The Joining of the two Seas
L'Isthmus of Suez. Journal de l'Union des deux mers, n°315, 1er septembre 1869


Our edition of 15-18 August contained a telegraph message from the General Clerk of Works announcing the introduction of the waters of the Red Sea into the Bitter Lakes and the meeting of the two seas in this basin.

Eastern School, Last blow of the pickaxe given by Ali Pasha at the reservoir of the plain of Suez around 1870
(Association du Souvenir de Ferdinand de Lesseps et du canal de Suez)

We eagerly awaited the news which left Alexandria on 19 so as to receive more detailed knowledge of this important event, further evidence to lay to rest those many dreadful apprehensions expressed with such dogged persistence with regard to the filling of the Bitter Lakes.

Following the date of the above-mentioned telegram (16) we received our correspondence from Egypt until the 18, however it was preceded by a second telegram from the General Clerk dated 19, of which the highly satisfactory contents are presented here:

    “ Ismailia, 19 August 1869, 8.17.
    “ The waters of the Red Sea are running without overflow in the Bitter Lakes. Steam navigation has been established on the canal. The situation is excellent. ”
    ” Voisin. ”

    Our correspondence of 18 contains details of great interest regarding the circumstances which marked this memorable introduction of the Red Sea into the canal and the main basin of the isthmus. We shall undertake a brief summary of these events although, in view of what has now taken place, they are no longer of the same degree of significance.

    The festivities of 15 August were celebrated with great pomp in Suez with one of the main attractions undoubtedly being the delicate operation due to be undertaken that day. His Highness the khedive had dispatched Ali Pasha Moubarek, Minister of Public Works, to preside over the ceremony. The introduction of the waters was accomplished with complete success, and a grand banquet to celebrate this happy event brought together the main heads and employees of the Company, the enterprise, and Egyptian authorities. Several toasts were proposed; the first by Mr Voisin-Bey to the His Highness the khedive, to which His Excellency the Minister of Public Works replied with a toast to the French Emperor. “This day, he said, is a triple celebration of the Emperor, of France of civilisation, for the opening of the communication between the two seas marks the start of a new era in the advance of civilisation in the world. ”

Mr Emerat, French consul in Suez, proposed a toast to M. de Lesseps, Chairman, and to the staff of the Company and the enterprise.

Mr Guichard toasted the town of Suez and its inhabitants.

Mr West, British consul in Suez and Director of the Peninsula and Oriental Line, who, as our readers will know, has never neglected the opportunity to testify to his sympathies for the enterprise, drank to the canal and to its practical and commercial achievements.

Mr Giraud, chief engineer of the workshops of the imperial shipping company, reiterated the toast to M. de Lesseps.

Mr Voisin went on to propose a toast to His Excellency Ali Pasha, recalling that he has often been delegated by his Highness to safeguard the maintenance of relations between the Egyptian government and the Company.

The banquet drew to a close with a toast by Mr Voisin to the entrepreneurs and their staff.

In the meantime, the waters of the Red Sea continued to flow into the Bitter Lakes, and, at the end of the evening, an express messenger arrived to announce that the waters were rising to the point of becoming dangererous. The section heads went immediately to the scene. During the night, a part of the overflow had come away, however the waters were halted before the dam of the small lakes.

The following day the situation was brought under control. On 18, Mr Voisin, followed by the engineers of the Company, travelled by boat the length of the canal from Suez to Chalouf. “The appearance of the canal, he wrote to M. de Lesseps, was splendid. I regret that you were not there to enjoy it with us. The current was barely perceptible; and the embankments were just as they should be. ”

It is on the day following the date of this letter, that is to say 19, that the General Clerk of Works dispatched the telegram in which he reported the situation as being excellent.

Our most recent information is to the effect that all is running as well as might be possible on the Suez side. The waters of the Red Sea are spreading steadily into the lakes, and filling from the two ends at the North and South, by a height of six centimetres per day. The height of the water in the lakes has already reached more than 4 metres. It is therefore sure that in the first few days of November, the waters will have filled to their fullest extent, a height of 8 metres.

Other work is progressing according to schedule, and in the forthcoming edition we shall be able to publish the cubic table executed from 15 July to 15 August.

We repeat that the canal will be open to shipping on 17 November next