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PAX, LUX ET VERITAS SINCE 1965
Post Evacuating from Alexandria, 1967
Created by John Eipper on 02/26/19 3:28 AM

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Evacuating from Alexandria, 1967 (Edward Jajko, USA, 02/26/19 3:28 am)

The discussion of effluents of various kinds from ships reminds me of evacuating with Americans and others from Egypt at the end of the June 1967 Arab-Israeli war.

I was part of a group from the American University in Cairo that had been interned in Alex for most of the week of the war. On Saturday 10 June, a harrowing day I won't go into, we were finally allowed to board one of two ships that were moored at the same pier where I first arrived in Egypt in September 1965 (as a passenger on the beautiful and memorable Esperia, which Eugenio Battaglia may have known). Our choices were a Greek Dodecanese Islands ferry of some size, which had been hired by the US Embassy, and was headed for Piraeus, and a German two-hold, single-stack freighter that was bound for Crete. From there, an air connection to Italy was promised. For various reasons, I chose the German freighter, the Ankara, which could have served as the set for The Long Voyage Home. This was an empty freighter that ordinarily had accommodations for maybe 10 to 15 but was pressed into service to ferry hundreds of men and women of all ages from Alexandria to Crete, a slow, hot, sun-baked voyage.

The fore and aft holds, designated as male and female sleeping areas, had been emptied, cleaned, and carpeted with burlap, and the crew had built wooden stairways that allowed us access from the main deck to the bottom of the hold. The women didn't like this but it was OK with the men.

This freighter had one head on the main deck that was clearly inadequate for the large number of passengers taken on board. To meet anticipated needs, the ship's crew had built two latrines that were hung on the railings on each side of the ship, starboard and port. They were built of wood and heavy plastic sheeting and were designed to take advantage of the forward motion of the ship. There was a constant uptake of seawater from the Med and, at the after end, a constant return of seawater and of untreated effluent. On the men's side, there was a urinal trough and a, hmm, sit-down area, both of these constantly cleaned out by new seawater.

It did not take long for the women on board, Americans, Germans, and others, to rebel against this, and they insisted on using the single crew head, creating long lines as they waited for the greater privacy.

One other thing: at one point one of the crew members, a very nice fellow, broke out some beers for a few of us. When I finished mine, I looked around for a place to get rid of the bottle. The sailor asked me what I was doing and I explained. He told me to do what he was going to do, and threw his bottle into the sea. So did I.

JE comments:  This memorable voyage gives an extra meaning to "evacuating"!  Ed Jajko mentioned his Alexandria internment in this post from 2017.  But I'd like to know more:  were you treated well--or at least adequately?  Have you ever written about that harrowing day (June 10th)?

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