Those first employed at Panama had a force of twenty-four horsepower, while the powerful machines more recently sent out have a force of ninety. The French have lately employed in connection with their excavators a mechanism similar to the élévateur, already described. It is called the transporteur, and consists of an elevated structure which performs the same service for an excavator that the élévateur does for a dredge. The earth is deposited from the buckets upon an endless belt. This passes round two drums about two hundred feet apart, and in the interval rests upon friction-rollers. The earth is thus carried outward from the excavation, and at the same time upward.
While, owing to the power and size of her digging mechanisms, the Panama undertaking has quite an advantage over Suez, it is not to be assumed that this advantage may not be further increased. Upon this contingency the decision of important questions may depend. Whether the canal be finished, at least provisionally, as a lock-canal or cut immediately to the sea-level, is possibly one of these. But the decision as to locks will have to be expeditiously arrived at; and if inventors are to step in and affect in any sort of way the result, they have not much time for contrivance and experiment. At all events, we may hope much from the fact that the undertaking is probably in the best hands to which it could have been intrusted. Owing to the completion of former contracts, or the substitution of later for earlier ones, the greater part of the work devolves at present upon French or American contractors. The portion undertaken by the American company consists, it is true, wholly of dredging—the easiest part of the work. There can be no doubt as to the satisfactory, and, should it prove necessary, rapid completion of this part of the undertaking; the chief difficulty lies in the excavation of dry earth and rock, and this is chiefly in the hands of the French. But American inventions and skill may be as serviceable here as in any other section of the work. It is a pledge of earnest effort that the two republics which have the work in charge have also a greater stake than others in the completion of the undertaking—France, because French capital has furnished the funds; America, because of our need of a
- According to the plans of the company, as described recently by Charles de Lesseps, Vice-President of the Suez and Panama Companies, part of the work which it was thought must be done by excavators may be effected by dredging. With this end in view, he tells us, the company is making preparations. It is proposed to introduce into the works, between Gamboa and Paraiso, the waters of the upper Chagres. An analogous plan served the same purpose at Suez: fresh water was introduced from the Nile; nine dredges were carried up by a lock and floated upon it. These operated upon a temporary lake, whose level was seventeen feet above the Mediterranean. Whether such a plan, by some thought impracticable, may be successfully applied at Panama, remains to be seen.
For a description of the manner in which the Nile water was employed, see Fitzgerald, vol. i, pp. 190-194.