The Panama Canal

This collection of Construction Day photographs is part of a presentation Colonel George W. Goethals made before the National Geographic Society on February 10, 1911.  Colonel Goethals' remarks can be found at The Panama Canal.

Map of Canal Route

A Street in the City of Panama as it appeared when the United States Obtained Control of the Canal

The Same Street Repaired by the American Administration (All the streets of Panama and Colon have been renovated in a similar manner.  Many miles of macadamized roads have also been built in outlying districts)

The Customary Laborer's Mess, Panama Railroad Relocation

Laborers Waiting for the Meal Hour at One of the Kitchens for the "Silver Roll" (To avoid the color question, all employees are divided into two classes: those paid in gold, who form the "gold roll," and those paid in silver, the "silver roll."  Americans and Europeans belong to the former, and the West Indians and Panamans to the latter.  These men can get a meal ticket for 30 cents after they have done one's work, entitling them to three meals.  The three-meals cost the Commission 27.29 cents.)

That Part of Hotel at Culebra in Which Men Are Permitted To Eat Without Their Coats (This is not Europeans' mess, but gold employees' hotel.   Europeans pay 40 cents per day for three meals; gold employees, 30 cents per meal; negroes, 30 cents per day, three meals.)

A Group of Italian Laborers (These men are paid from 16 to 20 cents an hour.)

Spanish Laborers on the Canal (The popularity of the work on the Isthmus has become so great that it is no longer necessary for the Canal Commission to bring in shiploads of recruits from the West Indies and Europe.   Laborers are so attracted by the good pay, fair treatment, and excellent living conditions that more than 2,000 came from Spain and Italy during 1910.  Old laborers who had left the work to go to Brazil and South American countries have also been returning to the Isthmus in large numbers, seeking re-employment.  There at present about 35,000 on the rolls of the canal works.)

Sleeping Quarters for European Laborers, Showing the Three Rows of "Standee" Bunks (The Commission maintains about 150 houses in which approximately 5,700 European bachelor laborers are quartered.)

A Typical Labor Train (Locomotive engineers are paid from $180 to $210 a month in United States currency; locomotive firemen from $50 to $60 a month, and common laborers from 10 cents to 20 cents an hour.)

100,000-Gallon Reinforced Concrete Reservoir (Built on Naos Island for the Culebra Island Quarantine Station at a Cost of $5,064; 1910)

Spraying Crude Oil in Ditches to Exterminate the Mosquitoes (The sanitary department spent $43,000 last year for the purchase of oil and to pay laborers to distribute it.)

Ditch Cleaned by Hand Labor, Showing Condition Two Months After Cleaning

Condition of Ditch Two Months After Grass-Burning

Swamp No. 4, Mount Hope, Near Colon, Showing the Arrangement of Open-Earth Drains Used for Swampy Areas (The sanitary department expended $88,500 in 1910 for maintaining existing ditches and to construct new ones, $127,023.28 in grass and brush cutting, and $72,424 for the removal of night soil and garbage.)

Method of Excavation for Storm Sewer, "D" Street, Colon, July, 1910 (Before the Americans assumed control of the canal there were no sewers and but one water system in the Zone.  Panama, Colon, and all the towns along the line of the canal have since been provided with excellent water, and sewers for the principal sections have been constructed.)

A Nearly Completed Section of the Storm Sewer in "D" Street, Colon, July, 1910 (The lower half of the sewer is round and the upper half square.)

Colon Hospital Grounds, Nurses' Hall, and Quarters for Physicians (As the result of the care of the santary department, the health of the owrkmen is steadily improving.  The daily average of sick in 1910 was 23.01 out of every thousand, employed, compared to 23.49 for 1909, and 23.85 for 1908.  The number of deaths among employees was 548, equivalent to an average of 10.84 per thousand, which would compare very favorably with the death rate of a similar class of people anywhere in the Temperate Zone.  No cases of plague or yellow fever originated on the Isthmus.   The deaths from typhoid fever among employees were only sixteen, one of whom was white and fifteen black, a remarkable record.)

Unloading Dynamite From Ship at Pier 13, Mount Hope, Canal Zone: 1910 (Last year 14,742,400 pounds of dynamite and blasting powder wree shipped to the Isthmus for work on the canal.  350,000 tons of material, valued at $10,103,552.34, were received from the Untied States during 1910.  The value of local purchases, including coal and oil was $2,094,131.02—345,185 tons of coal and 465,921 barrels of fuel oil were used.)

Quartermaster's Corral at Ancon, Built in 1910 (This is the largest corral on the Isthmus; 600 horses, ponies, and mules are owned by the department.)

