« AnteriorContinuar »
as described by Lord Sandhurst, by which regiments and • drafts of troops are put on board ship at Portsmouth in • England, or at Queenstown in Ireland, and without any • transhipment delivered in periods of from four to five weeks
at Bombay, presents many advantages. The length of the voyage from Portsmouth to Bombay, through the Suez Canal, may be taken at 6,200 nautical miles under favourable circumstances, and at 6,700 nautical miles during the monsoons, which cause the steamers that cross the Indian Ocean to make a détour of 500 miles. At the rate of ten knots an hour, which may, in the present condition of our marine, be relied on with some confidence, the time occupied by the voyage
will thus be from twenty-six to twenty-eight or twentynine days, as compared with from ninety to one hundred and twenty days for the length of the voyage by the Cape. Thus we may take as our starting-point the fact that the cheapest and most convenient transit, when time is not of primary importance, will be made wholly by sea, and will occupy something like a calendar month.
At the other pole of the question, where speed of communication is principally regarded, the line of shortest distance hitherto indicated as practicable is that of the electric telegraph through Brussels, Munich, Vienna, Constantinople, Bagdad, Bushire, and Hyderabad, to Bombay. The difficulties which have to be overcome before such a route could be made practicable for steam communication are, however, so numerous, and of so serious a character, that it is sufficient here to say that while an uninterrupted land communication from Calais to Hyderabad, and thence to Bombay, would allow of the most rapid transit for mails and for passengers, the actual length of such a line would be appreciably greater than that of a system which availed itself of the shortest and readiest route. This the physical geography of the countries to be traversed indicates to be partly by land, and partly by water. Thus to ascertain the best practicable mail route (supposing that political and financial considerations allow of its selection on engineering principles alone), we have to disregard the cost and trouble of repeated transhipments.
When the question is thus simplified, it becomes at once evident, on geographical considerations, that the old Roman port of Brundusium, the modern Brindisi, now directly connected with the French and Italian system of railways by the completion of the Mont Cenis tunnel, forms the first stage in the journey from Calais, and the point where now, and very probably for a long period of time, mails and passengers for
VOL. CXLIX. NO. CCCV.
India will be transferred from land to water transport; although, in the event of war with any European power, that line would probably be closed to our troops.
It is no less evident that of the two routes possible from the Levant, the one lying on the south-west, and the other on the north-east, of the Arabian Peninsula, the latter is the one preferable in all respects (with the exception of involving a double transhipment), as compared with the passage through the Suez Canal. And if, as recommended by Sir Henry Tyler, the railway from Alexandria to Suez be used in order to save from twelve to twenty-four hours of the delay that is due to the slow speed imposed on the vessels that navigate the Canal, this single advantage in favour of the southern route disappears.
Not only is a line drawn from some point on the Syrian shore to the upper Euphrates, and thence running parallel to that river to the Persian Gulf, where the sea route recommences, shorter, by 18 per cent., than the Red Sea course at its best, and by more than 20 per cent, than that route during the monsoons, but it is also wholly extra-tropical. It is desirable to bring this important fact into due prominence. Some of the witnesses before the select committee have spoken of the heat endured in the Persian and in the Arabian Gulfs as if it were a question of local configuration of coasts, or of inappreciable thermometric amount. Indeed, one witness ventured to suggest that the northern is the hottest route. But there is a navigation of 800 miles down the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden after crossing the tropic of Cancer; while that circle runs south of the southern shore of the Gulf of Oman, and is 200 miles to the south of the Straits of Ormuz, at the mouth of the Persian Gulf. Thus the Red Sea route is not only more than 700 miles longer than that by the Euphrates; but the whole of that additional length, and nearly half as much more, are wholly intertropical.
It is true that one member of the committee, who in 1863 went down from Bagdad to the Persian Gulf, and landed at various places on the route, put the pertinent question : • It is the fact, is it not, that the passage by the Red Sea would lie two-thirds of it within the tropics ?' But the committee have made no allusion in their report to this important element of the question. Major Champain, who, under the India Office, was chief of the line of telegraph from Persia to India, and who expressed himself as opposed to a line of railway communication cross from the Mediterranean to the Persian Gulf, was of opinion that the heat, as tested by the thermometer, "might be the same on the Euphrates railway
• and in the Red Sea,' but thought that the difference in favour of the comfort on board ship, where you can walk about, have punkahs, and so on, is hardly to be exaggerated ! • Although the heat might be the same, and the thermometer * might show the same number of degrees, yet the heat on • board ship would be more bearable than on land.' But the assumption of an equal thermometric heat on the two routes can only be made by persons unacquainted with the main facts of physical geography. In speaking of the lower part of the Red Sea as intertropical, we understate the case. Of the great divisions of climate which are marked by the isothermal lines, the highest temperature, that exceeding the mean annual temperature of 80°, has been aptly termed the equatorial zone. In the longitude of the Red Sea the isotherm of 80° closely coincides with the tropic of Cancer; and there is thus a climatic difference of extreme importance, as regards the limit of human endurance, in favour of a route by the Persian Gulf as compared with one by the Red Sea.
Thus of the physical conditions which the engineer is bound in the first place to study, two, viz. that of length of line, and that of salubrity of climate, are decidedly in favour of the northern route. The difference is neither vague nor doubtful. It is one that can be definitively expressed in geographical miles and in thermometric degrees. It remains to be seen in what mode advantage can best be taken of natural facilities, and what would be the approximate cost of the establishment of the shorter, the quicker, and the cooler route. And it must be remembered that shorter and quicker, though in this case coincident, are not necessarily so, as a longer route by land may often be accomplished in less time than a shorter route by water.
