This graph shows how badly German cities were hit by Allied bombing raids.
- Despite Göring's assurances they wouldn't get through, Allied bombers rained destruction on Germany in World War II.
- This 1947 map takes stock of the devastation: Berlin and Hamburg half destroyed, some smaller cities wiped out.
- The history of the air war over Germany is a chilling reminder of the peculiar horror of mechanized warfare.
Demoralising the enemy<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDUwNDgxNy9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyMjkwMTYxOH0.oT0mBChYzSOzlqWF0lNw0dVaUu2Jo-m6mcF-V3jwdVw/img.jpg?width=980" id="6adf8" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="5946ce4493af1510ab5458b57a3f3d1b" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="\u200bAerial view of Cologne cathedral, relatively unscathed amid the ruins of the city." />
Aerial view of Cologne cathedral, relatively unscathed amid the ruins of the city. Bottom left: the train station. Top left: the Rhine.
Image: Royal Air Force (1944), public domain.<p>"If just one English bomber reaches the Ruhr, my name is no longer Hermann Göring, but Hermann Meier," the <em>Luftwaffe</em> commander boasted in August 1939. </p><p><span></span>Over the following five and a half years, millions of Germans cursed 'Hermann Meier' as Allied bombing churned up city after German city. The air raid sirens that announced yet another wave of British or American bombers were nicknamed, with vicious relish, 'Meier trumpets'. </p><p><span></span>On this map of Germany, drawn up in 1947, black pie slices indicate how much of each city was flattened in the war—mostly by aerial bombardments. It reflects the dizzying scale of destruction in Germany, a fact not often dwelled upon in histories of the Second World War. Understandable, since Germany started it—both the war and bombing civilians—the overall sentiment is: They had it coming. </p><p><span></span>The history of the air war is nevertheless instructive, for it shows the special kind of hell that is mechanized warfare. As in earlier wars, both sides became inured to slaughter as the fighting dragged on. But in modern conflicts like WWII, science and industry drive a frantic arms race to make the killing ever more efficient. </p><p><span></span>Before the war, targeting civilians was considered off-limits. But as the fighting started, moral compasses soon went haywire. Under the guise of 'demoralizing the enemy', killing large numbers of civilians became an accepted military objective. The Germans blitzed Warsaw in September 1939, Rotterdam in May 1940, and London soon thereafter. By early 1941, the German air war on Britain had claimed 41,000 lives and caused widespread destruction. London lost more than a million buildings in the war; the center of Coventry was wiped out in one night; and 95 percent of houses in Hull were damaged or destroyed. </p><p><span></span>The Royal Air Force retaliated, but its main strategy remained: Precision bombardments on strategic targets – industrial sites, rail and road infrastructure and the like. Then came the Butt Report (sic). Published in August 1941, it revealed that only one in three RAF bombers that managed to drop their payload over Germany did so within 5 miles (8 km) of its target. That shocking statistic eventually led to a change of strategy: In February 1942, under the new leadership of air marshal Richard Harris, RAF Bomber Command switched to 'area bombing' a.k.a. carpet bombing. Harris' tenacious pursuit of the new strategy, sometimes in the face of contrary evidence, would earn him the nicknames "Bomber Harris" and "Butcher Harris".</p>
Destroying 25,000 houses per month<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDUwNDgyOS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzMDY2NjY1OH0.HaqwLoaDpK4Mm7ot2vHQzV-KbVVY6UKrtdDFJPJWXdw/img.jpg?width=980" id="dc3ad" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="ae7216d52acc67bc3a8673c63c05d020" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="G.W. Harmssen, Reparationen, Sozialprodukt, Lebensstandard (1947)," />
The destruction is concentrated in the industrial cities in the west and the largest cities throughout the country.
