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Title: Is a Ship Canal Practicable? - Notes, Historical and Statistical, upon the Projected - Routes for an Interoceanic Ship Canal between the Atlantic - and Pacific Oceans, in which is Included a Short Account - of the Character and Influence of the Canal of Suez, and - the Probable Effects upon the Commerce of the World of the - Two Canals, Regarded either as Rivals, or as Parts of One - System of Interoceanic Navigation
Author: Abert, Sylvanus Thayer
Language: English
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*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "Is a Ship Canal Practicable? - Notes, Historical and Statistical, upon the Projected - Routes for an Interoceanic Ship Canal between the Atlantic - and Pacific Oceans, in which is Included a Short Account - of the Character and Influence of the Canal of Suez, and - the Probable Effects upon the Commerce of the World of the - Two Canals, Regarded either as Rivals, or as Parts of One - System of Interoceanic Navigation" ***

Transcriber’s Notes:

  Underscores “_” before and after a word or phrase indicate _italics_
    in the original text.
  A single underscore after a symbol indicates a subscript.
  Small capitals have been converted to SOLID capitals.
  Footnotes have been moved so they do not break up paragraphs.
  Typographical errors have been silently corrected.
  Inconsistent place names have been silently corrected.
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    sections in this ebook version to avoid very long lines.

                    IS A SHIP CANAL PRACTICABLE?

                          PACIFIC OCEANS,

                        IN WHICH IS INCLUDED

                      INTEROCEANIC NAVIGATION.

                         S. T. ABERT, C.E.

                       ILLUSTRATED WITH MAPS.

                  R. W. CARROLL & CO., PUBLISHERS,
                  117 WEST FOURTH STREET.

The following notes upon Interoceanic Routes across the American
Isthmus were collected and arranged during intervals of professional
occupation, and are doubtless affected by the haste incident to this
method of preparation.

They were laid by a friend before the Hon. WILLIAM H. SEWARD and the
late R. J. WALKER, for their perusal, and receiving the commendation
of their enlightened judgments, the writer has thought that the
publication may not be without interest to those who are seeking
information as to the feasibility of an intermarine ship canal between
the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

Prepared before the completion of the Suez Canal and the sailing of
the last Darien Expedition, some additions have been made to bring the
parts of the Notes relating to these topics up to date.

AUGUST 1, 1870.



    Columbus discovers Darien—Opinions of Berghaus,
        Humboldt, Garella, Hughes—Expectation of finding a
        Strait—Influence of Oriental Trade—Names identified
        with the Project of a Canal—Defeat of Miranda’s
        Scheme—Object—Opinion of Admiral Davis—Sketch of
        Solutions—United States—Russia—France—England—English
        Diplomacy and the Suez Canal—History of its
        Difficulties—Empress Eugenie Inaugurates—Dimensions
        of Canal—Capital of Company—Expenditures—Effects on
        Commerce—Circumstances affecting the Permanence of the
        Suez Canal—Teaching of History—Sand Dunes—Inferences
        from Geology—Sediment of the Nile—Deltas—Silting up of
        Port Said, and rate of advance of the Shore Line.

Upon the 14th of September, in the year of our Lord 1502, three
caravels, bearing Columbus and the destinies of the New World, long
baffled by opposing storms and currents, at last doubled Cape Gracias a

To appreciate the courage of the daring Navigator, it is necessary to
call to mind the fact that the largest vessel of this little fleet did
not exceed seventy tons burden. With seams opened by the stress of the
gales, sails tattered by the winds, hulls eaten to a honey-comb by the
teredo, distrust at home, dissension around, and danger everywhere,
this great man abated not a jot of his high hopes, but repairing his
shattered ships as he was able, continued his adventurous voyage.

The air came to the toil-worn mariners freighted with spicy fragrance,
gentle winds wafted them in sight of lofty mountains and of verdant
slopes, clothed with the majestic palm and the pink and golden
blossoming _flor de Robles_.

The simple-minded natives of Honduras and Costa Rica welcomed them
with supernatural devotion, bringing gifts of fruits, gold, gems, and
tenders of hospitality.

Strange rumors reached them of a people living in houses of sculptured
stone, and occupied in the arts of peace. Columbus could not be
diverted from his purpose.

The season was that of gales, and the little fleet was shut in the
beautiful harbor of Porto Bello.

The Norther ceasing, the voyage continued as far as the little, craggy
Bay of El Retreate; here, near the present Puerto de Mosquitoes,
Columbus reached the westward limit of his last voyage of discovery.

Sixty-six years of sorrow and disappointment, of disinterested purposes
maliciously opposed, of bold designs ignorantly thwarted, of a pure and
illustrious character misjudged and traduced, had humbled the pride
and subdued the enthusiasm of that aspiring intellect; and now, at the
close of a career of vast and useful discoveries, he was called on to
face a trial which Goëthe has affirmed to be the severest and most
inexorable of life.

Welcomed with the approving plaudits of his king and countrymen, or
loaded with ignominious chains, he had ever kept one object constantly
in view. This object, pursued with unexampled courage, self-abnegation,
and constancy, he was now called on to renounce. Who will venture to
depict the thoughts of this remarkable man as he turned to retrace his
path, leaving behind him the prospect of discoveries far greater than
those which had cast the hallow of immortal fame around his name?

