have been used to pound the granite. The impact compresses the bedrock and the resulting stresses fracture the contact surface(1). For every hit a whiff of dust is created. Eventually the dust is collected and scooped away for the next layer. Next, trees would be planted in the trench on one side of the obelisk. The growing root system displaces volume and create shear stress underneath the obelisk that would sever the obelisk from the bed rock(2). At last the trees are removed and dry wooden dowels would have been inserted in the shear cracks. Saturating the wooden dowels will make them grow. The last strands of rock will now be broken due to tensile stresses(3). Repeated insertion of new dry dowels and saturating them will lift the whole obelisk enough to pull some ropes under and carry the obelisk away to the building site.’

Although the diorites and the scratch marks are a smoking gun, current archaeologists argue about the feasibility of this process as experiments yield a very low production and it is doubted that the obelisk could be finished in the lifetime of the client6. Even if disputed, de Koning told a story that conveys the message; I vividly remember it and makes me understand the rock cutting process.

These mysterious monolithic ornamental spires have been an inspiration for many legends and stories. When we have solved the riddle of the rock cutting with diorite balls, it may inspire the development of new rock cutting technology for the dredging community and we can put the story of the obelisks to an end.7

End of the story on the cutting of obelisks (Credit: Uderzo)
End of the story on the cutting of obelisks (Credit: Uderzo)

References

  1. Innovation, Damen
  2. The Delft Sand, Clay & Rock Cutting Model, TU Delft
  3. De Koning (1978), Denken met de handen’, TU Delft
  4. Unfinished obelisk, Wikipedia
  5. Diorite, Wikipedia
  6. The Unfinished Obelisk, NOVA
  7. Asterix and Cleopatra, Goscinny-Uderzo

See also

The Last Dredging And Port Construction Magazine, The End Of An Era

The last issue of Dredging and Port Construction
The last issue of Dredging and Port Construction

It is not very often that one experiences the end of an era. Hiroshima, the fall of the Berlin Wall, Brexit. Those were very important events with a global impact. Now there is another end of a period, with only a limited impact on a small community affected. After half a century, our trusted journal ‘Dredging and Port Construction’ has come to an end1. In the fast moving media world, this will only be a footnote in history. Yet, as a magazine, it was close to our community. It reported on projects and people we knew, but also as a platform for the CEDA to communicate with us for 42 years2.

IHS Markit has decided to cease this publication, the lack of new subscriptions and decreasing advertisements. You know, the general malaise in paper printing. Somehow, the digital revolution didn’t turn out so well for them. Other digital media providers covering the dredging industry seem to have a better business model to survive the transition. Right?

Well, there is a big disadvantage of those free service, hot shot, social media savvy new comers, they just forward press releases that they receive or sweep up from social media. They don’t have dredging literate expert editors writing long genuine articles about topics that would not have access to coverage by themselves. Having your own knowledgeable editors doing original research vetting the facts and reporting from a broad perspective with a solidly founded opinion is expensive. And that makes it very difficult for a classic publisher to survive in these modern times.

We will suffer in this new era without our trusted DPC. We can sign up to the usual free subscription daily newsletters from the new media publishers and read the endlessly repeating press releases. We will miss the in depth reports on big projects or critical comments on regulatory issues. We will have to figure this out from within our own social media bubbles. It will narrow our view and I certainly hope we don’t lose the perspective of other members in our community.

Please be advised, that also the website will be closed at the end of June3, leaving only the digital archive of the magazine accessible4, which goes back to May 2015. Although the last editor, Ines Nastali, told me she is happy to send out articles if requested by the dredging community. There will only be some dusty old paper versions that are stored in a forgotten archive or that one issue we keep for some sweet memory. At least that is what I have done. Over the years, I have written several articles that have been placed in this magazine and I cherish those issues. The first one was already long ago about a CEDA excursion to the IJsseloog in the Ketelmeer project. The last one was a reprint from my post5 about energy transition in the dredging industry discussed during the CEDA Dredging Days6.

CEDA Dredging Days 2019 panel discussion (Credit: CEDA)
CEDA Dredging Days 2019 panel discussion (Credit: CEDA)

It was a good experience to contribute to the magazine that way. And made me proud, that my posts at this website were picked up by the media. I will see what will come along in the future. I am open to any opportunity. At least, I am determined to keep www.discoverdredging.com alive as an independent platform to point out dredging related topics. And this will be a lonely place left to find an opinion about our community, albeit, very personal.

Although we are an industry in an economic sense, it is a community. When I think of companies and projects, I think about the people I know over there. And my memory about Dredging and Port Construction will not only be the magazine, but also the nice cooperation with the editors. At this moment I would like to especially thank Tony Slinn, Lisa Maher and Ines Nastali for a their work.

Ines Nastali, senior custom publishing editor (Credit: Ines Nastali)
Ines Nastali, senior custom publishing editor (Credit: Ines Nastali)

References

  1. End of an era, IHS Markit DPC
  2. IHS DPC Latest, CEDA
  3. About us, IHS Markit DPC
  4. Welcome to your digital magazine portal, IHS Markit
  5. We Choose To Adopt Energy Transition, But How Will We Succeed? Discover Dredging
  6. Dredging industry addresses energy transition challenges, IHS Markit DPC

See also

CEDA