Image: G.W. Harmssen, Reparationen, Sozialprodukt, Lebensstandard (1947), in Deutsche Geschichte in Dokumenten und Bildern.<p>Cologne was the first major German city to get 'area bombed': On the night of May 30, 1942, over 1,000 RAF aircraft dropped around 1,500 tons of bombs, causing large-scale destruction and over 2,000 large fires. Over the course of that year, many other German cities would get the carpet treatment during RAF night raids. From January 1943, the USAF joined in, with daylight raids.</p><p>The air war over Germany turned increasingly deadly—both for the Allied crews in the skies and the German civilians on the ground. By the spring of 1943, less than 20 percent of RAF airmen made it alive to the end of a 30-mission tour.</p><p>Throughout 1943 into early 1944, the three major operations of the air war were:</p><ul><li>the Battle of the Ruhr (March to July 1943): Targeting the major cities of this industrial heartland;</li><li>Operation Gomorrah (July 24 to August 3, 1943): The round-the-clock bombing of Hamburg, aimed at its total destruction (see also #<a href="https://bigthink.com/strange-maps/hamburg-bombing-camouflage" target="_blank">1015</a>); and</li><li>the Battle of Berlin (November 1943 to March 1944): Destroying the industrial muscle of the German capital.</li></ul><p>In the first half of 1944, the air war seemed to trail off; but as the ground war neared its end, the aerial campaign intensified as never before:<br></p><ul><li>from March 1943 to January 1944, Allied air raids destroyed on average 15,000 housing units per month in Germany;</li><li>from February 1944 to June 1944, that average fell to about 9,500 houses per month;</li><li>but from July 1944 to January 1945, it shot up to just over 25,000 units per month.</li></ul><p>By the end of the war, technical advances and operational expertise allowed the Allies to increase the destructiveness of their air raids. In the night of February 1945, a single attack sufficed to create a firestorm that destroyed 90 percent of the inner city of Dresden. </p><p>Göring/Meier's <em>Luftwaffe </em>having largely been eliminated, the RAF and US Air Force sought to maximize the advantage of their air supremacy. That's why 60 percent of all Allied bombs dropped on Germany fell in the last nine months of the war, in a massive effort to break German resistance, shorten the war and save Allied lives.</p><p>Could that apocalypse have been avoided? German historian Klaus von Beyme once mused: "If the Putsch of 20 July 1944 [Stauffenberg's failed assassination of Hitler] had been successful and resulted in a peace treaty, Germany's cities would have been spared 72% of all bombs that were to fall by war's end." That's a big <em>What if</em>, because it assumes the Allies by mid-1944 would have been content with something less than unconditional surrender, even from a Germany without Hitler.</p>
14 billion cubic feet of rubble<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDUwNDg0OS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxNzIzMDk3NX0.m0hct-8_a1t0MKkmrrgaYXWxHKbKR9mqYTJvZjyILzQ/img.jpg?width=980" id="13bc0" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="85d335b78426af3b7754e108f3c3ba77" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="\u200bAir raid on Koblenz on 19 September 1944 by the 447th Bombardment Group of the US Air Force." />
Air raid on Koblenz on 19 September 1944 by the 447th Bombardment Group of the US Air Force.
Image: USAF (1944), public domain<p>In the real world, the wheels of destruction kept turning until May 8, 1945, when Germany did surrender unconditionally. Eventually, the air war claimed the lives of about 600,000 Germans. When the time came to take stock of the destruction, this is what the shell-shocked survivors found.</p><ul><li>The war had destroyed 4.8 million housing units. As a result, 13 million Germans were homeless. And there was 400 million cubic meters (14 billion cubic feet) of rubble to clear.</li><li>The degree of destruction varied regionally. In East Germany, 9.4 percent of pre-war housing was destroyed. In West Germany, the figure was 18.5 percent.</li><li>At state level, the distinction is even starker: in Thuringia, only 3 percent of houses were destroyed. In North Rhine-Westphalia, it was close to 25 percent—and even more in the industrial heartland of the state.</li><li>Of the 54 largest cities (>100,000 inhabitants) in Germany, only four survived without significant damage: Lübeck, Wiesbaden, Halle and Erfurt. Worst hit was Würzburg (75 percent destroyed), followed by Dessau, Kassel, Mainz and Hamburg.</li><li>Over 70 percent of the largest cities had their urban core destroyed. Worst cases: Dresden, Cologne, Essen, Dortmund, Hanover, Nuremberg, Chemnitz.</li><li>Of the 151 medium-sized cities (25,000-100,000), about a third lost at least 20 percent of their housing stock. In Bavaria, Thuringia and Saxony, most medium-sized cities managed to make it through the war with little or no damage. </li></ul><p>In Germany, the end of WWII was <em>Stunde Null</em> ('Zero Hour'). Everything had to be built up from the ground, both literally—the cities—and figuratively—civil society and democratic institutions. </p><p>Some cities chose to rebuild the past, reconstructing ancient buildings and street patterns. Others opted for modernity and functionality, often with an urban layout centered around the car, as in American cities. In many cases, however, the destruction was so complete that no effort to rebuild could erase the void that the air war had created—a void that haunts many German city centers to this day. <br></p><p><strong><br></strong></p><p><strong>Strange Maps #1051</strong></p><p><em>Got a strange map? Let me know at </em><a href="mailto:email@example.com">firstname.lastname@example.org</a><em>.</em></p>
Poland has become an increasingly unwelcoming place for the LGBTQ community. 50 diplomats hope to change that.
