Tuesday, 1 September 2009

A Canal with a Difference

We finally arrived at Piraeus in Greece.

Piraeus is the seaport for the Greek capital city of Athens, which is just up the road.

Being the archetypal canal anorak that I am, I did what any self respecting waterways freak would do and set off for the Corinth Canal, about an hours drive away from the docks.

The Isthmus of Corinth is a narrow piece of land which separates the Peloponnese of Greece, a peninsula in the extreme South of the country, from the rest of Greece.

As long ago as 602BC, the Greeks considered cutting a canal to avoid the long and often dangerous sail around the Peloponnese.

Work was started as early as 307BC and was then stopped and started through the ages.

In 66AD, the Roman emperor Nero actually managed to get his engineers to cut a 3.3Km long 40m wide ditch, but work was halted again.

The ancients often hauled their boats and cargoes over the Isthmus, to avoid sailing round - slave labour was plentiful in those days.

It wasn't until after the Suez Canal was opened in the 19th century, that work began in earnest at Corinth.

In the end,  the Corinth Canal was dug out between 1881 and 1893, by a Hungarian contractor.

The final version is 4 miles long, straight and lockless.

It has a depth of 8m and a width of 24.6m.

There are various overhead high level road bridges connecting what is now an island, to the rest of Greece and Europe.

At each end of the canal, there are two low level road bridges.

These bridges are quite unusual in that, when boats wish to enter the canal, the spans sink beneath the waters and let the boats pass over them.

Apparently, when they surface again to allow waiting traffic to cross, fish are often found on the emerging road surface, giving the bridge controllers their lunch.



  1. Very interesting piece of histroy there, Mark.

  2. took a hungrian to atchive what the Epires of greece and Rome could not


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