How the Suez Canal facilitated an unexpected revolution

The man-made channel has enabled marine life to migrate from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean

The MV Ever Given stuck in the Suez Canal near Suez, Egypt, last month. Photograph: ©Maxar Technologies via AP

The MV Ever Given stuck in the Suez Canal near Suez, Egypt, last month. Photograph: ©Maxar Technologies via AP

Who was not gripped by the unexpected drama of the Suez Canal? One very large ship and a big gust of wind and all of a sudden international shipping was brought to a standstill. Desperate ship captains headed off to take the hard way around the Cape of Good Hope. Images of a little tiny digger next to a huge boat lent themselves to many a David and Goliath meme.

Completed in 1869, the Suez Canal was held up by its developer Ferdinand de Lesseps as another example of human progress during that century of progress: the triumph of human ingenuity (David) over vast unfriendly nature (Goliath). It followed close on the heels of the submarine telegraph cable linking the west of Ireland to the east of North America (1866) and the growth of steam power as a motive force, slowly edging out horse and sail.

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