National Geographic : 1906 Jun
NOTES ON THE same territory surrounding the city of Birmingham. He said that when he ac quired his large interest in this property he did so because of his abiding faith in the development of the South and be cause of his confidence in the astonishing growth which would take place there upon the opening of the Panama Canal. WHY THE COMMISSION RECOMMENDS THE LOCK CANAL The present Commission believes that the type of canal the people of this coun try want is the one which will provide adequate and safe passage for the largest vessels on the seas, and which can be constructed in the quickest time and at the least cost. The Commission's recom mendation, in other words, has been based on the idea that what the people want is the near-by practical rather than the re mote ideal. It has therefore recom mended the construction of an 85-foot level lock canal for the reasons that, first, in its judgment, it can be completed for about half the cost and in half the time of the so-called sea-level canal; sec ond, because it will be adequate for all the commerce which can reasonably be ex pected to seek that route during the next 150 years; third, because if the tonnage should increase beyond such expectation, it can be enlarged more cheaply and more quickly than the so-called sea-level canal; fourth, because, from the operating point of view, large ships can be put through more safely and more quickly than through the sea-level; fifth, because when the interest on the difference in cost of construction is added to the cost of oper ating, the saving to the government every year will be $2,340,000. The so-called sea-level canal is a deep, narrow, tortuous gorge, which large ships cannot navigate, even according to the estimate of the men who recommend that type of canal, at a greater speed than four miles an hour, and which will contain at times, according to the same authority, a current in one direction of two and six tenths miles an hour. I venture to say that no large ship, occupying, as large ships will, 40 per cent of the prism PANAMA CANAL 363 through which it will pass, can navigate at that speed, with that current, safely, under its own steam. The lock canal, on the other hand, as recommended by the minority of the con sulting board and indorsed by our Com mission, will have 35 miles of free-lake navigation, so that the difference in time of putting large ships through the locks will be more than offset by their speed through the lake portion of their trip, which is more than two-thirds of the en tire length of the canal. In regard to the capacity, no man can estimate with any degree of accuracy the volume of tonnage which will go through the Panama Canal. The only guide we can have is the traffic of the Suez Canal. Taking the development of the traffic in the Suez during the 35 years of its exist ence as a basis and continuing the same ratio of increase until the year 2000, the volume of traffic passing through that canal will be in that year, in round num bers, 42,500,000 tons; or, estimating that the Panama Canal, if constructed on the plans which this Commission has recom mended, will be open for traffic in 1916, and estimating that the volume of traffic passing through it the first year will amount to 5,000,000 tons (which is the best guess that experts have been able to make), and applying the same ratio of increase to that traffic which experience has shown to have developed in the Suez, the volume in the year 2000 will have reached 32,500,000 tons. The estimated capacity of the lock canal, as recom mended by our Commission, is 50,000,000 tons per annum. Unless the develop ment of the population of the world changes the basis of our estimates, the type of canal we recommend will be ade quate for all business that may be thrown upon it during the next 150 years. By simply raising the sides of our spill ways and increasing the depth of our locks, we can increase the depth of water in the canal so as to take care of still larger vessels than the 40-foot ships provided for in our present estimate, whereas in a sea-level canal you would have to excavate the whole distance for every foot of increase made in depth.