- An open letter, signed by 50 ambassadors and NGO leaders, asked the Polish government to respect LGBT rights.
- The Polish Government responded by denying the implied discrimination exists.
- Poland has been deemed the "worst place to be gay" in the EU in spite of this.
Strongly worded letters, the weapon of champions.<p> Organized by the Embassy of the Kingdom of Belgium in Poland, the <a href="https://pl.usembassy.gov/open_letter/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">open</a> <a href="https://pl.usembassy.gov/open_letter/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">letter</a> was signed by the Ambassadors of 43 nations representing most of Europe and all of continental North America, as well as several countries from Asia, Africa, and South America. Representatives of various international organizations, including the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, also signed. </p><p>The letter pays tribute to those working for LGBT+ rights in Poland and affirms the dignity found in each person "as expressed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights." It goes on to remind the reader that "respect for these fundamental rights, which are also enshrined in OSCE commitments and the obligations and standards of the Council of Europe and the European Union as communities of rights and values, obliges governments to protect all citizens from violence and discrimination and to ensure they enjoy equal opportunities."</p><p>It ends with the declaration, "Human rights are universal and everyone, including LGBT+ persons, are entitled to their full enjoyment. This is something that everyone should support."</p><p>The American Ambassador to Poland, Georgette Mosbacher, <a href="https://twitter.com/USAmbPoland/status/1310276250993405954?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1310276250993405954%7Ctwgr%5Eshare_3&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.them.us%2Fstory%2F50-countries-sign-letter-condemning-polands-lgbt-free-zones" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">retweeted</a> the letter and added, "Human Rights are not an ideology - they are universal. 50 Ambassadors and Representatives agree." </p>
The Response of the Polish Government<iframe width="730" height="430" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/EBthKt2Of9U" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe><p>The Polish Government was less than pleased with the letter and its implications. <br> <br> The Prime Minister of Poland, Mateusz Morawiecki, rejected the letter and its implications, saying "nobody needs to teach us tolerance, because we are a nation that has learned such tolerance for centuries and we have given many testimonies to the history of such tolerance."<strong></strong></p><p><strong> </strong>This sort of rebuttal is nothing new; just last week, when American Presidential Candidate Joe Biden <a href="https://twitter.com/JoeBiden/status/1307831910089990144" target="_blank">tweeted </a>that "LGBT-free zones' have no place in the European Union or anywhere in the world," the <a href="https://wyborcza.pl/7,173236,26327279,polish-embassy-to-biden-no-lgbt-free-zones-exist-in-poland.html?disableRedirects=true" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Polish Embassy in the United States </a>was quick to say the tweet was based on inaccurate information, to reassure the world that there are no such zones, and to restate their belief there is no place for discrimination in society. <br> </p><p>A quick fact check demonstrates otherwise. Several places in Poland have declared themselves to be "<a href="https://www.bbc.com/news/stories-54191344" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">LGBT free zones,</a>" violence inspired by anti-LGBT+ propaganda has taken <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/27/world/europe/gay-pride-march-poland-violence.html?action=click&module=RelatedLinks&pgtype=Article" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">place</a>, l<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/30/world/europe/LGBT-free-poland-EU-funds.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">eading government figures</a> have declared homosexuality to be a "threat to Polish identity, to our nation, to its existence and thus to the Polish state," and the President of Poland, Andrzej Duda has declared the LGBT movement to be more dangerous than <a href="https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-54317902" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Communism</a><a href="https://theconversation.com/how-a-gender-conspiracy-theory-is-spreading-across-the-world-133854" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">. Surveys</a> show nearly a third of Poland's people believe in a grand conspiracy against them involving "<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-gender_movement" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">gender ideology.