Perim Island (or Meyún) and Bab-El-Mandeb Small Strait Surveyed by Lieutt. F. J. Gray, R.N., and the Officers of H.M.S. Nassau, 1874.
Engraved map. 860 x 690 mm.
Extremely detailed chart of Perim Island (also called Mayyun in Arabic) in the Strait of Mandeb, at the southern entrance to the Red Sea.
Perim is a small but geopolitically important island at the entrance to the Red Sea. With the beginning of the French-backed Suez Canal project in the 1850s, the United Kingdom became convinced of the need to offset French power along the route. A number of options were undertaken to counter the French, including the occupation of Perim in 1856. The island was occupied by the Governor of Bombay, under the justification that it had been claimed by the East India Company in 1799 and was therefore already a dependency of India. Perim's inner harbour, as illustrated on the map, could accommodate very large vessels. It was consequently thought a good place for a coaling station, which was established in the 1880s. Water for the steam engine condensers was also provided on Perim (as labeled on the map). Shortly before this map was printed, during World War I, Ottoman forces landed on the island from Aden to attempt to take it and cut British communication through the Red Sea. The invasion was fought back and troops landed by the Royal Navy at Aden ended any future threat to the island. In 1967, the British attempted to have the island internationalized, to ensure the long-term security of the Red Sea-Suez route, but this was refused. In that year the island was handed over to the People's Republic of South Yemen. In 2008 the island was to be a component in the so-called Bridge of Horns, which was to link Yemen and Djibouti and be the largest bridge in the world. The Dubai-backed project did not proceed beyond the planning stage. The island was the site of a battle during the Yemeni Civil War, in which previously displaced Perim natives took the island back from Houthis with the aid of UAE forces.