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Great Bitter Lake

Coordinates: 30°20′N 32°23′E / 30.333°N 32.383°E / 30.333; 32.383
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Great Bitter Lake
Location of Great Bitter Lake in Egypt.
Location of Great Bitter Lake in Egypt.
Great Bitter Lake
Coordinates30°20′N 32°23′E / 30.333°N 32.383°E / 30.333; 32.383
Lake typesalt lake
Primary inflowsSuez Canal
Primary outflowsSuez Canal
Basin countriesEgypt
Surface elevation0 m (0 ft)

The Great Bitter Lake (Arabic: البحيرة المرة الكبرى; transliterated: al-Buhayrah al-Murra al-Kubra) is a saltwater lake in Egypt. Today, it is part of the Suez Canal, which connects it to the Mediterranean and the Red Sea. It is connected to the Small Bitter Lake (Arabic: البحيرة المرة الصغرى; transliterated: al-Buhayrah al-Murra as-Sughra), through which the canal also runs. Before the canal was built (1869), the site was a dry salt valley or basin.[1] Even the ancient Pyramid Texts mention it.[2] Ships traveling through the Suez Canal use the Great Bitter Lake as a "passing lane", where they can change their position in line or turn around.[3]

Salinity[change | change source]

The place where the Great Bitter Lake is located used to be a dry salt valley. This still influences the salinity of the lake. Starting with the Six-Day War (1967), the Suez Canal was closed for eight years. During this time, the salinity of the lake increased a lot. It depends on how much seawater flows into it from the Red and the Mediterranean seas.[4] Even when the canal is open, the Great Bitter Lake has a salinity level "more than twice" the level of the sea. While this makes it difficult for plant life to exist there, many species (of crabs, for example) migrate from the Red Sea through the area.[5]

As the Suez canal has no locks, sea water flows freely into the lake from the Mediterranean and the Red Sea. In general, north of the lakes, the current changes seasonally, it flows to the north in winter, and south in summer.[6] South of the lakes, the current is tidal, changing with the tides in the Red Sea.[7]

Many fish migrate from south to north through the canal. This is known as Lessepsian migration. It means that certain Red Sea species have come to colonize the eastern Mediterranean.[1][5]

Quincy Agreement[change | change source]

On 14 February 1945, in the last year of World War II, Great Bitter Lake was the site of the Quincy Agreement. U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, directly after the Yalta Conference with Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin, met Saudi Arabia's King Abdulaziz on board the naval cruiser USS Quincy.[8]

President Roosevelt's interpreter was U.S. Marine Corps Colonel Bill Eddy, who recorded the men's conversation in his book FDR Meets Ibn Saud. The meeting is the subject of a BBC documentary by Adam Curtis, called Bitter Lake (2015).[9]

Yellow Fleet[change | change source]

During the Six-Day War in 1967, the canal was closed. Egypt kept it closed until 1975, trapping 15 ships in the lake. These ships became known as the "Yellow Fleet", because of the desert sands which soon covered their decks.[10][11][12] The crews of the ships would eventually organize, share resources, and later set up their own post office and stamp. Two German-flagged ships eventually sailed out of the canal on their own power. Stranded cargo included various perishables (such as eggs and fruit), T-shirts, and a load of toys destined for Woolworth's.[13]

References[change | change source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 Madl, Pierre (1999). Essay about the phenomenon of Lessepsian Migration Archived 2016-07-31 at the Wayback Machine, Colloquial Meeting of Marine Biology I, Salzburg, April 1999 (revised in Nov. 2001).
  2. Jones, Greg (Apr 28, 2014). Waters of Death and Creation: Images of Water in the Egyptian Pyramid Texts. BookBaby. ISBN 9781483526362. Retrieved 18 November 2016.[permanent dead link]
  3. "Great Bitter Lake, Egypt (Oct. 26, 2009)". Earth Observatory NASA. 26 October 2009. Archived from the original on 19 November 2016. Retrieved 18 November 2016.
  4. El Baz, Farouk (January 1, 1984). The Geology of Egypt: An Annotated Bibliography. Brill Archive. p. 516. ISBN 9789004070196. Retrieved 18 November 2016.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Elton, Charles S. (June 15, 2000). The Ecology of Invasions by Animals and Plants. University of Chicago Press. p. 96. ISBN 9780226206387. Retrieved 18 November 2016.
  6. Sears, M.; Merriman, D. (December 6, 2012). Oceanography: The Past. Springer Science & Business Media. p. 301. ISBN 9781461380900. Retrieved 18 November 2016.
  7. The Red Sea Pilot. Imray Laurie Norie & Wilson. 1995. p. 266.
  8. "President Roosevelt and King Abdulaziz". SUSRIS. 17 March 2005. Archived from the original on 11 November 2014. Retrieved 2014-11-10.
  9. MacInnes, Paul (January 24, 2015). "Adam Curtis: 'I try to make the complexity and chaos intelligible'". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 22 October 2016. Retrieved 18 November 2016.
  10. Blair, Jonathon (June 1975). "New Life for the Troubled Suez Canal". National Geographic. Archived from the original on April 20, 2012. Retrieved August 23, 2011.
  11. Pearson, John; Anderson, Ken (May 1975). "A 'new' Suez Canal shapes up for 1980s". Popular Mechanics. 143 (5). Hearst Magazines. Retrieved August 23, 2011.
  12. Ian Russel. "Melampus in Suez (the tale of a soldier on the MS Melampus)". The Blue Funnel Line 1866 - 1986. Archived from the original on 2010-11-13. Retrieved 2011-04-30.
  13. Gregor, Karen. "The Yellow Fleet". BBC Radio. Archived from the original on 30 November 2016. Retrieved 18 November 2016.

Other websites[change | change source]