History of the Corinth Canal
There is an extraordinary canal in Mediterranean Greece. He can not compete with the large channels of the North European countries or with the famous Suez Canal in Egypt. And yet this Greek channel is unique. It connects the Saron Gulf of the Aegean Sea with the Gulf of Corinth, which has access to the Adriatic Sea and the ports of other European countries. Therefore, it is of extreme importance for the Greek economy.
In the ancient world, the city of Corinth was very famous. The city acquired its magnificence and wealth thanks to a small strip of land separating the Ionian Sea from the Aegean Sea. Why? Well, at that time it was necessary to pull the court through the narrow isthmus. They were moved along a stone road calleddiolkoscovered with greased boards. Thus, the ships avoided risky navigation around the Peloponnese. The danger threatened especially in the area of the southernmost point of the Peloponnese at Cape Malee, where the weather and stormy sea are often encountered.
However, as can be imagined, all the advantages obtained by transporting ships over land through a narrow isthmus were not cheap.The merchants had to pay very large port duties, which was the main source of income for the city of Corinth.
Further income came from the merchants who remained in Corinth, waiting for the transport of their vessels through the isthmus. In the city, many of them indulged in a luxurious and promiscuous life and spent considerable amounts of money. They also made gifts to temples and offered sacrifices to pagan gods. All this turned Corinth into one of the richest cities of the ancient world, into a well-known and depraved city, where the evils of East and West met and intermingled.
In the seventh century BC. er the tyrant of Corinth, Periander, who ranks among the seven wise men of ancient Greece, conceived a plan to build a canal on this narrow land strip between the Peloponnese and the Greek mainland. If it increased shipping, it would also increase its income derived from duties. But he left his plans. Why?
He was afraid to arouse the wrath of the gods, because the oracle of the priestess of the Pythia at Delphi said: "Do not supply the isthmus with a tower, and do not break through it (do not cross it with a channel)." According to reports, this oracle was broadcast by the priests of the Corinthian temples. They were afraidthat as a result of the opening of the channel for the fast passage of ships, they would lose large donations and gifts, because the merchants would no longer have any reason to remain in Corinth.
When Corinth came under the rule of the Romans, Julius Caesar and later Caligula also developed such plans. In AD 67, Emperor Nero made a third attempt to dig a canal, recruiting 6,000 slaves and convicts to work. This attempt failed when Nero had to return to Rome, where a revolt against him broke out.
The reason for the termination of work was Periander’s fear that, due to the disparity between the levels of the Aegean and Ionian seas, land might be flooded. According to another version, he was afraid to arouse the anger of the gods, because the oracle of the priestess of Pythia in Delphi proclaimed: "Do not supply the isthmus with a tower, and do not break through it (do not cross it with a canal)."
Shortly thereafter, Nero died, and the construction of the canal was abandoned. After the death of Nero, his successor Galba stopped a costly project.
In the following years, Herod Atticus and later Byzantines tried to cross the isthmus. But their efforts were not crowned with success. The same can be said about the Venetians, who began digging,but soon surrendered again.
About the possibility of laying the channel thought Demetrius Poliorket in 307 BC. er But he left this thought.
Corinth Canal today still exists. How was the construction finally completed?
After the Greek Revolution in 1821, the first President of Greece, Ioannis Kapodistrias, saw the importance of the Corinth Canal for the development of Greece. He entrusted the project to a French engineer, but again - this time for economic reasons - he had to abandon the project.
In the end, after the opening of the Suez Canal, the Greek government (in November 1869) issued a law on the "digging up the Corinthian isthmus". Various changes and additions were made to this law.
The design of the canal was entrusted to Hungarian architects Istvan Türr and Bela Gerster, who had previously prepared the Panama Canal project. May 5, 1882, after lengthy negotiations, work began on the construction of the canal.
It is interesting to note that three different tracks were proposed, but the one that was chosen at the end coincided with the line defined by the engineers of Nero.
The author of the project was Ferdinand Marie Vicomte de Lesseps himself, the famous author of the Suez Canal project.
The construction of the canal was started by a French company, which stopped working due to financial difficulties, and did not finish the work. The Greek company led by the Greek banker and philanthropist Andreas Singru picked up the project and completed the project in record time. The operation of the canal began in 1893.
For about ten years, about 2,500 workers were employed, who used the best machines available at the time. They dug approximately 930,000 cubic meters of earth and stone. The length of the channel is about 6 kilometers. In some places, its slopes reach a height of 76 meters above sea level. At sea level, the width of the channel is 25 meters, and at the bottom of the sea - 21 meters. The emergency work of diving the Corinthian isthmus was completed, and on August 7, 1893, a celebration was held on the occasion of the discovery.
The construction of the Corinth Canal was carried out for more than ten years (1881–1893) by two and a half thousand workers who used the best machines at that time. Approximately 930,000 cubic meters of earth and stone were removed. On August 7, 1893, a celebration was held to commemorate the opening of the Corinth Canal.
Currently, the channel has partly lost its economic importance. Due to the narrowness of the waterway, reverse movement is organized in it. The channel can not pass large ocean vessels, whose width is close to 20 meters. Large vessels pass the canal in tow, as there is a danger of wall erosion.
By the way, the width of the Suez and Corinth Canals is the same.
The opening of the channel was celebrated with great pomp:
The length of the channel is 6343 m, the width varies from 21 meters at the bottom to 25 meters at the water surface, the height to the water line is 90 m, the length is 6.3 km, the depth is 8 m. The proportions make the channel look like a deep-water canyon.
