Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/461

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447
PROGRESS AT PANAMA.
PROGRESS AT PANAMA

By CHARLES ROGERS,

LIEUTENANT, UNITED STATES NAVY.

ON the 6th of last March the United States steamer Galena reached Aspinwall after a cruise in the Windward and the Leeward Islands. Before her departure from Norfolk in January, I was directed by the Navy Department to visit the works of the canal upon our arrival at Aspinwall. M. Charles de Lesseps, accompanied by M, Romaire, his secretary, M. Cottu, administrator of the canal, and by other officials from the general office in Paris, with M. Jacquier, director-general of the works, were then occupying the handsome residence in the French quarter of Aspinwall, that is usually assigned to the president of the company during his visits to the Isthmus. They had arrived from France five days before the Galena from the Spanish Main, and were to inspect the canal and arrange with the contractors for the future progress of the works. On the 9th I called upon M. de Lesseps and the director-general, stated my instructions from the Navy Department, and requested permission to visit the canal and to obtain from the contractors full information concerning their respective fields of work. My reception by these gentlemen was most cordial, and was appreciated particularly as an extension of hospitality and civility to an officer of the United States Navy. M. de Lesseps assented readily to my request, assuring me that there was nothing to conceal, and that it was the wish of the company that our Government should know the exact condition of the works and their prospects of completion. He also invited me to accompany him as his guest during his tour of inspection. On reporting the result of my visit to Commander Colby M. Chester, commanding the Galena, I was permitted to accept the invitation so kindly extended.

M. de Lesseps had inspected the 17 kilometres of canal open to water, and on the 10th I proceeded with him by special train to Bohio-Soldado, reserving my visit to the sections of Colon and Gatun for a later date. The inspection thus begun lasted nearly three weeks. I saw every foot of the canal, including the dam at Gamboa and the deflections of the Chagres and the Rio Grande.

Its length from Colon to the Isle of Naos, near Panama, will be 74 kilometres; its width at the surface will be 40 metres, and at the bottom 22 metres; its depth will be 9 metres. The line of works is separated into five divisions, the first of which is 26·35 kilometres in length, and comprises the sections of Colon, Gatun, and Bohio-Soldado. It is under the control of the American Contracting and Dredging Company, which owns a capital of $2,000,000. Mr. H. B. Slaven is president of the company, and Mr. M. A. Slaven general manager on