For Forty Consecutive Days, At The Critical Period Of The Campaign,
The Wind Blew Hot And Adverse From The South.
The whole auxiliary boat
service was thus practically arrested.
But in spite of these aggravating
obstacles the preparations for the advance were forced onwards, and it
soon became necessary for the gunboats and steamers to be brought on to
the upper reach of the river.
The Second Cataract has a total descent of sixty feet, and is about
nine miles long. For this distance the Nile flows down a rugged stairway
formed by successive ledges of black granite. The flood river deeply
submerges these steps, and rushes along above them with tremendous force,
but with a smooth though swirling surface. As the Nile subsides, the steps
begin to show, until the river tumbles violently from ledge to ledge,
its whole surface for miles churned to the white foam of broken water,
and thickly studded with black rocks. At the Second Cataract, moreover,
the only deep channel of the Nile is choked between narrow limits,
and the stream struggles furiously between stern walls of rock. These dark
gorges present many perils to the navigator. The most formidable, the
Bab-el-Kebir, is only thirty-five feet wide. The river here takes a plunge
of ten feet in seventy yards, and drops five feet at a single bound.
An extensive pool above, formed by the junction of two arms of the river,
increases the volume of the water and the force of the stream, so that the
'Gate' constitutes an obstacle of difficulty and danger which might well
have been considered insurmountable.
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