Launch on the Euphrates, Mesopotamia
March 25, 1920
We left Kal’at es-Sikkar early yesterday morning in Crawford’s launch for Shatra where we arrived without accident at Shatra, 40 miles south of Kal’at es-Sikkar on the Shatt el-Hai. Unfortunately I have not my copy of your Philips map with me here, as we have left our heavy baggage at Nasiriya, so I cannot give you the places as noted on your map. At Shatra we found 4 cars awaiting us: two vans and two 5-passenger cars. We did not stop for lunch but went on at once in order to do the 40 miles of very bad road from Shatra back to Nasiriya before dark. Our imbecile of a … van driver from Basrah lost first an inner tube and then the casing without knowing it! We picked up first the tube and then the casing, and the [driver], 1/4 mile in advance of us was calmly running on the rim! till we overtook and stopped him!
Nasriyeh: University of Chicago party stopping to adjust tire trouble; Arab woman passing in the background. (N. 3528, P. 7088)
Arriving at Nasiriya at a little after 4 p.m., we found Major Ditchburn the Political Officer had two launches all ready for our immediate departure. We had done 40 miles by launch on the Shatt el-Hai, and 40 miles by car and would have been glad of a rest, but were anxious to get on. Everyday gained means getting home one day earlier and you cannot think or begin to think what that means to me! It was after six, when all delays were surmounted and we started up the Euphrates for Duradji or Daraji 40 miles away. Our stuff was in one launch and we rode in the other. There was a little cabin with side seats and table, and a charcoal stove aft; so Ali got us some supper. A feeble quarter moon served us till possibly 10 o’clock, and when it disappeared we ran aground. At 11:00 we anchored till dawn, when we slogged on again for two hours, arriving at Daraji in time for a brief excursion to the extensive ruins of Warka, mentioned in the Old Testament as Erech. The local sheikh had been notified in advance to meet us with horses and as the ruins were distant only 1-1/2 hours ride we were all on board the launch again and underway on the return trip to Nasiriya by 4:30 p.m.
Nasriyeh: Sunset on the Euphrates with palms in the background. (N. 3530, P. 7090)
These launches, which the British have brought out, seem strange enough in these ancient oriental surroundings. I knew nothing of them until our arrival and they are proving as helpful as they were unexpected, saving us many a long and weary land march, — that is both time and strength.
For the full story of my exciting trip you should come to the special exhibit “Pioneers to the Past: American Archaeologists in the Middle East, 1919-1920,” at the Oriental Institute!
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