|Panama Canal, Alson Skinner Clark|
|Princess Cruise Line's Island Princess. Okay, so it's not the most|
stunningly beautiful ship afloat, but it's better than a rowboat.
Launched in 2003, it was designed specifically for canal transit.
|The canal project as seen by the French, 1881.|
Our friend Mr. Eiffel might also lament the fact that his own countrymen had been the first to attempt such a ditch--and failed miserably. Fresh off their success in digging the Suez Canal, the French moved on to bigger and better things, turning the first spade of Panamanian dirt in 1881. It quickly became apparent that a ditch across a desert was a far cry from the engineering trials and tribulations inherent in digging one's way (at sea level, no less) across the Central American Continental Divide (the Culebra Cut, top). As if that weren't challenge enough, then there were the damned mosquitoes. The worker mortality rate for Yellow Fever (and Malaria) was astounding--over two-hundred a month at one point. Worse still, the French didn't even know what was causing this devastating health problem. The French effort went bankrupt in 1889 after reportedly spending $287,000,000 and costing an estimated 22,000 lives to disease and accidents. It also wiped out the life's savings of roughly 800,000 French investors. The French asking price for a buyout was $100-million. Teddy Roosevelt negotiated them down to $40-million. A little "gunboat diplomacy" and another $10-million managed to free Panama from an uncooperative Colombia.
|The politics of freeing Panama from Colombia may have been a bit shady, and billions of mosquitoes lost their lives in the process, but American engineering and the newly invented, but still crude, "steam shove," got the job done.|
|Present day watercolors by New Orleans artist, Al Sprague.|
|The shipping revolution that antiquated a canal.|