Tuesday, September 12, 2017

How Did Cleopatra's Needle Get to London?

In 1819, Pasha Mohammad Ali, leader of Egypt and Sudan, presented the UK with a carved Egyptian Obelisk in honour of Britan's success in the Battle of the Nile and the Battle of Alexandria. Great. But how to get the massive stone, which stood 21 meters high and weighed 224 tons, to England?

In 1877, Sir William James Erasmus Wilson agreed to pay for the obelisk to be brought to the UK. He had it encased in an iron tube, rolled it to the water, and then fitted it with a rudder, a stern, and masts. The iron tube vessel built around the obelisk was called "Cleopatra" and it was to be towed to England by the tug Olga.

Cleopatra, and all of her crew and cargo, almost perished in a storm in the Bay of Biscay (6 crewmen died in a lifeboat), and the Cleopatra was cut loose from the Olga to prevent it from stoving in the tug. It was thought Cleopatra was lost, but a Spanish trawler came across it and towed it into port for repairs. There, it was reclaimed by England, and it continued its tow to London.

Cleopatra’s Needle” was finally erected on this day, September 12th, in 1878 near Westminster on the Victoria Embankment of the Thames.

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