"" Writer's Wanderings: Cruising the Dardanelles

Friday, October 05, 2012

Cruising the Dardanelles

The Prinsendam (Holland America Lines) arrived at the entrance to the Dardenelles after crossing the Aegean Sea from Gythion in Greece. Did we travel the same route as Paris as he headed for Troy? One can only guess. Still off to our starboard side, somewhere in the distance was the excavated city they believe was the ancient city of Troy, sight of one of the many historical aspects of this narrow strait through the northwest section of Turkey that connects the Aegean Sea with the Sea of Marmara and then eventually the Black Sea.

Out on the back deck of our ship with breakfast in front of us, we listened to the narrative of some of the historical and more interesting aspects of the area. Even without all the history, one could just sit back and take in all the rolling hills and interesting towns, boats, ferries, and ships and the calm waters of the Dardanelles. The water appeared calm but it is my understanding that the water actually flows two ways through the Dardanelles. The surface water flows from the Sea of Marmara to the Aegean and below that current the water flows in an opposite direction to the Sea of Marmara.

The two straits, the Dardanelles and the Bosporus, during the Byzantine and Ottoman empires were essential to the defense of Constantinople which is now modern day Istanbul. For the most part, Turkey has remained in control of the straits and the traffic allowed to pass through. In the 18th century, the concern in the western world was that Russia would take control of the straits as it attempted to expand its power in the area. In 1841, England, France, Russia, Austria, and Prussia agreed to close the Straits to all but Turkish warships in peacetime. This convention was reaffirmed by the Congress of Paris (1856) at the end of the Crimean War and, theoretically at least, remained in force until World War I.

It was at this point in our commentary, that things began to come together for us. You see, we’ve been to Australia many times and have heard the term ANZAC and understood that it had to do with military action but we never understood its importance until now. The Gallipoli Campaign or the Dardanelles Campaign took place between April 25, 1915, and January 9, 1916, during World War I. It was a joint effort between British and French forces to secure a sea route to Russia. The attempt failed. The effort had also included forces from the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) and it was their first major battle.

Along the way, points of interest of the battle were pointed out to us and especially for the Australian and New Zealand passengers. ANZAC day in those countries is April 25 and is regarded as a day for the commemoration of the sacrifice of so many in that battle.

On a lighter note, as we passed one town, with a good camera lens or a great pair of binoculars, you could pick out the shape of the Trojan horse used in the movie. And, a surprise to all of us, we passed a Russian submarine on its way out to the Aegean.
Once we entered the Sea of Marmara, we spent the rest of the day enjoying sunshine and sea breezes as we made our way to Istanbul.

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