The point of debarcation upon the Syrian shore must be brought within the five degrees of latitude which range from Haifa, a little to the south of Acre, and the Gulf of Scanderoon. In this range of coast line the only points which are calculated to arrest
the attention of the surveyor are nine, viz. Haifa; Sur, the ancient Tyre; Saida, the ancient Sidon; Beirut, Tripoli, Latakia, the mouth of the Orontes, Seleucia, and Alexandretta or Scanderoon. Of the first of these, which has been advocated by Mr. George Elphinstone Dalrymple, formerly Colonial Secretary of Queensland, and also by a French writer, an excellent survey has been made by the officers who have conducted the Ordnance Survey of Palestine. Plans, giving soundings, of the other sites, on a scale of about two miles to the inch, may be found in the appendix to the report from the Select Committee on Steam Navigation to India, ordered by the House of Commons to be printed July 14, 1834; and two plans of Scanderoon will be found in a parliamentary paper headed • Reports respecting Communication with • India through Turkey,' presented to the House of Commons by command of her Majesty in 1872.
Of these ports the first five are excluded from consideration, as furnishing proper sites for a railway harbour and terminus, by the configuration of the country. The unique depression in the sub-aerial crust of the earth through which the Jordan rushes in its precipitous course, and the parallel lines of lofty mountains which form a part of the same system of geological disturbance, are barriers which the engineer of a railway will not unnecessarily affront. From any port south of Latakia, and to some extent from that place, it would be necessary to run a course parallel with the sea coast in order to pass the line of hills which borders the Levant. Having thus incurred unnecessary distance, either of these lines would have to cross a wide expanse of nejd, or sandy plain, which is not only unsurveyed, but so destitute of water that the advocate of one of these lines is driven to suggest either the sinking of artesian wells, or the conduct of water in pipes along the side of the railway for the supply of the engines at the stations. Practical sagacity condemns the idea of any such leap in the dark. With reference to the line from Haifa, on the bay of Acre, the port itself is the key of Syria, and the distance across the desert is less than in the other projects. But it is quite long enough to be inadmissible. And a line across the country to the south of the impassable barrier of Hermon would have to descend into the deep cleft of the Jordan valley, 850 feet below the level of the Mediterranean, and have to rise very rapidly for 2,000 feet.
We are thus driven to limit any serious investigation of the point on the Syrian coast best fitted for a railway port and terminus to the four localities of Latakia, the Orontes, Seleucia, and Scanderoon. Of these Latakia and Scanderoon alone are at this moment available for shelter. Seleucia is in the most neglected and unapproachable state. It is, however, by no means clear at which spot it would be possible to ensure what is required for a railway port at the least expense. And, that being the case, the remains of the port which was constructed by Seleucus Nicator on a scale of grandeur more adapted to the state of modern commerce than that of the ancients,' may be thought to possess the first claim on the attention of the harbour engineer. As far, moreover, as plans
exist to guide the engineer, Seleucia would be the best point from which to bear towards the line of the Euphrates.
Each of the four harbours, however, has some special feature in its favour, and it is only on a patient balance of all the facts that a safe judgment can be formed. The ancient port of · Latakia '—we now quote the additional memoir on the Euphrates, dated May 11, 1832— • is partly natural and partly artificial. It is an irregular oval, the longer side about 600 feet long, parallel to the sea, from which it is separated by a solid wall, now much decayed, and the shorter about 500. The entrance is from the west, and about 80 feet long by 60 feet wide, having a rock close to its southern side; and as the deep water is nearly parallel to the shore, vessels make a N.E. course until near the entrance, when they steer nearly east, and keep on the north side of the rock, between the middle and the hither side of the passage, in which there is a depth of from 12 to 16 feet of water, and about 18 in the basin within.' Owing to the neglect of the harbour wall, the sea rushes over the low land in storms, and brings sand and rubbish into the basin. In 1832 accommodation was only afforded for from five to seven vessels of from 150 to 200 tons. It thus appears that the work of the engineer is by no means done to his hand at Latakia. Add to this, that although 'in or• dinary weather there is no difficulty in making the port,
occasionally, during gales of wind, vessels bound thither are ' forced to bear up for Scanderoon.' Before enquiring, then, into the probable cost of the repair of the sea wall, and the elearing of the port (by which it might be enabled to contain come forty vessels), it is desirable to enquire into the condition of the harbour of refuge in case of a gale.
The roadstead harbour of Alexandretta is surrounded by high mountains along three-fourths of its circumference, and part of the remainder is sheltered by the indentation of this part of the bay itself. It thus forms an extensive and perfectly 'safe anchorage at a quarter and half a mile from the beach,
almost land-locked, and so well protected from every wind, * that no instance is recorded of a vessel being driven from her • anchors. Scanderoon is capable of containing a very large fleet,
either of men-of-war or of merchant vessels, and the latter lie so close to the shore, which is rather bold, that several may • discharge or take in at the same time. The chart shows 1 and 2 fathoms soundings along the southern coast-line, deepening gradually to 3 and 4 fathoms in about 250 yards, and to from 8 to 18 fathoms in the middle of the bay and along the eastern coast-line close within shore. The bottom of the bay is de