Culebra Cut, Opposite Town of Culebra, Looking North, June 10, 1910, After a Heavy Rain of One Hour (There is a record of 5.86 inches of rainfall in one hour.)

Steam Shovels Submerged in the Cut at Bas Obispo During a Flood

The Chagres River Breaking Through a Protection Dike and Flooding the Canal (The Chagres River has been known to rise 25.6 feet in 24 hours)

Deposits of Sand and Gravel Brought Down by High Floods of the Chagres River in November and December, 1909

Track Raising and Shifting Machine (This powerful machine lifts the track and ties clear of the ground and then deposits them from three to nine feet away.  It bends the steel rails as easily as if they were made of clay.)

Cut at Empire, Looking North (In the upper right-hand corner is seen the break in the rock bank which let the Obispo diversion into the canal for three days, drowning out some of the shovels at the north end.  This break aggregates about 40,000 cubic yards, but will not be disturbed until the dry season.   A flume has been constructed of timber and concrete to carry the flow of the diversion past the break.)

Break in the West Bank of the Canal at Culebra (Note the successive benches of which the shovels work.  Nearly one-fifth of all the material removed from Culebra Cut in 1910 was from slides and breaks like this.)

Another View of the Break in the West Bank at Culebra, Showing Four Steam Shovels Working on the Broken and Moving Mass (The two upper shovels are casting material over the berm, to be loaded by the two lower shovels into the Lindgerwood train.  This break has necessitated the removal of nearly 2,000,000 cubic yards.)

Break in the East Bank of the Canal, Opposite Culebra, June, 1910

Break in the East Bank at Culebra (Showing how the pressure of the broken bank, shown in the preceding picture, has raised the bottom, for a short distance, to a height of 18 feet above its original level.  A similar break advanced 14 feet in 24 hours, overturning the steam shovels and disheartening the men.   There is no way to prevent these breaks.)

Culebra Cut, Looking North

A Temporary Trestle Across the Brazo Bottom, Looking South (One of the most difficult tasks connected with the canal is to relocate and rebuild the Panama Railroad, and at the same time not to interfere with the tremendous traffic across the Isthmus.  The large lake which is being created by the Gatun Dam will completely submerge the present railway for the greater part of its length.   This illustration shows a depression, across which an embankment nearly a mile long, and containing 1,500,000 cubic yards of earth and rock, must be built to hold the railway above the level of the lake.

Relocating the Panama Railroad Across the Valley of the Gatun River:  This Embankment Will Be Three-Fourths of a Mile Long and Contain 1,000,000 Cubic Yards

Building Gatun Dam by Hydraulic Fill:  Lift, 63 Feet; Length of Pipe, 4,300 Feet (The dam is constructed by forming two dumps on the outer lines of the structure and depositing waste material, mostly rock, obtained from Culebra, the lock site, and Mindi.  The area between the piles thus formed is filled with the material pumped in by hydraulic dredges, the natural surface of the ground having been previously cleared of vegetation and a suitable bonding trench excavated.)

View of Porto Bello Quarry, About 20 Miles East of Colon, Showing Crushing Plant and Shipping Bins (This plant, owned by the goverment, supplies the curshed stone for the concrete work at Gatun.  The amount of stone quarried and crushed in the fiscal year, 1910 was 549,678 cubic yards, at an average cost for the last six months of $2.6283 per cubic yard delivered in the stock-pile at Gatun, this cost including plant charges and division expenses.  The greatest month's output was in June—a total of 74,184.)

Ingenious Machinery (To handle the millions of tons of stone, sand, and cement required for building the locks, ingenious machinery has been installed which automatically selects the right proportions of stone, sand, and cement and mixes the material.  The piles in the foreground in the above picture are sand; the darker piles on the further side of the railway track are stone.   Grab-buckets shoot down from the arms of the crane, bite into the piles, shoot back to the crane, and feed their loads into the mixer, where cement has been already delivered in bags or barrels.)

One of the Automatic Concrete Mixers Loading Concrete in Buckets (The government has contracted for 4,500,000 barrels of cement for the various locks, dams, and structures of the canal.  If these barrels were placed in a single line touching each other they would reach from New York to Denver.)