“Here ended,” says Irving, in a strain of tender eloquence, “the
lofty aspirations which had elevated him above all mercenary views in
his struggle along this perilous coast”——“it is true, he had been in
pursuit of a chimera, but it was the chimera of a splendid imagination
and a penetrating judgment. If he was disappointed in finding a strait
through the Isthmus of Darien, it was because Nature herself was

This sagacious conjecture has its foundation in nature, and is
supported by the opinions of savans and the facts of recent geological

The Prussian geographer, Berghaus, as early as 1823, and Prof. Hopkins,
contested the accepted opinion as to the unbroken continuity of the
Isthmus and the contiguous continents.

The French engineer, Garella, after making a geological reconnoissance,
declares that the Isthmus is of more recent origin than the continents
which it unites. Col. Hughes and Garella concur in a belief in the
existence, at an early period, of a strait uniting the Atlantic and
Pacific oceans. The identity of the species of fish inhabiting the
waters on both sides of the Isthmus is an additional argument in
confirmation of this view.

It is without surprise that we find the discoveries of another science
confirming this inference. Prof. Huxley, in a recent address on the
progress of palæontology, is unable to explain the distribution of
mammals at the close of the miocene period, except upon the supposition
of a barrier which prevented the migration of the apes, rodents, and
edentata from the southern to the northern continent. He cites the
opinions of Carrick Moore and Prof. Duncan in support of the same
conclusion. Further investigation will, no doubt, add to the number
of facts which indicate the separation of the two continents by the
ancient sea, and may even establish the fact that portions of Central
America once formed parts of the Antilles group of the equatorial belt
of islands.

General Michler, in his interesting report of the survey of the Atrato,
observes: “All the stratified rocks on the Isthmus, exhibiting strong
marks of disturbance and even dislocation since they were originally
deposited, clearly prove that the upheaval which brought this narrow
neck of land above the level of the ocean must have taken place at a
comparatively late era. This period was undoubtedly accompanied by the
protrusion of certain metamorphosed shistose (?) rocks, the doubtful
nature of which has induced us to mark them as belonging to a trappean
series. If Darwin had good reason to believe that the granite of South
America, now rising into central peaks 14,000 feet in elevation, must
have been in a fluid state since the deposition of the tertiary group,
we may also do so in pronouncing the formation of the Isthmus, now
linking together South and Central America, as decidedly post-tertiary.”

The deductions of Columbus were, however, based on the direction of the
coast of Cuba, which he supposed to be a continent, and the parallel
coast of South America; and was further confirmed by the westerly
current flowing between them, which must, he thought, find an outlet
near Darien.

These bold generalizations, drawn from stores of profound observation
and varied reading, although we now know them to be erroneous, evince
the sagacity of the man, and place him far ahead of the intelligence of
his age. With heartfelt sorrow he reluctantly renounced a chimera so
plausible, which he expected would lead him to the fabulous kingdom of
Prester John, or, perhaps, to the marvelous splendors of the imperial
dominions of Kublai Khan, and which would, he believed, open new fields
for the peaceful conquests of the banner of the Redeemer.

The delusive representations of travelers was the chief impulse to some
of the greatest achievements of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.

The coveted wealth of “Ormus and of Ind” was a siren who had lured
adventurous navigators to dare the dangers of unknown seas.

The same diversity of motive may be found in the men of that period
which now exists and animates the westward course of civilization. Love
of money and fame are found contending by the side of the desire to
extend the domain of knowledge and zeal for the spread of religion.

The result of these combined passions was to open new avenues to
wealth, industry, and science.

Four hundred years have elapsed since the wondering eyes of Spanish
discoverers first gazed on the strange beauty of the New World. In this
interval a nation of forty millions of people have been planted in
the country of Columbus, its wildernesses are traversed by steam, its
products supply food and clothing to a large part of the world; but,
with all this progress, the visionary strait of the great navigator is
yet an unrealized dream.

Impossibilities have been accomplished, poetical fictions have become
facts, visionary theories of the past are the industrial arts of the
present. In wealth, comfort, health, longevity, art, science, organized
labor and charities, the human race of the present have out-stripped
the Arcadian felicity of the golden eras of Hesiod and Cervantes.

Possessing every facility, occupying a preëminent coigne of vantage, we
have left one thing unachieved. This ought we to have done, and not to
have left the others undone.

Many minds, speculative and practical, have closely scrutinized the
feasibility of making the American Isthmus a highway for the commerce
of the world.

Its importance grows in dimensions in proportion to the study bestowed
on it. It ranks among its friends some of the most able men of the race.

Columbus, Cortes, Charles V, Alverado, Gonzales de Avila, De Solis,
Gomaro, Bautista Antonella, and, in more recent times, Paterson, Pitt,
Jefferson, Humboldt, Guizot, Napoleon III, Wheaton, Dallas, Biddle, and
a long and honorable list of statesmen and publicists have contributed
to the project.

According to the scheme of General Miranda, sanctioned by Wm. Pitt, it
was proposed that Great Britain should supply the money and ships, and
the United States should send 10,000 men.

The failure of this plan is attributed to delay on the part of
President Adams.

The tonnage of the trade which would annually seek this route has been
estimated at 3,094,000 tons, equal in value to $152,475,750. The value
of the exports and imports of all the nations which would annually pass
the Isthmus would amount to $451,029,132.

With such enormous commercial interests, backed by advocates so able,
it is not a little curious that the question of feasibility should be
yet unsolved.

Political vicissitudes have often postponed its consideration.
Conflicting interest and rivalries have prevented the coöperation long
deemed essential to its successful execution.

