Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Corinth Canal

Although the dream of having a canal that linked continental Greece with Peloponnese was a vision of Greeks more than 2000 years ago, Corinth Canal was not completed until the late 19th century. Asides the canal that divides the large peninsula of Peloponnese with mainland Greece, there is a narrow strip of connecting land that is known as the “Isthmus”. At its narrowest point the “Isthmus” is just 4 miles wide. Before the Corinth Canal was built, boats had to travel some 185 nautical miles, taking several days to complete the journey.

According to reports, it was Periander, the second tyrant of Corinth in the 7th century BC, son of the first tyrant, Cypselus, who first envisioned the Corinth Canal. When upgrading Corinth port, Periander is said to have built a ramp across the Isthmus so that ships could have been dragged across to Peloponnese and avoid the lengthy sea route. This ramp became known as the ‘Diolkos’ and the money gained from it enabled Periander to abolish taxes in Corinth.

Next to the Corinth Canal is a small outdoors museum, dedicated to everyone who achieved this great project. One monument is dedicated to Istvan Turr and Bela Gerster who planned, organised and directed the construction of the Corinth Canal, a masterpiece of 19th century engineering. The Grand Opening Ceremony took place on the 6th August 1893 in the presence of King George I of Greece and Francis Joseph, Emperor of Austria and King of Hungary. It was open to traffic on the 28th October 1893. The Canal inevitably reduced the distance between the ports of the Aegean and the Adriatic Sea by 131 nautical miles. 

The Corinth Canal is almost four miles long, eight metres deep and, at its widest point, is almost 24.5 metres in width, and is still in use today. While impassable for larger vessels, the canal is used mostly by smaller ships and cruise ships.

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