The Chunnel or the Le Tunnel Sous la Manche.
I am hurtling my way through a tunnel under the sea some 75 meters deep. It’s black out there. Ears pop, coffee is poured and soon I will be on the other side in France having traveling 31.4 miles undersea. I’ve gone to Paris on the Euro Star before, and I’ve always thought, Oh how modern am I, but truth be told, the tunnel under the sea was first conceived in 1802 by the French Engineer Albert Mathieu, who envisioned horse-drawn carriages, gas lit tunnels and an island halfway for the horses to be changed and rested. What would he have thought of our gleaming silver bullet cracking on at lighting speed? I think he would have been delighted.
It was Queen Victoria and Napoleon 11 who approved an under sea tunnel designed by Aime Thome de Gamond. Gamond then went on to devote over 30 years of his life to his tunnel. He would dive off a boat rowed by his daughter to do his geological surveys! Imagine, the first tunnel boring started in 1880 and the Chunnel wasn’t up and running until 1994 when the first train crossed under the water. Over a hundred years to get this sorted! Sometimes it takes patience beyond patience to see a dream realized!
Treaties have been signed, plans were drawn up on both the English and French Sides, budgets broke (with some 80 percent over budget), political pressure stalled the building of the tunnel when national securities were thought to be compromised, fires have broken out in the tunnel, and illegal immigrants have tried to enter the United Kingdom through it undersea corridor. If that wasn’t enough, lorry fires, and even snow has played with the tunnels fine workings, but nothing stopped it in the end. Not man nor nature.
Digging out the tunnel was a collaborative work of two great countries digging with 11 boring machines to cut through the chalk marl on the English Side and on the French. The Chunnel was finally finished in 1994 and light appeared on both sides. It was opened in Calais on 6 May 1994, and I started to use it promptly afterwards.
I can be in Paris in a few hours or today, it’s Brussels and then on to Holland. I still to this day just find that amazing.
I’m on the other side now. A short time has passed, and my coffee hasn’t even gown cold. The houses decidedly look French with red-tiled roofs, and the countryside is being threatened by rain today. There is a different feeling when in Europe. I don’t know whether it’s the vague idea that I have left an island and now land stretches before me forever. Without sailing, I can end up in the Far East. The land now goes on forever and changes from village to village, from people to people, custom to custom. Different languages now will assault my ears. French, Dutch, German will prompt recognition and suddenly English will sound so loud. I will pick out English voices in a crowd of a hundred, the vowels and enunciation’s will beckon my brain with the familiar.
The train is rocking away at high-speed towards Brussels right now. I’d take a photo if the outside would stay still long enough, but trees whip by in a blur! It is time now to practice my French, so a plus tard, and in Dutch, heb een goede reis! It’s all very gezzelig!