ITEMS OF INTEREST

The Isthmian Canal Commission's recently evolved scheme of having the actual work of Panama Canal construction done by contract with a private concern has been made public. Chairman Shonts and those who are associated with him, as well as President Roosevelt, are very much in favor of it, and are certain that it will not only materially lessen the total cost of the canal, but will hasten the completion of the great waterway. The great reason for the change is found in the labor problem. Labor for the lower forms of work has been difficult to procure. In the case of a private contractor the matter of labor will be taken off the hands of the Government, for the contractor will already have at his command a working force of thousands of men skilled in the very class of work which must be accomplished in Panama. The Commission will make the contract with one contracting company, composed of several reputable concerns. The companies presenting bids must have a capitalization, over all debts and incumbrances, of $5,000,000, and will be obliged to present a certified check of $200,000 with each bid. The successful bidder must furnish a bond of $3,000,000. The compensation of the contractor will be on the percentage plan, each bidder setting forth for how small a percentage of the total cost of the work he will assume the task. The total cost, upon which the compensation of the contractor will be based, will be estimated by a board of engineers, two of whom will be appointed by the successful bidder and three by the Government.

Within five years, by international agreement and wireless telegraphy, weather forecasts will be made by the Weather Bureau at Washington covering the entire Atlantic Ocean. This is the prediction of Prof. Willis Moore, chief of the department. The establishment of this "world-wide" weather service has already been partially secured. Half a dozen transatlantic liners equipped with wireless, a number of vessels in the coastwise trade similarly equipped, and Government vessels, are already sending reports while at sea to the Weather Bureau. In addition Washington headquarters also receive every day weather reports from wireless stations in the Azores, Bermudas, and Bahamas, the west coast of Africa, and twenty stations in the West Indies. An international wireless congress is now in session at Berlin, and the American representatives present have been instructed to urge the passage of an international law compelling all vessels equipped with wireless, picking up weather reports at sea, to transmit them to the nearest coast, whence they may be flashed by cable to Washington. Within two hours after such reports are received, Professor Moore says, they can be flashed back to sea, to be picked up by vessels, which can thus secure warnings of storms and unusual disturbances. The vessels receiving such a warning on location of a storm could evade it. With such information much of the damage to shipping caused by the Galveston storm, which was only two hundred miles in area, could have been avoided.

October 20, 1906
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