The hereditary policy of the United States has always been anti-social
and insular. Schooled in this policy, it is difficult to enlist the
sympathies of our people in questions which are to be answered in
regions beyond their jurisdiction.

The utility and practicability of the work must first be made clearly

Passing in review the present state of our knowledge of Isthmean
routes, one of the objects of this paper is to attempt to appreciate
the probable advantages which would result from the completion of an
intermarine ship canal.

In selecting from material, much of which bears little relation to the
questions at issue, many objects may be omitted which deserve notice,
and some may be noticed which might have been omitted.

If serious attention is attracted to this important project, the writer
will have attained his object.

“There does not exist in the libraries of the world,” observes Admiral
Davis, “the means of determining, even approximately, the most
practicable route for a ship canal across the Isthmus.” This deficiency
in our geographical knowledge will shortly be supplied. An exploration
is now in progress, under the auspices of Government.

If a practicable route is found, there is reason to believe that
execution will follow as certainly as the settlement of America
followed its discovery.

We may not unreasonably expect the progress of the future to keep pace
with the past, and that the absolute increase of the commercial marine,
and an enlarged area for its operations, will lead to a proportionate
extension of the beneficent influences of religion and civilization.
The speculation opens a prospect of the future destiny of intertropical
America; destined, perhaps, to produce as great a revolution on our
globe as the colonization of America.

“The completion of this work,” observes an earnest advocate, “will be
the same as if, by some great revolution of the globe, the eastern
continent were brought nearer to us.”

The produce of the Indies has always been a coveted prize; wealth has
followed in its path; commercial supremacy has been the property of
its possessor. As changes in the route brought about new political
relations, and raised up a more successful competitor for the trade
of the Orient, a reconstruction of the map of the world has become

Its importance may be gathered from the fact that the annual exports
and imports of the United States to the East Indies, China, Australia,
and the South Pacific Islands amount to $39,380,000, and the aggregate
exports and imports of Great Britain to the same points amount to

If this trade has ceased to be a monopoly, and has lost some of its
importance since the colonization of the Americas, it is yet sufficient
to hold the guerdon of commercial supremacy. A history of its course
and influence is beyond the scope of this paper. A passing notice will
show how important a part it has played in the destinies of nations.

It is probable that the wars of ancient Egypt, Assyria, and Babylon
were waged for the control of the trade of the East. The expedition of
Alexander was not the result of an unreasoning lust for dominion and
military glory. The apple of discord then, as now, was the beautiful
land of the East. The descendants of the great Aryan and Semitic
families, constantly moving westward, never forgot the land of their

At an early period, caravans brought the rich products of India across
the desert. Under the influence of this traffic, the palaces of Palmyra
sprang up amid the sands. The Saracens drove the course of trade to the
Caspian and the Euxine. The Mediterranean felt its beneficent effects,
and Venice, Trieste, Marseilles, Cadiz, Barcelona became the marts of
its rich and varied commodities.

After the discovery of de Gama, the busy hum of industry began to cease
in these once populous emporiums. When Shylock drew up his bloody
bond, the trade of the Indies had set around the cape. While commerce
was suspended and industry prostrated by wars and civil dissensions,
Holland bore off the prize. The devastating armies of Alva threw the
Indian trade into the strong hands of Elizabeth.

England now began to lay carefully the foundation of her empire. The
policy she now adopted, whether through instinct or forethought,
was one which looked beyond the temporary advantages of position
and possession. She attempted to make these advantages permanent by
the conquest of the territory from whence all these bounties seemed
perennially to flow.

The British Empire in India, in its extent, power, wealth, and future
possibilities, stands an enduring monument of the courage, energy, and
wisdom of the British people. Whether actual possession has secured the
reversionary benefit, time alone can show.

That wealth, power, and dominion follow oriental traffic, is now patent
to the world. It is no longer the object of secret diplomatic intrigue;
it has become an open question, to be solved by the general competition
of commercial nations.

In the pursuit of this object, the leader in the Pansclavonic movement
is pushing her outposts past India to the wall of China. The United
States, conscious of her natural advantage, is awakening to the
importance of a systematic policy.

The French Emperor seems at present, by the aid of the Suez Canal,
likely to appropriate the lion’s share. While American commerce is
disappearing from the seas—fifty per cent. of her exports and imports
being carried in foreign ships—the flag of France may be seen by the
side of England in every sea. The hereditary policy and commercial
instinct of the British may prove to be more than a match for the
astuteness of one man. Who will ultimately bear off the prize, is a
question admitting three possible solutions.

Russia, as has been said, rapidly extending her frontier eastward,
stretches out her hand to grasp the trade of the East. The Suez and
Darien Canals—the one an unsolved problem, the other an accomplished
fact—represent the two other contestants. One of the most constant
objects of war and diplomacy has been for the possession of the highway
through Egypt for the trade of the East.

It was designated by the Portuguese conqueror, Albuquerque, as one of
the three important points essential to the “command and monopoly” of
this trade. England, anticipating the day when it might be important
for her to have the military control of this highway, has persistently
established military ports, beginning at Gibraltar and ending at
Aiden. She has secured strong posts at Malta and Beb el Mandeb. The
Great Leibnitz called the attention of Louis XIV to the commercial and
political advantages of a conquest and colonization of this country.
Napoleon, flushed with the conquest of Italy, took the initiative in
this bold design. By his order, M. Lepere, “a distinguished engineer,”
completed an examination in 1801. The results of this examination have
been published by the Imperial Government.

