National Geographic : 1902 Feb
SHOWING DIFFERENCE BETWEEN NICARAGUA, PANAMA, AND MANDINGO ROUTES PANAMA. 49.09 Miles. 771° 39 / of curvature, 29 curves, in all 22.85 miles of curves. This curvature equals 46.54 per cent of the entire length of route. The line crosses the Chagres River 28 times. Good harbor at Panama, but not so good at Colon, while at the latter place sailing vessels are often embarrassed by northers and at Panama by calms. A complicated system of locks, with a total lift of 92 feet. Many dams of large extent and doubt ful maintenance: Normal lift, 85 feet; maxi mum lift, 92 feet. Rain water impounded by dams in lakes, with all the contingencies of deficient rainfall or excess ive rainfall. The rains are so sudden and violent that the construction of permanent and satisfactory basins must be a feat of the utmost doubt and difficulty. Eight or ten years. NICARAGUA. 183.66 Miles. 2339° 50 / of curvature, 56 curves, in all 49.29 miles of curves. This curvature equals 26.83 per cent of the entire length of route. No harbor at all at either end. It would be nec essary to make artificial harbors at an enormous expense, which, when made, would be costly and difficult to maintain. A complicated system of locks and tide-gates, with a maximum lift of 112 feet. Many dams of large extent and doubtful maintenance. The same difficulties exist at Nicaragua as at Pan ama, increased, however, by the greater length of the waterway, demanding a greater supply of impounded water. As estimated by the Canal Coummission, 8 years; by others, 15 to 20 years. In both the Panama and Nicaragua Canals, transit of any ships at all depends upon rainfall and success in saving it. If water be plenty and locks work perfectly, 24 to 26 ships per day might go through. No method of propulsion being proposed for either of these canals, an expensive system of tugboats would seem to be required, or steamships by their own power. Uncertain. If there be enough water, and locks and machinery act properly, it is possible that the time named by the Commission, 11} hours, may be realized, but for delay where towing is needed and for difficulty with locks, a liberal allowauce should be made. M . Choron, chief engineer of the New Panama Canal Company, estimates 15 hours as a minimum. Suffers but slightly in comparison with Mandingo if delay from water supply and uncertainty of locks be eliminated. No certainty of transit can be depended upon as to fact or time, since all machinery is liable to become deranged, and it is not improbable that the line will be impassable from this reason for greater or less periods. The expense of main tenance of machinery must be very great. Very much of the line must be dug through mud and sand, which will have to be kept dredged at a continual expense, interfering with mercan tile traffic and increasing cost of maintenance, while the danger of a broken dam, with all its fearful consequences, can never be absent. If this line is adopted the rights of the several French corporations, together with their conces sionary complications in Colombia, must be de termined accurately (a work of no little time and difficulty), and such rights and concessions paid for, at a cost of $40,000,000, as estimated by the Commission, and $144,000,000 more of public money spent to finish the canal, which estimate is considered by many authorities much too low. Most favorable conditions as to water supply and machinery might realize the estimate of 33 hours, but allowances must be made for deten tion at curves and for delay caused by imperfect action of locks. To South Pacific ports far behind both the others as to both time and distance. To North Pacific ports an advantage in distance which is more than balanced by the difference in time of transit. The same must be said of Nicaragua as of Panama, and to this must be added the expense and difficulty of maintaining the. artificial harbors. Storms upon Lake Nicaragua are frequent. The Preliminary Report of the Isthmian Canal Commission shows some of the dangers to the permanence of this waterway, where " the canal line passes over swampy sections." Again, we have the fearful risk of dams, and finally the Nicaragua location experiences frequent and severe seismic disturbances. Here the government must expend, according to the estimate of the Commission, upwards of $189,000,000, raised by taxation, while other authorities maintain that the ultimate expense will be much greater.