09-May-2003 -- Since I first learned of the Confluence Project in mid 2001 I have certainly
passed the English Channel (La Manche) more than 20 times. But either it
happened in the night, or the visibility has been always too restricted to
make some photos of 50N 2W.
Today, however, the visibility was excellent, and when the island of
Alderney, a British possession off the coast of
France, with its offlying rocks in the West, - Les Casquets came
into sight already on a distance of 35 nautical miles (65 km), we knew that
50N 2W could be bagged easily today.
Through all the English Channel, from the Île d'Ouessant off Northwestern
France up to the Dover Strait (Pas de Calais) the ships' traffic, similar as
on a highway route ashore, is divided according a so called "traffic
separation scheme" (T.S.S.). The Northeastbound traffic flows along the
French coast, the Soutwestbound one along the Coast of England.
Especially since the recent tanker incident of the "Prestige" off the coast
of Northwestern Spain the Western European countries are very concerned to
avoid a similar desaster and are strictly enforcing that ships do follow the
traffic separation lanes. All traffic is radar-controlled from various
stations ashore and a reporting system via VHF is established.
lies East of the "OFF CASQUETS T.S.S.", exactly on the track to the Dover
Strait, and so our visit to it could be effected without any unlawful
It can be well observed, how the traffic separation scheme through the
English Channel does work, when you have a look on the confluence area as it
is seen on our radar. We are in the centre of the screen. Alderney can be seen in
direction 220° (SW), Cherbourg on the Cotentin Peninsula lies to the SE in
direction 150°, the yellow spots are other ships, and the light green trails
are their "history".
The Northwesternmost tip of the Cotentin Peninsula is called Cap de La Hague.
Of course not all ships are passing at the same speed. Overtaking in quite
close distances is common and frequent. Just during our visit we overtook
another ship, the "Kondor".
For ships' enthusiasts:
This is a typical so called "Handysize Bulker".
A "Bulker", or bulk carrier, is designed to carry goods in large quantities,
as coal, ore, fertilizer and all kind of grain.
A "HANDYSIZE" is mostly equipped with its own cargo gear (cranes or
derricks) and can carry about 30,000 tons of cargo. They usually have a
length of about 180 metres (590 ft). The next larger class, the
"PANAMAX-Bulker", is mostly gearless and its size is specially adapted to
the dimension of the Panama Canal locks. The length is about 220 m (720 ft)
and the beam exactly 30,3 m (100 ft). A "Panamax can carry up to 70,000 tons
of cargo. The largest bulk carriers are the "CAPESIZERS". They can no longer
transit the Panama Canal, but have to pass around Cape Hoorn. They are built
for the transport for extremely huge quantities of cargoes (up to 350,000
tons), and have a lenght of up to almost 400 m (1,300 ft).