</a>"</p><p>It is also worth repeating that Poland has been declared the worst place in the European Union for <a href="https://notesfrompoland.com/2020/05/14/poland-ranked-as-worst-country-in-eu-for-lgbt-people/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">gay</a> <a href="https://notesfrompoland.com/2020/05/14/poland-ranked-as-worst-country-in-eu-for-lgbt-people/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">rights</a>. Same-sex unions of any kind, including civil unions, are still illegal, and gay couples have no right to adopt children. Laws against hate crimes and conversion therapy are also notoriously lacking. Though to their credit, gay men and bisexuals can donate blood in Poland with greater ease then they can in the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blood_donation_restrictions_on_men_who_have_sex_with_men#Europe" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">United States. </a> </p><p>Despite having a first-hand understanding of the dangers of authoritarianism and intolerance than most nations, some in Poland continue to use the LGBT+ community as a boogeyman. While it is not the first time such things have been done, perhaps it will be one of the last. </p>
"Nothing but naked people: fat ones, thin ones, old, young…"
"The Yellow Sands", 1888, John Reinhard Weguelin; source: Wikimedia Commons<h3>Naked revolution</h3><p>Yet long before anyone knew about beach fashion, naturism was trendy. Bathing naked in the sea was going on in England as early as 1840. However, during the reign of Queen Victoria, this pleasure was outlawed. But it popped up again among the conservative Germans. In 1898, the first Naturist Club was founded in Essen and in 1900 the Wandering Birds group (<em>Wandervögel</em>) was scouring the country for uninhabited places and naked sunbathing. In the same year, Heinrich Pudor wrote <em>The C</em><em>ult of </em><em>the </em><em>Nud</em><em>e</em>, winning the hearts of contemporary supporters of naturism.</p><p>In the 1920s, on the back of this, members of the Movement for Natural Healing (<em>Naturheilbewegung</em>) organized naked sunbathing for the improvement of health. Persuaded by Pudor's theory of the healing properties of the sun and wind, which could be absorbed through the skin, they launched the naked revolution.</p><p>Pudor's book became the naturists' manifesto and soon after, not far from Hamburg, the Free Body Culture (<em>Freikörperkultur</em>, or FKK) movement was founded. This spread through other German centres and brought together thousands of people. The FKK still operates under the same name today.</p><p>The cult of the naked body even wrote itself into the ideology of fascist Germany, which advocated a pure, Aryan race. But in 1933, Hermann Göring issued an order that defined nudity as "the greatest threat to the German soul" and, with that, criminalized naturist organizations. But this wasn't the end of the movement. The naturists went underground, continuing their activities under the guise of improving physical fitness.</p><p>In 1936, the idea was even floated of having a naturist display to open the Berlin Olympic Games. It was quickly dropped. Despite this, in 1939 the naturists managed to organize their own Games in the Swiss village of Thielle.</p>
Alexandre Dumas' famous anecdote about Fake News in the 1800s has a surprising twist.
- Unfazed by his first defeat, Napoleon swept back into power in 1815, going from exile to emperor within a single month.
- Parisian newspapers scrambled to adapt: at the start of that month, Napoleon was a 'cannibal'; at the end, 'His Majesty'.
- For the first time ever, this map illustrates the spatial dimension of that shift – but the anecdote, made famous by Dumas, has a twist.
Napoleon's return<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzUwNzUyMC9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxNTQyMTk2NH0.l0fMraZJdCs0DXT5PvMVGi59tQh48XyKzUDf-GsB7Lc/img.png?width=980" id="8590f" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="582486983fc34779beeb1d20eacafe17" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Detail from \u2018D\u00e9barquement de Napol\u00e9on\u2019. Colored wood engraving by Fran\u00e7ois Georgin (1801-63). Print on paper." />
1 March 1815: Napoleon lands at Golfe-Juan. Detail from 'Débarquement de Napoléon' by François Georgin.
"The ultimate monument to journalism"<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzUwNzU1OC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyNDk5NjA1MX0.nOCJaZiMApEHtLmroT8SICpovVDHKvU-_HO5rHH056I/img.jpg?width=980" id="8cb81" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="3b21a70c12971923a92503468d6b97c8" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Photographic portrait from 1855 of Alexandre Dumas" />
In Une année à Florence (1841), Alexandre Dumas (pictured by Nadar in 1855) took a critical look at the attitudes of the Parisian press to Napoleon's return.
