Panama and Nicaragua Canals

Denver Republican

The project of separating the continents of North and South America, and establishing free navigation between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans by a ship canal through the Central American isthmus, is by no means of recent origin. A survey of the valleys of the Chagres River and the Rio Grande was made by Flemish engineers early in the sixteenth century, and explorations with the same object in view were soon after made along the courses of the San Juan and Coatzacoalcos Rivers. From 1528 until the present, intermittent isthmian canal fever has preyed upon the minds of engineers, capitalists, and diplomatic schemers in both hemispheres. Numerous surveys have been made; a score or more of routes have been selected, each being pronounced by its advocated incomparably preferable to all the rest; and a vast amount of romance and speculation on the subject has been indulged in, without, until very recently, any definite result. But the rapid growth of the states of the Pacific coast, closer commercial relations and increased trade with the Philippines, China, and Japan, and other less important causes, have at last made the longdreamed-of canal a necessity in the view of many people; and the scheme has been denuded of all romance and speculation, save such as dwells among the mathematical calculations of contractors and engineers. The number of proposed routes has been reduced to two, which, oddly enough, were the first chosen more than three centuries ago—Panama and Nicaragua. For each of these special advantages are claimed over the other, and upon each it is proposed to construct a maritime highway of entirely different character. Minutely detailed descriptions of the two routes have from time to time been made public.

The Panama route is in the immediate vicinity of the railroad now in operation between Panama and Aspinwall, and lies wholly within the United States of Colombia. Its general direction is from northwest to southwest, along the valleys of the Chagres River and the Rio Grande, at which point the isthumus is only forty-three miles wide. It is proposed to pursue the heroic course in constructing this canal, and run it from ocean to ocean at tidewater level. Passage through the mountain range that forms the backbone of the isthumus would be effected by a tunnel, in which two full-rigged ships may pass each other. Of course, no lift locks will be used, but as the tides of the Pacific rise twenty feet higher than those of the Caribbean Sea, a compensator tide lock will be placed at each entrance to the great trans-isthmian ditch.

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Christ rather than Culture
March 22, 1900

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