The journey that Sarah and Lieutenant Forsythe take from India to England is one that travellers in the early 1800s would have had to brave before the Suez Canal was completed and the establishment of direct voyages from England to India.
The two departed from Bombay on the Hugh Lindsay steamer, a boat that sailed between Bombay and Suez. It was a vessel built by the East India Company and weighed 411 tons. She never carried cargo, but mainly carried mail and passengers. She was confined to chugging backwards and forwards on the Red Sea rather than trying to sail the full distance between Bombay and Portsmouth.
There was no direct route between England and India in 1838 so travellers had to journey to Suez and then from Suez to Cairo over 80 miles of desert on camels or sand carts. The port of Cairo was a donkey ride from the city where passengers had to then sail on the Nile to Enfe. From Enfe they would then have to take the Mahmoudieh Canal to the city of Alexandria.
Alexandria was the last city that travellers had to visit before taking a steamer to Portsmouth, and then finally a coach ride or horse would take travellers from Portsmouth to London.
This journey could take months to complete if the weather was bad. Construction on the Suez Canal began in 1859 and was finished in 1869. It was opened on 17th November 1869.
The Suez Canal begins at Port Said, a city that was established for the canal in Egypt and finishes at Port Twefik, now known as the Suez Port. When the canal was completed the journey between England and India was reduced down to only ten to twenty days.
It was originally a single-lane waterway with places at the Ballah Bypass and the Great Bitter Lake for ships to pass each other.
Seawater flows freely through the canal as it has no locks or gates. In 2014, construction began to expand the canal which was officially opened on 24th February 2016.
You can find out why Lady Sarah and Lieutenant Forsythe were taking this perilous journey from India to England in A Thief in Stickleback Hollow, book 1 in C.S. Woolley‘s Mysteries of Stickleback Hollow.
Not everything is as simple as it first appears in the Mysteries of Stickleback Hollow. Step back in time to Victorian England with these charming books that combine the best of Jane Austen, Agatha Christie and the quintessentially British country manor to bring you historical fiction that will leave your heart racing.