Image: Public Domain<p>In 1841, Alexandre Dumas <em>père</em> published a travelogue called "Une année à Florence" ('A year in Florence'). It contained a reflection on the believability of newspaper headlines, based on the reports on Napoleon's return to power in the Paris-based newspaper <em>Moniteur Universel</em> in March 1815. </p><p><span></span>As the official journal of the French government, that paper was hostile to Napoleon, at least when he started his campaign. Dumas notes that the attitude shifted as the deposed Emperor approached the seat of power: </p><p><span></span>"If you want to follow his victory march to Paris, you only have to consult the <em>Moniteur</em>. To guide our readers in this historical research, we will provide a rather curious sample. Step by step, it represents Napoleon's march towards Paris and shows the change his advance produces in the attitude of the newspaper."</p><p>Dumas then lists ten headlines which prove his point. Below are the original French headlines, plotted on the map are the English translations. For the first time ever, this map provides a spatial dimension to the shifting attitudes of the <em>Moniteur</em>. </p><ul><li><em>L'anthropophage est sorti de son repaire.</em></li><li><em>L'ogre de Corse vient de débarquer au golfe Juan.</em></li><li><em>Le tigre est arrivé à Gap. </em></li><li><em>Le monstre a couché à Grenoble. </em></li><li><em>Le tyran a traversé Lyon. </em></li><li><em>L'usurpateur a été vu à soixante lieues de la capitale. </em></li><li><em>Bonaparte s'avance à grands pas, mais il n'entrera jamais dans Paris. </em></li><li><em>Napoléon sera demain sous nos remparts. </em></li><li><em>L'empereur est arrivé à Fontainebleau.</em></li><li><em>Sa Majesté Impériale et Royale a fait hier son entrée en son château des Tuileries au milieu de ses fidèles sujets.</em></li></ul>Dumas concludes: "This is the ultimate monument to journalism. It need not do anything else, for it won't do anything better."
When legend becomes fact<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzU0MDQwOC9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY2NDY4NjY3NH0.pBR9gkcaDocFMKN7yEOLG2m6z8BVWVQ_7LTfY0ZH1uA/img.png?width=980" id="1625f" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="3b8d9a5201ab19c38bfab18c83aa73c0" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="\u200bMap by Frank Jacobs & Carrie Osgood illustrating Napoleon's return to Paris, from 1 to 20 March 1815." />
For the first time, a map that shows Napoleon's lightning march to retake power in Paris, and the headlines that accompanied him there.
Image: Frank Jacobs & Carrie Osgood<p>The <em data-redactor-tag="em" data-verified="redactor">Moniteur Universel</em> was known as <em data-redactor-tag="em" data-verified="redactor">le journal de la pensée officielle</em>, i.e. the record of 'official thought'. Perhaps not so different to the 'mainstream media' of today. In fact, some have drawn parallels between the <em data-redactor-tag="em" data-verified="redactor">Moniteur</em>'s initial dismissiveness of Napoleon's return, and the U.S. media's inability to comprehend Trump's march to victory in 2016. For that reason, and to illustrate the larger point that truth and journalism should not be mistaken for each other, the Dumas anecdote is regularly dusted off.<br></p><p><span data-verified="redactor" data-redactor-tag="span"></span>However, the story has another layer – and a two other important lessons about journalism. </p><p><span data-verified="redactor" data-redactor-tag="span"></span>Lesson number one: Check your sources. The entire run of the <em data-redactor-tag="em" data-verified="redactor">Moniteur Universel</em> <a href="https://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/cb34452336z/date.item" target="_blank">can be consulted online</a> via the <a href="https://www.bnf.fr/fr" target="_blank">French National Library</a>, including the relevant daily editions from March 1-20, 1815. They do not contain the titles that Dumas uses. In fact, as the journal of record, the <em data-redactor-tag="em" data-verified="redactor">Moniteur</em> mainly published decrees, statutes and ordinances – nothing quite as lurid as the headlines quoted by Dumas. </p><p>In <em data-redactor-tag="em" data-verified="redactor">Les Cent-Jours: Légende et réalité</em> (1983), French historian George Blond after extensive research is forced to conclude that "although the Emperor was insulted and dismissed as an adventurer or evildoer in some newspaper commentaries, this legendary series of newspaper headlines never did exist."