M. Lepere asserted the practicability of a ship canal along the line of
the ancient canal from Suez to the Nile, as far as the Bitter Lakes.
From thence its course has to proceed to the Pelusiac branch of the
Nile. Here, on the sea, it encounters the accumulating banks and bars
of the Nile, one of the two very serious obstacles to the execution and
permanent value of a ship canal between the two seas.

The project of a canal uniting the Red Sea and the Mediterranean
appears to have been suggested by M. de Lesseps to Said Pacha, the
Viceroy of Egypt, in 1854. The company was definitely formed in 1869.

It is not very easy to estimate the important effects of opening this
route to the maritime States of Europe.

Lord Palmerston, acting in the interest of England, constantly opposed
the design. He at once perceived that the restoration of trade to the
Levantine ports would seriously disturb the commercial equilibrium. All
the ingenious devices of a clever lawyer in conducting a bad case were
employed by English diplomacy in order to arrest the operations of M.
de Lesseps.

The first and most valid objections alleged by Lord Palmerston were
based on the practical difficulties in the way of execution, and were
stated with great force and acuteness. The shifting sands of the Desert
would, it was affirmed, soon fill up the canal; and the sand and silt,
which from time immemorial had been brought down by the great father of
waters, and which swept to the westward by the prevailing winds, would
soon fill up any artificial harbor which might be constructed.

That these difficulties were resolutely encountered and overcome, is
one of the marvels of this truly marvelous work.

To these objections M. de Lesseps cautiously replied that all questions
would be referred to a commission of engineers.

After an examination of all the plans, the commission reported
favorably on that which has just been successfully executed. The work
found a few friends among the English people and in Parliament.

Lord Palmerston, being interrogated, declared that the scheme was
hostile to the interest of the country. His real objection was
obscurely hinted. “It is founded,” he remarked, “in remote speculations
in regard to easier access to our Indian possessions, which I need not
more distinctly shadow forth, because they will be obvious to any body
who pays attention to the subject.” He further characterized it as
one of those plans “so often brought out to make dupes of the English
people,” and he expressed his preference for the communication by
railroad between Suez and Cairo. As this railroad can never be more
than a passenger route, it is evident that its influence on commerce
must always be insignificant.

The work had barely commenced when, through the instigation of
the English Embassador, the Sultan issued an order arresting the
operations. The plea assigned for this interference was that the
authority of the Viceroy was insufficient without the sanction of the
Sultan. De Lesseps invoked the interposition of the Emperor, who, with
apparent indifference, was watching the proceedings from his retreat at

Within a month after the presentation of the memorial the
misunderstanding between the two cabinets had been explained, and Lord
Palmerston was for a time silenced by the consent of Egypt to receive a
Turkish garrison. This acquiescence was in appearance only, as the real
object of these repeated assaults was to arrest the work. The Viceroy,
desirous of silencing all opposition, consulted French jurisconsults in
regard to the rights of the company, and definitely settled the powers
of the contracting parties.

For a moderate sum he ceded to the company the belt of country
bordering the fresh water canal. Immediately the cry was raised by the
opponents of the canal, that it was intended to colonize this region
with Europeans.

While this matter was in controversy, and the work was steadily
proceeding, Said Pacha suddenly died, and Ismail, his nephew, reigned
in his stead, with the title of Khédivé. He confirmed the concessions
of his predecessor and entered into new conventions. His confidence in
the work, which had appeared uncertain, was established by the able
report of Sir John Hawkshaw, the President of the Society of Civil
Engineers. This report, however, which was confirmed by the personal
inspection of Sir Henry Bulwer, aroused all the fears of the English
Government. The success of the work, at first problematical, now seemed
more than probable. A decisive blow must be struck; one that should be
fatal to the undertaking.

Throughout Egypt, according to an ancient and still prevailing custom,
private and public work is executed by a system of forced labor, termed
Corvē. The conscription is limited to the period of one month, at a
fixed rate of wages. The company engaged to pay higher rates than
usual, and to supply food, lodging, medical attendance, and half pay
when sick. No sooner had twenty thousand men been collected on the
excavations, than a “howl went up from Exeter Hall.” Lord Stratford de
Redcliffe demanded of the Sultan “to stop the scandal.”

The British Government were instantly seized with one of those sudden
spasms of morality, or humanity, which Lord Macaulay affirms has been
observed periodically to afflict the British people.

The Sultan, who appears to have been a pliable tool in the hands of
English Envoys, issued an order abolishing the system of compulsory
labor, and disbanding all the fellahs employed by the company.

This arbitrary and unjust interference had but one meaning, and seemed
likely to have but one result. The plea of humanity, advanced by a
Government which had overlooked the sacrifice of 1000 men in one day,
when that sacrifice had been made by their own injudicious advice, and
for their own benefit, could be nothing more than a manifest subterfuge.

This vigorous handling of the political puppets on the diplomatic
chess-board proved how serious were Lord Palmerston’s apprehensions. It
was the old question which every age revives. In the past, the issue
had again and again been brought to the arbitrament of the sword. With
such antagonists as Palmerston on one side and de Lesseps and the
Silent Emperor upon the other, the duel was necessarily _ā l’outrance_.

It was now evident that war alone could arrest the completion of the
maritime highway between the two seas. Was it the death of Palmerston
or the progress of peaceful arts that kept this question confined to
the field of diplomacy?

