Trapped On The Suez Canal For Eight Years

Samuel Reason | August 3rd, 2019

During the mid-20th century, Egypt and Israel had a salty and rocky relationship, to say the least. By 1967, the war had broken out between the two nations. This prompted Israel to capture the Sinai Peninsula immediately, and Egypt reacted by trying to cripple their economy with a blockade of the Suez Canal.

They blocked it with mines, debris and sunken ships which meant that the cargo ships that were traveling through the canal at the time, the unlucky 14 cargo ships, became trapped. The ships from all over the world: British, French, American, German, Swedish, Bulgarian, Polish and Czechoslovakian clustered in the middle of the lake together like an old wild western wagon train. And they ended up getting stuck there for 8 whole years.

The Captain Proskurnicki from the Polish ship Jakarta explained that at the start they treated it like a holiday, but after the first three months, there was nothing to do. They all drifted around the lake aimlessly to ensure their engines stayed well, but after so much boredom kicked in they decided to moor all together and form a micronation. They called themselves the Yellow Fleet, after the sands that the winds would blow over their decks constantly. And like any country, each vessel had a special duty to ensure the nation kept going.

One ship would serve as a hospital, another had a movie theater and potentially the best of all the German Nordwind vessel was receiving a free beer from the breweries back in their homeland. Which meant every Sunday, they would host a beer party. This became a way of life, beer would keep the crews going.

The sailors like to joke that they all drank so much during their time trapped in the canal that the 40-foot lake is now only 35 feet of water. As the remaining 5 feet is made up of beer bottles. They formed the Great Bitter Lake Association, and by the mid-1970s most of their cargo had rotted.

Luckily by 1975, over 750,000 explosives were finally removed from the Suez Canal, making an escape possible. This means the Yellow Fleet could finally make their way home.

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