On the banks of the River Thames in central London, an ancient Egyptian obelisk, known as Cleopatra’s Needle, reaches towards the sky. Carved from a single slab of red granite, it is 69 feet tall, weighs a substantial 224 tonnes, is decorated with hieroglyphs, and was made for the Pharaoh Thotmes III in 1460 BC.
In 1877, six sailors lost their lives transporting the obelisk from Alexandria. Mohammed Ali, Viceroy of Egypt, gave it to the Prince Regent in thanks for the British victories over the French at the Battle of the Nile and Battle of Alexandria. The Cleopatra, a specially designed iron cylinder container, was used to carry it, towed by a steam-ship. A hurricane off the Bay of Biscay resulted in the brief disappearance of the Cleopatra and the drowning of half the crew.