Opposition only stimulated the energy and confirmed the determination
of de Lesseps. The controversy was referred to the decision of the
French Emperor. A smile, half machiavellian, must have flitted over
the face of his reticent Majesty when the question was submitted to
his Imperial arbitration. By his decision the Egyptian Government were
called on to pay, not unwillingly, an indemnity to the company for a
release from the obligation to furnish compulsory labor, and for the
retrocession of certain land grants and privileges of navigation.

“The indomitable Lesseps did not despair.” After months of delay, he
collected laborers from all parts of Europe, and the work was resumed.

The vigilance of the English opposition soon found another vulnerable
point. The Sultan was again persuaded to issue a firman denying the
right of the Viceroy to cede the land through which the canal was to
be excavated. This well-aimed blow caused a suspension of operations
for two years. Any man less able, self-reliant, or resolute than M. de
Lesseps would have succumbed.[1]

The Emperor was induced to intervene. M. Thouvener, the French Minister
at Constantinople, was requested “to enlighten the mind of the Sublime
Porte as to the views and wishes of France.”

The introduction of machinery now became a matter of necessity. Ten
millions of dollars were expended for this object, and forty enormous
dredges were soon at work upon the excavations. One of the novelties
in the construction of these machines was a provision for carrying
off the excavated material by means of a stream of water. One of the
workmen, it is said, noticed that when removed in this way the slimy
earth spread over a wide surface and became soon indurated, instead
of flowing back into the place of excavation. It also possessed the
further advantage of fixing the mobile sand.

The total amount of earth removed amounted to about four hundred
million cubic yards. By working day and night, the machines of M. Borel
and Lavelley were able to remove 78,056 to 108,000 cubic meters per

Although the completion of the canal now seemed assured, the opposition
of the English Government continued up to the last moment. Every effort
was made to prejudice the Sultan and the Khédivé against the work, and,
by exciting the jealousy of the Sultan, to induce him to arrest the

After ten years of labor, this great work was completed. Upon the 17th
of November, 1869, the opening of the canal was inaugurated in the
presence of the Empress Eugenie and the Emperor of Austria, and of
princes, embassadors, and men of science from Europe and America.

The Empress, leading the van of the fleet in her steam yacht, l’Aigle,
entered the canal amid salvos of artillery. The yards of the ships were
manned with sailors, every mast-head was decked with a flag, and the
bands played the martial airs of the assembled nations. The transit
between the two seas was safely made by the fleet. But the requisite
depth had not been attained. Seventeen and a half feet could be
carried through the canal. Since then the depth has been increased to
twenty-two feet, and ultimately will be twenty-six feet.

The length of the canal is one hundred miles. The established
surface-width is about 328 feet, except in difficult cuttings, where it
is 190 feet. The least bottom width is 72 feet. The highest ground cut
through is at El Gúisr, where it is 85 feet; at Serapeum it is 62 feet;
and at Chalouf, near Suez, it is 56 feet.

The excavation of the canal, although of considerable difficulty,
was exceeded by the necessity for creating artificial harbors at the
extremities. The harbor at Port Said, upon the Mediterranean, has the
general form of a triangle, the base resting on the shore and the
longer side on the west, protecting the entrance from the moving sand.
The longer arm, or mole, is 8,200 feet, extending to the 26 feet curve
of sounding. It is proposed to extend this mole 2,300 feet farther.
As this harbor is exposed to N. E. winds, an inside basin has been
constructed. The area of the outer harbor is equal to 400 acres, and
will permit twenty line-of-battle ships to swing freely at anchor.

At the other extremity of the canal, a mole 2,550 feet in length
protects the channel, which has been dredged to the depth of 27 feet.
The mole at Suez differs from that at Port Said in construction; the
latter being formed of concrete blocks of 13 cubic feet, the former of
stone quarried from the neighboring mountain.

The organization, equipment, sanitary regulations, and division of
labor among twenty thousand men, employed at one time, is full of
interest and instruction, but must be omitted in this place.[2]

The following statement of receipts and expenditures, taken from a
recent periodical, deserves preservation:

_Gross Realized Capital._

    Shareholders’ capital                     $40,000,000
    Sale of bonds                              19,999,980
    Egyptian convention                         5,948,805
    Imperial arbitration                       16,800,000
    Rates of exchange                           1,294,260
    Various receipts received by the company    6,288,180
                Total capital                 $90,331,225

The following is a summary of the expenditures up to the date of the
opening of the canal:

    General expenditures for preliminary surveys
          from 1854 to 1859                                $15,825,525
    General expenses of administration and negotiations
          between France and Egypt                           3,394,245
    Sanitary service, 1866-1869                                121,410
    Telegraph service                                           34,000
    Transport service, boats, stock, buildings               1,644,435
    Payment of contractors for material                      3,442,785
    Dredging machines and heavy plant                        6,819,240
    Work-shops                                                 844,150
    Works of construction, canal, and ports                 43,534,330
    Miscellaneous                                            1,392,495
    Expenses of various branches of company management       3,841,050
    The average cost of the canal per mile is                 $808,936

[Illustration: SUEZ CANAL General Map]

The balance on hand for the completion of the dredging is $9,437,560.
This sum will probably be sufficient to excavate the canal to the
uniform depth of 26 feet.

The effect of the opening of the canal is felt in the revival of
maritime interests in the Levantine ports. Port Said is the depot of
seven companies, Russian, French, and Austrian. A Spanish company is
organizing with the intention of establishing a line between Barcelona
and the Philippine Islands, and an American company is preparing a
depot in the Mediterranean.

