June 12th, 2014 -
Today we would not be sailing into a port, we would have the day at sea, navigating through a strait called the Dardanelles. We spent a good bit of time out on the deck enjoying the sights as we sailed so close to land.
The Dardanelles is a narrow strait in northwestern Turkey connecting the Aegean Sea to the Sea of Marmara, lying between the peninsula of Gallipoli in Europe (northwest) and the mainland of Asia Minor (southeast).
The Dardanelles strait spans 40 miles long and varies from 1-4 miles wide. It has an average depth of 180 feet and reaches a maximum depth of 300 feet in the narrowest central section.
The very narrow and winding shape of the strait is more akin to that of a river. It is considered one of the most hazardous, crowded, difficult and potentially dangerous waterways in the world. Passage through this strait requires the use of an experienced channel pilot.
The pilot boat pulled up along side of our ship, and the pilot boarded while we were moving.
The strait has always been of great strategic and economic importance as the gateway to Istanbul and the Black Sea from the Mediterranean. Control of the Dardanelles brought wealth and power to the rulers. In 480 BC the Persian army of Xerxes I crossed the strait by a bridge of boats. Alexander the Great did the same in 334 BC on his expedition against Persia.
During World War I, the Dardanelles became the site of a momentous struggle for control of Gallipoli, and therefore control of the strait.
During the Gallipoli campaign, Turkish troops trapped the Allies on the beaches of the Gallipoli peninsula. The Allied Forces were unsuccessful in their attempt to capture the Gallipoli peninsula, although a British submarine penetrated the minefields and sank a Turkish battleship off the Golden Horn. Allied troops withdrawal was ordered in January 1916, after 8 months of fighting. Total Allied deaths were 43,000 British, 15,000 French, 8,700 Australians, 2,700 New Zealanders and 1,370 Indians. Total Turkish deaths were around 60,000.
The Peninsula now has more than 31 war cemeteries and several important memorials to those who lost their lives here. This monument is dedicated to the Allied Forces.
Across the strait, this monument is dedicated to the Turkish Forces. While sailing past these monuments, an officer of our ship read to us about the WW1 campaign. It was a solemn and sobering passage.
“ Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives…..you are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore, rest in peace……..You, the mothers who sent their sons to far away countries, wipe away your tears; Your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land, they have now become our sons as well.” Ataturk (Conquering ruler and reformer of Turkey), 1934
As we sailed farther through the Dardanelles, we came to the site of the ancient city of Troy, which was the focus of the Trojan War. If you look closely, you can see the replica of the wooden Trojan Horse that was used in the filming of the Brad Pitt movie, “Troy”.
We spent the day enjoying a leisurely day at sea…….
A beautiful sunset……and a full moon. Tomorrow….Istanbul!