This astronaut photograph captures a northbound convoy of cargo ships entering the Mediterranean Sea from the Suez Canal in Egypt (leftmost canal branch at image center). The Suez Canal connects Port Said on the Mediterranean Sea with the port of Suez on the Red Sea, and provides an essentially direct route for transport of goods between Europe and Asia. The Canal is 163 kilometers (approximately 100 miles) long, and 300 meters (almost 1,000 feet) wide at its narrowest point--wide enough for ships as large as aircraft carriers to traverse it. Transit time from end to end is 14 hours on average.
The Canal was built under the direction of Ferdinand de Lesseps of France using primarily Egyptian labor, and it was opened to traffic in 1869. Subsequent wars and skirmishes have passed control of the Canal to various powers including the United Kingdom, Egypt, Israel, and the United Nations. A multinational observer force including the United States, Israel, and Egypt currently oversees the Canal.
This is an oblique image of the canal, meaning it has been taken at an angle. Astronauts and cosmonauts on the International Space Station (ISS) can photograph the part of the Earth directly below the station as it passes overhead, or they can photograph different parts of the globe. When they photograph different parts of the globe, they take pictures at an angle to provide a sense of perspective. In this case, the ISS was located above the eastern coast of Cyprus, and the astronaut was looking at Egypt to the southwest. Regions of reduced clarity in the image result from thin cloud cover. The day this image was taken, the total number of Earth photographs acquired by astronauts aboard the ISS passed 200,000.