In 1869, thirteen hundred and sixty-two ships, amounting to 637,440
tons, entered Port Said. M. de Lesseps estimates that the annual
revenue from tolls on the tonnage passing through the canal will be

The canal has conquered a peace. Its enemies have become its most
sanguine friends. The benefits it is destined to confer upon the
commerce of the world, and the changes in the present commercial
equilibrium of Europe, although important in their influence and
immediate in their effects, must be proportionate to the duration of
the canal as a highway for the commerce of the world.

The circumstances affecting the permanence of the canal have been
so ably canvassed, that, apart from the intrinsic importance of the
question, they deserve attentive consideration.

The ancient Pharaonic canal connected the Nile with the Red Sea, and
partly avoided the destruction threatened by the unceasing advance
of the sand dunes. The absence of harbors on the Mediterranean was
compensated by the channel of the Nile, which afforded a passage over
the bar for the light draft ships of that period. The French engineers,
confident in the resources of modern science, have boldly conquered the
difficulties which Egyptian engineers dared not encounter. It is well
known that the distinguished engineer, Robert Stephenson, pronounced
the work impracticable, and many cautious investigators have doubted
its permanence.

The objections may be classed under two heads:

    1. To the permanency of the excavation of the canal.
    2. To the permanency of the harbors.

The arguments relating to the duration of the canal are drawn from
history and the observations of travelers.

“We can not approach history,” says M. de Lesseps, “without touching
on Suez.” Its records, fragmentary and uncertain, are hid in the mists
of five thousand centuries. The stream of its history, now lost, now
re-appearing, is joined in its course by the tributary traditions of
nearly all the Indo-Germanic and Semitic nations. The tramp of armies
and the desolation of conquest has alternated with periods of intense
activity in the arts, sciences, literature, and commerce. The Egyptian
name, once a synonym of the profoundest learning, is now only known
to us by an architecture which is still invested with a unique and
imposing grandeur.

The value of a canal to afford transportation for the products of the
East occupied the attention of the Pharaohs at an early date. Since the
time of Rameses II, it has been repeatedly reconstructed and repaired.
This Pharaoh, who lived about the period of the Mosaic exodus (1400 B.
C.), was probably the Sesostris of Aristotle, Strabo, and Pliny.

If the Sesostris of the 12th dynasty was the constructor of the canal,
its date would be carried back 2730 B. C. Its construction has also
been attributed to other Egyptian rulers, but with more certainty to
Nechao, B. C. 625.

Sir G. Wilkinson accounts for this uncertainty by a very plausible
explanation. The sandy site of the canal required frequent excavation.
These operations gave to successive kings the credit of having
commenced the work which they only repaired.

The canal used by the Romans was afterward closed, and subsequently
re-opened by the Caliph Omar. It was again closed for 134 years, when
it was once more rendered navigable by El Hakim, A. D. 1000. It appears
at this period to have extended to the Bitter Lakes before turning
toward the Nile.

It again became filled with sand between the Nile and the Bitter
Lakes. Mohammed Ali closed it entirely, after having lost 10,000 men
from hunger, having hurried them into the desert without suitable
preparation. At a more recent period, 1000 men died in one day from the
same want of preparation, having been hurried into the desert, at the
request of the English authorities, to work on the railroad between
Suez and Cairo.

Pliny affirms that the ancient canal had a width of 100 feet and
a depth of 40 feet as far as the Bitter Lakes, and the geological
evidences indicate that the Bitter Lakes were once connected with the
Red Sea. A stratum of salt, 8 to 10 feet thick, covers the bottom of
the Lakes, and sea-shells are found in them and between them and Suez.

History for 3300 years bears testimony to the constant movement of the
sand, burying all obstructions and obliterating channels which have
lain in its path; and the statement of Herodotus, that Lower Egypt
is a gift of the Nile, is sustained by a large number of scientific
investigators, who maintain that ancient and modern Egypt was
reclaimed from an arm of the sea. When nature acts so constantly and
irresistibly in one direction, the difficulties of those who contend
with her can hardly be overstated.

The winds of Libya, sweeping over the desert, bear the sands
irresistibly before them. The ruins of Isamboul and Palmyra are partly
buried or threatened by the sand waves. The base of the great Pyramids
are concealed, and the gigantic head of Memnon and Sphinx are partially
engulfed. The sand dunes near Ismailia move at the rate of ninety-eight
feet per annum.

The following excellent description of the sand dunes is taken from
Mr. Mitchell’s report: “In the central part of the land of Goshen,
where there are broad plains covered with flints, solitary dunes are
seen, like golden islands, and they are objects of grace and beauty
in every detail. On near approach to one of them, the sands may be
seen traveling up the long rear slope before the wind, flying in the
air at the crest, and falling down the fore slope in a perpetual
cascade—everywhere in motion, but preserving always the same faultless
curves. Nor do these dunes leave a grain behind them to mark their
tracks. The homogeneous sands of which they are composed are as fine
as those usually seen in an hour-glass, and, like the latter, serve to
measure the lapse of time in their steady march. The prevailing winds
in this part of the desert blow from due north, and are more steady
than at Port Said or Suez. In consequence of this, the course of the
dunes is so nearly parallel to that of the canal, that their slow
approach can always be prepared for. They can at any time be fixed by
covering them with brushwood.”

Between Lake Timseh and Port Said, it is estimated that 130,000 cubic
yards of sand will be swept into the canal annually. This will give
employment for one of the largest dredges for three or four months,
working twelve hours each day. This estimate is based on the work
done by one of Lavalley’s first-class dredges, which removed 120,000
cubic yards per month, working day and night. But as the material
will be distributed in a thin stratum along the entire length of
this section of the canal, a longer period will be requisite for its
removal. The able engineers who conducted the operations of excavation
express confidence in their ability to keep the depth from decreasing.
The chief danger from this source, therefore, can only come from a
suspension of the work of the dredges.

