Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 87.djvu/67

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nitude could not be tolerated by the other large nations in view of the menace constituted thereby to unimpeded transit of men and merchandise.

Expression of the tense political situation resulting from the importance of the site is given in the number of treaties forbidding the transit of armed vessels through the straits. Conventions signed by Turkey and European powers prior to the nineteenth century had closed the straits of the Dardanelles as well as the Bosporus to men-of-war. In the middle of the nineteenth century these agreements acquired validity as declarations of a principle deserving permanent application. An international conference, held in London, ratified on July 13, 1841, all previous agreements by the signing of a convention in which the Sultan bound himself to forbid access of the Dardanelles or Bosporus to foreign war vessels. The European signatory powers to this agreement were Great Britain, Russia, France, Austria and Prussia.[1] Since then the value of mastery of this watery stretch of an intercontinental route has acquired such proportion that the presence of storm-tossed war-vessels seeking refuge from the fury of the elements sufficed to raise vehement protests against their presence in the forbidden waters.[2]

To our own generation at a time when the economic importance of a region is the prime consideration affecting its world relation the gauging of the value of the Eurasian waterways must be determined by their central location with reference to the continents of Europe, Asia and Africa. Between Paris and Bagdad or Aden the overland route is continuous save for a short mile of water at the Bosporus. Here a bridge will undoubtedly connect the two continents in a day which can not be delayed much further. Man's achievement will thus have crowned nature's work once again. A minimum width of channel breaking the continuity of land along the northwest-southeast intercontinental road provided by nature is a requirement of modern conditions no less than it was in former centuries. Present exigencies differ, however, from the necessities of early days. Security had formerly been sought in the well-nigh unbroken stretch of land affording access from Europe to Asia, and vice versa. Rapidity of communication has now become the desideratum of greatest import.

Thus the advantages inherent in the site of the Dardanelles to Bosporus Strait determined its relation to humanity settled far from its limited area. A road is to a large degree the joint property of its users. The political status of the Eurasian waterways hence affects the inter-

  1. P. Macey, "Statut International des Détroits," Lechevalier, Paris, 1912.
  2. In October, 1849, a British fleet under the command of Admiral Parker while at anchor in Besika Bay was driven by a violent storm to seek shelter at Hauslar Bay in the Dardanelles. The incident elicited a protest from the Russian ambassador in Constantinople, notwithstanding the retirement of the English men-of-war to Besika Bay after the storm had subsided.