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  • Writer's pictureL.J. Singh

Is the Mediterranean Sea drying up?


‘Join the sea and see the world’ an old adage luring the landlubber, the shore borne, to the sea does no more hold much (sea) water these days as naval ships rarely venture out of coastal waters that too to some of our own ports or couple of nearby countries, like Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Singapore, etc. But what is now and still true is that service in Merchant Navy ships does afford many chances to see the wonderful world around us, not only to the serving crew but also to the families of the officers on board. This facility & frequency of carrying the family on board is given depending upon the rank of the officer.


Life on the ship no doubt is quite a monotonous one even for the officers & crew, but more so for the wives of the officers who join the ship for a voyage. Even then there are some moments of interest and adventure now & then. The sea passage from India to, say; the East Coast of USA/Canada through Suez Canal & Mediterranean Sea is an enjoyable experience full of many surprises.

On one of these ships where I was the Chief Engineer, my wife joined me for a voyage leaving behind our children with my parents. We made a much sought after voyage to the Great Lakes which covers North American ports of the USA & Canada near the lakes of Ontario, Erie, Michigan, and a freshwater Lake Superior. By the time ship reaches this last-named lake, we are nearly 600 feet higher than the sea. This is really an engineering marvel when a ship is lifted in steps through different level ‘Locks’; where water levels are maintained by gravity from the next higher level for raising the ship and by pumps while lowering the ships returning back to sea level.

Panama Canal connects Pacific ocean and Atlantic Ocean
Panama Canal Connecting Pacific Ocean and Atlantic Ocean using Lock System

There is a lot of reading material kept on board for the use of ships’ crew and wives if any onboard, accompanying their husbands. The great enthusiasm witnessed when a wife joins her husband on board before the onset of the voyage to see foreign places, gradually wanes and gives way to boredom, nostalgia, and returning back to ‘sweet home’ somehow becomes all-important. The great eagerness to leave our much-maligned country, however for a short period, is replaced by an equally matched impatience to get back to our own ‘good’ country. The same was the case with my wife for whom reaching back home to our children at the earliest, became an obsession, and our ship’s agonizing slow progress towards India across the hostile Atlantic came more under her notice & criticism. Even the ‘so interesting’ reading material at her disposal was not very helpful in curbing her longing to be at home with children. In one of the old National Geographic magazines lying on our ship, my wife had recently read one article in which geologists’ postulate that due to continuous though imperceptible drift of African continent towards Eurasia, the passage at Gibraltar between these two continents is getting narrower, imperceptibly, of course. And this would, one day, result in making our present-day Mediterranean Sea land-locked and a dry valley once the passage at Gibraltar closes completely, as has happened many times in the past billion years or so.


So, after a long passage from Montreal port in Canada across a vast stretch of Atlantic Ocean braving one storm after another, we were finally in sight of Gibraltar, the gateway to the East & Mediterranean Sea and further on to the Suez Canal. The entry through Gibraltar, when returning from West is always a great relief as it gives the feeling of being almost on land. You see land on both sides, Europe on the North and Africa in the South, when your ship is transiting through the Mediterranean Sea.


Light House, Gibraltar

When our ship was approaching passage to Gibraltar on one sunny afternoon, my wife came on the boat deck where I was having my usual stroll, and without any preamble or ‘beg your pardon, asked rather told me to increase the speed of our ship. A request for increasing ship’s speed is not an unusual one for me, but coming it from my wife, exasperated me a bit and really puzzled me for a moment, till she added with a mock concern in her eyes, LET US GET THROUGH FASTER BEFORE 'THE GATE AT THE GIBRALTAR PASSAGE CLOSES IN OUR FACE' and delays for many days in case we have to go via Cape of Good Hope, a very much longer & stormy passage to India. It was quite some compliment to the chief engineer of the ship on the performance and speed of his ship, coming, especially, from his own wife.



Written By-

Lal Singh

Retd. Chief Engineer


Books To Read-

Turn a Blind Eye (William Warwick Novels) written by Jeffrey Archer
Turn a Blind Eye


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