2. Permanence of the harbors, particularly that of Port Said.

The reports of Capt. Spratt, Royal Navy, and of Mr. Mitchell, U. S.
Coast Survey, supply very interesting information on this subject. M.
Lartet is now publishing, in the _Annales des Sciences Geologiques_,
his observations upon the Isthmus. From the map of M. Lartet it appears
that an arm of the Gulf of Suez once extended, by the way of the Bitter
Lakes, to the Mediterranean, and that, at the same time, the Gulf of
Akaba united the waters of the Red Sea and the Dead Sea. The endogenous
movement which raised the mountains of Gebel Attaka and the crystalline
rocks surrounding the north end of the Red Sea, placed the first
barrier between the seas, and, by a succession of seismic movements,
raised the cretaceous plateau of Egypt and Syria, or Palestine.

The mouth of the Nile at this period must have emptied into the
Mediterranean, near the great Pyramid of Gizah; and here the river must
have begun to lay the foundation of modern Egypt along the border of
the cretaceous formation.

Thus the geological record is in harmony with the traditions of
the Priests as handed down to us by Herodotus, “Egypt is a gift of
the Nile.” Within historic times, the elevating movement has been
inappreciable. The Nile still continues to roll down its plenteous
bounty of sand, and to spread unceasingly its desolating influence over
the plains of Suez and along the coast of Egypt as far as Syria.

Capt. Pratt, in the Medina, made a careful survey of the coast,
sounding and dredging with sufficient minuteness to determine the
limit of Nile influence. Within this limit, the bottom was found to be
composed of siliceous sands, differing in no respect from the sands of
the desert about the Pyramids. Outside of the Nile sand, the bottom of
the sea was found to be composed exclusively of calcareous particles.
The suspended matter, which is greatest during the Nile floods, driven
eastward along the coast, accumulates upon the beach in the form of
dunes, and overwhelms the huts of the coast guard and the fishermen,
and, in twelve months, nearly buried the Mosque of Brulos. Commencing
its devastating march, it advances irresistibly toward Suez.

The Nile brings down a prodigious quantity of sand, which is swept
into the river by the Libyan winds, and borne by the current to the
sea, mingled with fragments of pottery from the villages on the
banks. The quantity of sand brought into the sea has excited the
astonishment of the most experienced students of delta formations. The
Ganges, the Indus, the Dneipper, the Danube, and the Mississippi, the
Yang-Tse-Kiang, and the Hoang Ho bring down annually millions of tons
of solid matter to add to the accretions at their mouths.


The whole amount carried yearly into the Gulf of Mexico by all the
passes of the Mississippi is seven hundred and fifty millions of cubic
feet, or a mass of one mile square and twenty-seven feet thick. “As
the cubical contents of the whole mass of the bar at the South-west
pass is equal to a solid of one mile square and four hundred and ninety
feet thick, it would require fifty-five years to form the bar as it now

Since the time of Strabo the Nile has advanced the coast line of Egypt,
by its yearly contributions of sand, from four to six miles into the
sea. Any interruptions of the littoral currents greatly accelerates
this result. Such is the well-known effect of jetties and moles. Since
the construction of the mole at Port Said, the shore line has advanced
1213 feet in eight years. Eighty-eight feet of this distance was made
in the last six months. “If the shore line continues to advance,” Mr.
Mitchell remarks, “at any thing like its present rate, the dry land
will extend to the end of the mole in forty years. The shoaling of the
entrance to the harbor will keep pace with the advance of the shore
line, and before the end of twenty years an extension of the mole will
be necessary.”

The silting up of the interior of the harbor by the sand which sifts
through the interstices of the concrete block is regarded by Mr.
Mitchell as a more serious evil. But as it may not be impracticable to
close these interstices, this danger does not seem comparable to that
which must arise from the unceasing eastward movement of the sands
brought down by the Nile. It was for this reason that Alexander placed
his city to the west of the mouth of the Nile.

The boldness and skill displayed in the construction of the harbor of
Port Said may be appreciated from these facts. The excavation of the
canal presented comparatively little difficulty. The entire cost of the
canal and harbors was about forty-three and a half millions of dollars,
or more than half of the entire cost of the work, which includes the
expenses of hospitals, negotiations, surveys, machinery, and the
miscellaneous expenses of administration, amounting in the aggregate to

The doubts of the permanent value of the Suez Canal, as expressed by
Lord Palmerston and Sir Robert Stephenson, do not appear to have been
without sound and reasonable foundation. It is evident that a few years
of war will, as in the days of the Pharaohs, Ptolemies, the Cæsars, and
the Caliphs, necessitate a reconstruction on a scale almost as great
as that which has recently challenged the admiration of the civilized

It is unnecessary to say any thing of the harbor of Suez. The
difficulties encountered at this point were much more easily conquered
than at Port Said.

The Egyptian Government has provided excellent docks and every facility
for the repairing of ships at the southern terminus.


[1] For more detailed account of the difficulties and of the
preliminary work, the reader is referred to the pamphlets of Capt.
Methven, Pen. and Oriental Steamship Company; of J. N. Strouse, U. S.
N.; Mr. H. Mitchell, Coast Survey; Blackwood, Dec., 1869, and other

[2] The reader is referred to the reports of the French engineers; to
the pamphlet of J. N. Nourse, U. S. N.; Blackwood, Dec., 1869; London
Times, and other periodicals.

