ABOARD USS MOUNT WHITNEY (LCC/JCC-20) -- Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa passed through the Suez Canal Dec. 8 as they traveled toward northeast Africa. CJTF-HOA's mission is to disrupt and deter terrorism in the Horn of Africa region.
Although the passage itself was uneventful, the sights were not. During the transit, all branches of the service turned out to see the canal.
"The view was just like you see in photographs," said Enid, Okla. native, Cpl. James A. Williams, J-1 administration non-commissioned officer. "I saw a lot of people waving to us from the banks."
One of the things that makes the Suez Canal so interesting, and even exciting, is its extensive history, which dates back to the sixth century B.C.
The first person known to attempt to connect the Red Sea to the Mediterranean Sea was Pharaoh Necho, sixth century B.C. He did not finish the project at that time, but during one of the many invasions of Egypt, King Darius I ordered it completed. Darius' plan consisted of two parts. One part connected the Red Sea to the Great Bitter Lake, and the other connected the lake to a branch of the Nile River. Until the Ptolemic Era, when it fell to disrepair, the canal served as a shortcut between India and Europe.
The Suez was dug and re-dug several times by many different rulers and kings, but in 1854, Ferdinand de Lesseps undertook new construction of the canal. It was completed in 1867 and inaugurated Nov. 17, 1869. Because of his work, de Lesseps is known as the father of the Suez Canal.
But, its history doesn't stop there. It was also the sight of three wars: the 1956 Suez Crisis, the 1967 Six-Day War and the 1973 Yom Kippur War. The canal closed during the 1973 Yom Kippur War, but re-opened in 1975. It has been in Egyptian hands since then.
The economic importance and the size of the canal are also interesting. It is the second largest source of foreign exchange, revolutionizing the trade route from Europe to Asia. At 120 miles, it is the longest canal in the world without locks and can hold ships with a draft of 58 feet below the surface of the water.
It took approximately 18 hours for the ship to travel through the Suez Canal, and as CJTF -HOA personnel and the ship's crew finished the transit, some of them reflected on their voyage up to this point.
"I'm glad the weather was sunny and nice when we passed through so that everyone had a chance to go out and get a glimpse," said Rialto, Calif. Native, Lance Cpl. Aaron S. Hawthorne, joint planning group plans clerk.