General View of Upper Locks and Forebay, Gatun, Looking North, in 1909 (Four duplex cableways span the locks, with steel towers 85 feet high and 800 feet apart.  They pick up from the delivery car the big buckets of concrete, send them out on the aerial trams, and lower them where required.  One man operates a cableway, controlling all the movements by switches located on a platform on each head tower.  In addition to delivering concrete in the locks, the cableways are used to lift material from the lock site and dump it by an aerial dumping device, to handle forms for the concrete work, and to handle the parts of the gates and the gate-operating machinery.  The carrying cable is a locked steel wire 2 1/4 inches in diameter, its carrying capacity being considerably over 6 tons.  Twenty trips an hour can be made on each cableway.  The greatest lift is 170 feet.  The towers are set on tracks on which they can be easily moved along the lock site as the work progresses.)

Another View of the Aerial Cableways Used at the Gatun Locks: Looking North From East Bank, August 25, 1909 (This illustration shows the early stages of the construction of these locks.  The two "squares" on the left are timber forms in which concrete was laid in sections for the foundations.   The uprights on the right are old French rails imbedded in the concrete to reinforce the floor.  The floor of the Gatun locks varies in thickness from 13 to 20 feet of solid concrete anchored with these rails.)

Buckets of Concrete Ready to Descend and be Placed by the Men Waiting Below (This view of the upper locks at Gatun (looking south from the middle lock) was taken December 30, 1910, and shows the walls of the twin upper locks practically completed.  Note the steel forms [1] for the construction of the walls.)

Receiving the Concrete (Note the men standing on top of the wall on the extreme left.  The largest amount of concrete laid in any one month at Gatun is 89,401 cubic yards.  The average cost of the concrete per yard in place for 1910 was $7,355, including plant charges and division expenses.  To build the Gatun locks 2,250,000 barrels of cement will be required.)

The East Chamber of the Upper Locks at Gatun, Looking South: December 16, 1910 (Note the steel towers for the face forms, which in this view are shown moved away from the wall preparatory to removal to a new location.  Each lock at Gatun is 110 feet wide and has a usable length of 1,000 feet.)

Map of Gatun Dam, Spillway, and Locks

Cross-Section of Lock Chamber and Walls, Gatun Locks

The Middle Wall of the Gatun Locks (The size of the structure can be appreciated by noting the man at the bottom.  The great cylinder is the culvert to fill or empty the locks.)

Barrels of Steel (The great barrels are the steel collapsible forms for the culverts in the side wall.  The steel towers in the distance are the face forms.  Forms for the culverts are made of open-hearth boiler stell, are collapsible, are mounted on wheels to facilitate withdrawal, and are constructed to stand five years of continual use.  For the main culverts in the side walls there are 21 forms in 12-foot lengths, each form weighing not less than 14,443 pounds.  There are 12 forms for the culvert in the middle wall each 12 feet long long and weighting not less than 14,750 pounds.  There are 100 forms for the lateral culverts, each 10 feet long and weighing not less than 2,170 pounds.

The Side Wall of One of the Gatun Locks Compared to a Six-Story Building (The size of the culverts may be appreciated from the engine and dray.  The "steps" will be filled in with earth and stone and graded to the top.  Face forms for the side and center walls (see preceding illustration) are of sheet steel carried on movable towers, also built of steel.  Tracks are laid as near to the line of the walls as possible, and on these tracks the towers move up and down the lock chambers parallel with the wals.  Jacks fixed to the towers and bearing on the forms are used to align the forms and hold them in placed.  There are 12 of these towers, with forms 78 feet long from top to bottom, 36 feet, wide,and 7 1/2 inches thick.)

Placing the Forms for the Lateral Culvert in the Miraflores Lock

Another View of the Floor of the Miraflores Lock, Showing the Openings to the Culverts by Which the Lock Will Be Filled and Emptied

View of the Pedro Miguel Locks, Looking South From the East Bank: August 30, 1910 (Cantilever cranes are used for constructing the locks on the Pacific side.  Each crane is mounted on four heavy freight-car trucks, which carry it along as the work progresses.  The operating machinery is in the house on top of the tower.)

A View of the Pedro Miguel Locks (Looking North From the South End) Taken During a Flood: December, 1910 (The isthmus is not 50 miles wide where the canal cuts it, and yet the rainfall varies to an extraordinary degree in this short distance.  At La Boca, on the Pacific, the average fall recorded for 12 years is 69 inches per year, while at Bohio the average for 13 years is 130 inches per year, and at Cristobal, on the Atlantic, 128 nches per year for a period of 38 years.  The months of January , February, and March are practically rainless.  In the seven mnths from May to November, inclusive, 85 per cent of the rainfall occurs.)

Diagram to Show Proportion of Excavation of Canal Already Completed (The quantity remaining to be excavated may, however, be considerably increased by slides into Culebra Cut.  The figures are cubic yards.)

May 22, 2001