</p><p>Of course, that won't stop the Dumas anecdote from resurfacing. And that second lesson is perhaps the ultimate one this anecdote can teach us about journalism: that the media – mainstream or otherwise – can't resist a good story. In the words of newspaperman Maxwell Scott in the John Ford western "The Man who Shot Liberty Vallance: "When the legend becomes fact, print the legend."</p><p><em data-redactor-tag="em" data-verified="redactor"><br></em></p><p><em data-redactor-tag="em" data-verified="redactor">Many thanks to <a href="https://carrieosgood.com/" target="_blank">Carrie Osgood</a>, who produced the map to complement Alexandre Dumas' anecdote. </em><em data-redactor-tag="em" data-verified="redactor">The map is available for purchase on her <a href="https://dataworldatlas.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">online store</a> in two versions, the <a href="https://dataworldatlas.com/posters.html#!/Napoleon-Map/p/239541152/category=0" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">basic map</a> (as shown above) and the <a href="https://dataworldatlas.com/posters.html#!/Napoleon-Map-&-Story/p/239559061/category=0" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">map with the story</a> (as shown below).</em><br></p><p><strong data-redactor-tag="strong">Strange Maps #1050</strong></p><p><em data-redactor-tag="em" data-verified="redactor">Got a strange map? Let me know at </em><a href="mailto:email@example.com">firstname.lastname@example.org</a><em data-redactor-tag="em" data-verified="redactor">.</em><br></p>
'Kanal Istanbul' would create a second Bosporus – and immortalize its creator.
- The Bosporus is three times busier than the Suez Canal, and getting worse.
- To resolve marine congestion, Turkey wants to build a 'second Bosporus'.
- The controversial project would alter local geography – and may have unintended consequences.
Special status<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDE3MzUzMS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxNDQxMzYwMn0.PD8GhSuczGaHXtbeYVu2fflJVb-GEumD2zVp85uxKdM/img.jpg?width=980" id="edc93" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="3e0bab0158a3913187365993758813fc" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="freighter ship" />
The freighter Ismael Mehieddine sailing through the Bosporus in 2014, with the Hagia Sophia (left) and the Galata Tower (right) in the background. Heavy traffic and dangerous cargo create the permanent threat of serious accidents in the middle of one the biggest cities on earth – as have happened in the past.
Image: Julian Nyča, CC BY-SA 4.0<p>"It does not befit Turkey to think small or to act small," Recep Teyyip Erdogan said last December, countering critics of his Istanbul Canal project. On this much at least those critics agree with the Turkish president: 'Kanal Istanbul' will have a huge impact on the megacity. For starters, it will unmoor the historical core of Istanbul from Europe, turning it into an island. </p><p>Whether as Byzantium or Constantinople in previous ages or as Istanbul today, the city on the Bosporus (1) derives its importance from that narrow waterway. The Bosporus separates Europe from Asia and connects the Mediterranean to the Black Sea. Istanbul is the only city in the world that links two continents and two seas. It doesn't get more strategic than that. </p><p>That's reflected by the strait's special status. Signed in 1936, the <a href="http://www.mfa.gov.tr/implementation-of-the-montreux-convention.en.mfa" target="_blank">Montreux Convention</a> gave merchant vessels from any country free passage through the Bosporus. Navy vessels can also pass through, with some very specific restrictions (2). Only in wartime may Turkey pro-actively clamp down on maritime traffic through the strait. </p><p>That makes the Bosporus - at a certain point only 2,300 ft (700 m) wide - the world's narrowest international waterway. Over the decades since Montreux was signed, it's also turned into the busiest. In 1934, about 4,500 vessels crossed the strait. By 2017, that number had increased almost twelve-fold, to 53,000. That's more than three times the number of ships that sailed through the Suez Canal that year (17,000), and more than four times the figure for the Panama Canal (12,000). </p><p>Plus, about one in five ships passing through the Bosporus each year is a tanker carrying hazardous materials. In 2018, that added up to 150 million tons of dangerous cargo.</p>
Currents and curves<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDE3Mzc2OS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyODY1NDY5MH0.O0XLlytr3Cw875lyNohqCygTpcB1HAsJN5pCfQpwHsE/img.jpg?width=980" id="7b6c4" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="324f5304036ab8830bbb98376a7ac759" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Bosphorus" />
The Bosporus as seen from the International Space Station, showing coastal waters from the Black Sea carried into the Sea of Marmara.
