The Karnak as seen in the 1978 Ustinov adaptation. The actual boat was the Memnon but a view from the stern quarter such as this is likely to have been that of the replica built on the sound stage at Pinewood Studios. Anything with the bow section would have to be on location with the actual boat.

In the novel Death on the Nile, S. S. Karnak is a steamer travelling on the river Nile in Egypt. It is smaller than the Papyrus and the Lotus, two other steamers traveling on the Nile. This boat is the main setting for the novel. Hercule Poirot took a vacation on board the boat, and solved several murders which took place there.

The Karnak is believed to be based on the S. S. Sudan (sometimes known as the P. S. Sudan.) Agatha Christie took a trip on this boat with her husband in 1933 and was inspired to write the novel. The boat still runs Nile cruises today and has a suite named after Christie.

Passengers on Promenade deck

Some editions of the novel (e.g. the 1st ed.) included a cabin plan of the promenade deck. This is reproduced below. However, note that some of the cabin assignments contradict what is said in the text.


Saloon





43
vacant
22
Fanthorp[1]
42
vacant
23
Tim Allerton[2]
41
Cornelia Robson[3]
24
Mrs Allerton[4]
40
Jacqueline de Bellefort[5]
25
Simon Doyle[6]
38/39
(de luxe room with bath)
Andrew Pennington[7]
26/27
(de luxe room with bath)
Linnet Doyle[8]
36/37
(de luxe room with bath)
Dr Bessner[9]
28/29
(de luxe room with bath)
Mrs van Schuyler[10]
34/35
(double room)
The Otterbournes
30/31
(double room)
Hercule Poirot
33
Miss Bowers
32
Colonel Race


Contradictions: The relative positions of the cabins are consistent with the text. But in Chapter 13, Cornelia Robson says she is in cabin 43. In chapter 18, Andrew Pennington says: "I have the cabin right next to Dr Bessner's number forty--forty one."


Passengers on Lower deck


Crew


Portrayals

Death on the Nile 1978

Many sources say that the P. S. Sudan was used for the filming of the the 1978 Ustinov film adaptation of Death on the Nile. Suchet says the same thing in his book Poirot and Me. However the boat used in the film is smaller and has a different configuration of the wheelhouse and the section around the paddle wheel.

It is believed that the boat used is actually the S. S. Memnon.[11] This was a former Thomas Cook boat which after several changes of ownership was last with Seti Cruises. Unfortunately the boat is last seen broken up on a scrapyard.[12] Photos of the Memnon are rare. One can be seen from the archived website of Seti Cruises. The actual website is no longer operating.[13] Another site, Nile-Cruise-Egypt.com still has a page inviting passengers for the Memnon![14]

The recent photos of the Memnon shows it with new exquisite wood bodywork (the Memnon in the film had white bodywork] but the distinctive white funnel and the sloping steps going up the rear of the paddle wheel are quite distinctive.

The website of the famous photographer Fred Ihrt has several photos of the Memnon taken in 1977 which shows the ship in white, as it looked in the film.[15]

The actual Memnon was used for shooting of some scenes on location but according to the "Making of Death on the Nile featurette", a replica of the boat was built in a tank on a sound stage at Pinewood Studios. This was used for shooting other scenes such as interiors and night time on the deck. The replica resembled the original in great detail except that it was missing the front 13 ft of the bow section because the sound stage was not big enough. The tank could be flooded with 12 inches of water and waves and other features could be replicated. Fake river banks were also constructed on the set.

Death on the Nile (2004)

In the 2004 Suchet adaptation, the P. S. Sudan was used to portray the Karnak. Agatha Christie herself sailed took a Nile Cruise on the Sudan in 1933 and this inspired her to write the novel. The Sudan is much larger than the Memnon.

References

  1. Confirmed in Chapter 13: "Your cabin is number twenty-two on the starboard side--the one nearest the saloon.
  2. Confirmed in Chapter 16. According to Colonel Race, after Fanthorp was "young Allerton, Mrs Allerton. Then an empty cabin--Simon Doyle's."
  3. Room number contradicts what she says in Chapter 13: "Forty-three on the port side--right next door to Miss de Bellefort."
  4. See footnote for Tim Allerton.
  5. Correct relative to the others. In Chapter 29, "Jacqueline's cabin was just two away from Dr Bessners" and from Chapter 13, next to Cornelia Robson... but Robson is 43?
  6. Used as a dressing room only. Chapter 13 and 16.
  7. Room number contradicts what Pennington said in Chapter 18: "I have the cabin right next to Dr Bessner's number forty--forty one."
  8. Chapter 13.
  9. Room number contradicts what Pennington said in Chapter 18.
  10. Chapter 13.
  11. TravelGumbo: In Egypt The Sudan This travel blog on the Sudan which has a section on the Memnon.
  12. Paddlesteams.info: Memnonor Archive URL The Memnon as of 2018
  13. SetiFirst.com/View Nile Cruises This archived URL for the Seti First Group shows a picture of the Memnon in their fleet.
  14. Nile Cruises/Memnon This website for Memnon Cruises shows pictures of the Memnon. The site is still up but it is unlikely that the boat is actually in operation.
  15. FredIhrt.com: Egypt 1977 Look for a white paddle steamer.
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