During World War II in 1944, the canal was destroyed; restored in 1948. Photo recovery taken at the time:
Planning the attack on Greece and Yugoslavia, the German command was going to use parachute formations to capture the island of Leros, the Cyclades archipelago, and for airborne assault forces in the cities of Skopje, Niš and Thessaloniki. In March 1941 in the outskirts of Plovdiv on the territory of Bulgaria was placed the 2nd regiment of paratroopers, which is part of the 7th parachute division.
On April 17, Yugoslavia capitulated, as a result of which the Greek troops and the English Expeditionary Force that helped them found themselves in a very difficult position. On April 21, 1941, the final decision was made to evacuate British and New Zealand units from southern Greece. They had to move to the ports on the Peloponnese. The road there passes through a single bridge, spanned over the Corinth Canal. This circumstance decided to use the German command, which intended to cut off the retreat routes by way of seizing the bridge and surround the British formations.
The channel that passes through the Corinthian isthmus is a deep water obstacle - a thirty-meter depression with steep walls. The bridge was guarded by a Greek unit and several British companies. The Germans were going to prevent the explosion of the bridge and capture it with an unexpected airborne assault.
April 19, 1941 in the hands of the Germans fell a Greek airfield in the area Larissa, which has become an excellent base for the operation. There were also warehouses of fuel and food. On April 25, 1941, the 1st and 2nd battalions of the 2nd parachute regiment waited for the actions at the airfield in Larissa, the 1st was to land on the north bank of the canal, and the second on the south.A platoon of sappers from the 6th company of the 2nd regiment of paratroopers under the command of Lieutenant Hans Theisen was ordered to demine the bridge. Adolf Hitler himself reserved the right to personally decide on the date of the operation. However, he did it too late, being far from the scene and not knowing the details of the English retreat.
In those particular circumstances, quick action was required. On April 24 and 25, the main forces of the English Expeditionary Force departed over a bridge over the Corinth Canal in the direction of loading points on the Peloponnese. A total of 24,300 people were evacuated. The corps commander, General Wilson, crossed the bridge before dawn on April 26, a few hours before the German paratroopers struck. On April 26, at 4:30 am, 6 airplanes with DFS-230 gliders climbed from Larissa airfield. In them were soldiers from a platoon of sappers. At the same time, 40 Junker Yu-52 airplanes launched with paratroopers of the 1st and 2nd battalions, which, after disembarking on both sides of the channel, were supposed to cover the glider landing.
At 7.00 am, German aircraft began bombing the Greek and English positions around the bridge. At 7.30 am at an altitude of 2 thousandmeters were uncoupled gliders, which landed safely right next to the bridge at 7:40. This unexpected air assault completely took the defenders off guard. After a short furious battle, a platoon of sappers captured and cleared the bridge, taking 80 prisoners and capturing 6 Bofors guns.
The explosive charges were not removed, since the Germans planned to blow up the bridge if necessary to retreat. This situation did not arise, but immediately after the capture of the bridge, one Bofors gun was fired from a distance of 250 m. One of the shells accidentally hit an explosive charge, and the bridge blew up, burying the remains of people from the sappers Hans Geisen.
Simultaneously with the landing of the gliders, the paratroopers of the 1st and 2nd battalions landed on both banks of the Corinth Canal. After several hours of very heavy combat, especially on the southern coast of the isthmus, where the main forces of the defenders were located, the paratroopers of the 2nd Battalion captured the city and the airfield of Corinth. This allowed to send by air reinforcements for further action.
After the destruction of the bridge, the German sappers immediately began construction of a temporary bridge over the Corinth Canal.It was finished by April 28, and early in the morning tanks of the 5th German Armored Division passed through it. The capture of the isthmus did not allow the evacuation of Allied forces to the south of Greece and further in the direction of Egypt and Fr. Crete. During the entire operation, the Germans captured 12,000 British, Greek and New Zealand soldiers, and also captured a large amount of equipment, vehicles and artillery.
German paratroopers lost 63 people killed, 158 wounded and 16 missing. The landing on the Corinth isthmus cut off for the British, who were on the peninsula of Attica, the path to retreat to the Peloponnese, but only to a small extent prevented them from evacuating the Greek troops. 50,000 people were rescued, which were taken by sea on the ships of the English Mediterranean fleet. There is no doubt that at the local level the operation was successful for the Germans. If it had started 2-3 days earlier, the British losses would have been much higher.
Although the landing on the Corinth isthmus only partially completed the task, it turned out that even a relatively weak landing - 2 battalions - could in some cases decide on very risky actions.
The canal was a great achievement of its time - thanks to it, the ships that previously went around the Peloponnese, could cut more than 400 kilometers. Today, due to its narrowness (the width of the channel at sea level is 25 meters, and at the bottom of the sea - 21 meters), it has practically lost its significance, especially for large ocean-going vessels. However, even today, up to 10,000–15,000 ships pass through the canal each year, and the passage through the canal of large-tonnage vessels in tow is especially popular with idle observers.
It is said that lately, due to frequent landslides, the canal is working more as an attraction for tourists.
Four bridges were laid over the Corinth Canal: three automobile and one railway. Two more bridges connect the banks of the canal at the exits of the canal. But they are submersible hydraulic. With the passage of ships bridges descend into the water. In the channel runs a pleasure catamaran that rolls tourists. He in the photo just passes over the bridge.
On the side of the Aegean Sea is the control room of the Corinth Canal. They regulate movement (it is reversible) and collect payment. The Corinth Canal is the most expensive in the world in terms of kilometers, despite the absence of complex hydraulic structures, like dams and dams.Apparently, there are not too many customers.