MemberMay 6, 2021 at 9:09 am
Bartlett recounts an interview with the father of the Suez Canal, French diplomat Ferdinand de Lesseps at age 74. De Lesseps’ theory of the early stations of the exodus is too sketchy and confusing to reproduce here but the latter section confirms some details about the Hamsin wind and the floodway N of the Bitter Lakes:
[149 n. 39] Baal-zephon he indicates at the high ridge of Serapeum; and near this latter place, north of the Bitter Lakes, he locates the crossing. The theory evidently supposes a marshy or watery region, overflowed at times, and difficult to cross. He regards the “chamseen” [Hamsin] from the SE as bearing an important part in the catastrophe–a wind which comes at the time of harvest, and is so violent as to stop all work. He mentioned several facts of interest, e.g. that the salt deposit in the Bitter Lakes is thirty feet thick, with thin layers of soil interposed.; that he has seen the northern part of the Gulf of Suez blown almost dry; and that in the region of the Bitter Lakes he himself once, while riding on horseback, became entangled in the morass, and with difficulty escaped.
Bartlett gives more detail re the salt pan in the Bitter Lakes as it was before the Canal re-filled the lakes. Its thickness of 10 m, together with the 10 m open depth of the lake basin brings the original lake depth to 20 m:
[157 n. 4] A section drawing of the Suez Canal Company’s… shows it [the salt pan] to be more than thirty feet. A letter from M. Mauriac, engineer of the company… also gives it at “ten metres”. He writes: “The bank of salt is divided by parallel and horizontal strata of six or seven tenths of a metre in thickness, alternating with thin strata of sand; which shows that this depth has been produced in a long course of periods, when the sea at extraordinary heights traversed the plateau and swept into the lakes. Then, the sea returning to its ordinary limits, the evaporation left a layer of salt, which was afterward covered by a layer of sand brought by the chamseen.”
Bartlett, Samuel C. From Egypt to Palestine Through Sinai, the Wilderness and the South Country. New York, NY: Harper, 1879.