Image: NASA, Public Domain<p>Considering that average ship size has more than doubled since Montreux, and that the Bosporus is a natural waterway with 13 sharp curves, strong bidirectional currents and heavy traffic, there is always a risk of serious accidents – as shown by past incidents.</p><ul><li>In 1960, a collision of the oil tankers Peter Verovitz (Yugoslavia) and World Harmony (Greece) killed 20 and created a large oil spill.</li><li>In 1966, a collision of two Soviet oil tankers, the Lutsk and the Kransky, led to a huge oil spill and a fire on the Kadiköy Pier, the main ferry pier on the Asiatic side.</li><li>In 1970, the Italian oil tanker Ancona collided with a building on shore, killing five.</li><li>In 1979, an accident with the Romanian oil tanker Independenta killed 51 and its cargo of 95,000 tons of oil caught fire. The blaze burned for a whole month. The wreckage hindered traffic for years afterwards. </li><li>In 2018, the freigther Vitaspirit collided with the historical wooden villa of Hekimbasi Salih Efendi, causing massive damage.</li></ul><p>And the international shipping isn't even half the story, for it doesn't include <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OO6XzfKbdM0&ab_channel=MSMarineDiesel" target="_blank">local traffic</a>: almost 2,000 ferry rides carry about 500,000 commuters across the Bosporus every day. </p><p>Smaller accidents happen regularly; to prevent the larger ones, the Turkish government has banned the night passage of tankers longer than 200 meters, among other measures. That doesn't improve the waiting times for ships on either side of the strait, which sometimes have to queue for days before they can cross over.<br></p>
A second Bosporus<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDE3NDAyMS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1MTM0OTcxMn0.If0Dd-iFiMSShIfkBtoFJBeBGDie_pKr_MkwHnN46jc/img.jpg?width=980" id="c0f01" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="25dda4d8a5b55b7bf55e3ce43351ca28" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Overview of Kanal Istanbul" />
Overview of Kanal Istanbul and some of the surrounding projects, including the already inaugurated new airport (northeast) and the yet to be developed city around the canal (center).
Image: Property Turkey<p>With traffic predicted to hit 86,000 ships by 2070, the evident solution is a new waterway, a second Bosporus: 'Kanal Istanbul'. It must be said that Erdogan's idea is hardly original. The first to float it was Suleiman the Magnificent (1520-22). The idea was subsequently adopted and abandoned by succeeding sultans at the regular rate of once per century: Murad III (16th c.), Mehmed IV (17th c.), Mustafa III (18th c.) and Mahmoud II (19th c.) </p><p><span></span>As if not to break the chain, four-time Turkish prime minister Bülent Ecevit revived the idea for an electoral campaign in the 1990s. Ideas of such historical persistence have a way of coming back until they are fulfilled (3), and indeed: Ecevit's successor Erdogan, then still prime minister, reanimated the plan in 2011, for yet another electoral campaign.</p><p><span></span>In fact, the canal was one of three 'crazy projects' – Erdogan's own words – designed to raise Turkey's GDP to $2 trillion by 2023, the 100th anniversary of the Turkish republic. The other two were the world's biggest airport, and a superhighway linking it to the city and beyond. The new Istanbul Airport opened last year. However, work on Kanal Istanbul has hit some delays. </p><p><span></span>The canal's final route was announced only in 2018. It will run about 19 miles (30 km) west of the Bosporus, from Lake Küçükçekmece in the south, through the districts of Avcilar and Basaksehir inland, with most of the route carving through Arnavutköy in the north. When finished, the canal will be 28 miles (45 km) long, 69 ft (20.75 m) deep and 1,180 ft (360 m) wide at the surface; 900 ft (275 m) at the bottom. It will be able to accommodate ships of up to 1,150 ft (350 m) long and 160 ft (49 m) wide, with a draft of 58 ft (17 m).</p><p>The cost of the project, estimated initially to be $8-10 billion, has already been revised upward to $16.5 billion. A project this size creates its own weather, so to speak, even before it's under way. Visions of a new city housing half a million people rising up along the canal have sent local real estate prices soaring. But Kanal Istanbul has also run into some tough headwinds: the project has a vocal and powerful opponent in <a href="https://twitter.com/imamoglu_int" target="_blank">Ekrem Imamoglu</a>, who was elected mayor of Istanbul in 2019. <br></p>