March 26, 2021

The Great Bitter Lake Association

The ship stuck in Suez Canal reminds me of an incident from late 1960s. At the start of the Six Day War, Israel quickly captured one side of the canal. To prevent Israel from using the canal, Egypt blocked the canal with debris. 15 ships got stuck in the part of the canal called the Great Bitter Lake. The ships were from opposing Cold War camps - West Germany, the UK, the US, Bulgaria, Poland etc, including one traveling from Singapore to the UK carrying toys for Woolworths (1960-70s SG used to manufacture many consumer goods).

Overlooking their idealogical differences, they formed a sort of pseudo-country called the The Great Bitter Lake Association. They organised parties and sports events to keep up the morale. They even issued their own postage stamps. It’s an interesting insight into how humans try to make the best of any situation. I heard about this some years back on a Radiolab podcast.

The Great Bitter Lake Association


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