[3] See Delta Report of Generals Humphreys and Abbot.


    Influence of Commerce—Distances Reduced by the Suez
        Canal—Tables showing the Gain of the United States
        and European Ports—Navigation by way of Red Sea and
        Good Hope—Napoleon III on Advantages of the American
        Route—Darien and Suez Canals as parts of one system of
        Navigation—Lieut. Maury on Darien Canal; its influence
        on the Resources of the Basin of the Mississippi—Table
        of Distances by Cape and Canal—Saving to the Commerce
        of the World—Table showing how far the great Maritime
        States are interested in the American Canal—Advantages
        of Suez and Darien Canals.

Statistics have been accumulated to show to what extent commerce will
be benefited by the Suez Canal. The question of choice of route is
not dependent on distance alone. The winds and currents are natural
advantages or dangers which the navigator skillfully avoids or employs.
Steam, while it enables a vessel to contend with wind and current, is
yet obliged to obey their dictates. The distance of coaling stations,
the large space occupied by fuel to the exclusion of freight, renders
steam desirable rather as an auxiliary than as the sole means of

The Suez Canal has reduced the distances from European ports to India
about one-half. England derives an equal advantage, yet she has justly
regarded with apprehension the diversion of trade from the old route.
Anticipating the day when she would be compelled to acquiesce in the
opening of the new highway, she has shrewdly secured the military
command of the new course of trade which threatens her monopoly.

For the United States, the distances to the East are reduced to
from 2000 to 4000 miles. But on account of winds and currents for
homeward-bound ships, the old route by way of Cape Horn is still

The following table, computed by M. de Lesseps, exhibits the distances
from European and American ports to Bombay:

_Tables showing the Gain of U. S. and European Ports._

                    │   BY   │   BY   │  SAVING
         PORTS.     │  CAPE  │  SUEZ  │ EFFECTED
                    │  HORN. │ CANAL. │ BY CANAL.
                    │ MILES. │ MILES. │ MILES.
    Constantinople  │ 14,760 │  4,350 │ 10,410
    Malta           │ 14,130 │  4,990 │  9,140
    Trieste         │ 14,420 │  5,660 │  8,760
    Marseilles      │ 13,675 │  5,745 │  7,930
    Cadiz           │ 12,584 │  5,384 │  7,200
    Lisbon          │ 12,960 │  6,050 │  6,910
    Bordeaux        │ 13,670 │  6,770 │  6,900
    Havre           │ 14,030 │  6,830 │  7,200
    London          │ 14,400 │  7,500 │  6,900
    Liverpool       │ 14,280 │  7,380 │  6,900
    Amsterdam       │ 14,400 │  7,500 │  6,900
    St. Petersburg  │ 15,850 │  8,950 │  6,900
    New York        │ 15,000 │  9,100 │  5,900
    New Orleans     │ 15,600 │  9,000 │  6,600

The subjoined table contains distances from London, New York, and Port
Royal to certain Eastern ports, compared with distances to the same
ports from New York via the Pacific Railroad and Darien:

     ORIENTAL  │   VIA   │   VIA   │   VIA     │    VIA   │   VIA
      PORTS.   │  SUEZ.  │  SUEZ.  │   SUEZ.   │PAC. R. R.│  DARIEN.
               │ MILES.  │ MILES.  │  MILES.   │  MILES.  │  MILES.
    Melbourne  │ 11,280  │ 13,200  │  13,700   │  10,300  │  10,400
    Shanghai   │ 11,504  │ 12,500  │  13,000   │   8,850  │  11,100
    Hong Kong  │ 10,469  │ 11,700  │  11,100   │   9,300  │  10,850
    Manila     │  9,639  │ 11,600  │  12,200   │   9,600  │  11,500
    Singapore  │  8,239  │ 10,300  │  10,800   │  10,600  │  12,800[4]
    Batavia    │         │ 10,500  │  11,000   │  11,000  │  12,550
    Penang     │  7,859  │  9,950  │  10,430   │  11,000  │  12,800
    Calcutta   │  7,964  │  9,700  │  12,200   │  12,150  │  14,350
    Ceylon     │  7,946  │  8,750  │   9,250   │  12,200  │  14,300
    Yeddo      │         │         │           │          │  10,200
    Bombay     │         │  9,000  │           │          │
    Yokohama   │         │ 11,504  │           │          │

According to the first table, distances from the European and American
ports therein named are shortened one-half. According to the second
table, the distances to Oriental ports, from the great European and
American entrepôts, are greater by the Darien route; but by reason of
winds and currents, the voyage by the way of Suez is from four to five
days longer.

In the Red Sea the prevailing winds are from the north, which retard
the steamers and compel the sailing ships to beat up to Suez. “From
Suez to Ceylon,” according to the _London Times_, “the winds are
unfavorable. From Point de Galle to Swan River, terrible hurricanes
sweep the Indian Ocean. Along the coast of New South Wales, violent
winds prevail from the westward, causing a prodigious sea to arise,
which nearly precludes navigation in that direction.”

The route by way of Good Hope is beset by gales from the south-west and
north-west, rendering the return passage a matter of great uncertainty;
but by Darien or Panama route, going or returning, regular voyages and
smooth seas may be counted on with precision.

For steam, but more especially for sailing vessels, the American route,
lying in the zone of the trade-winds, possesses special advantages.
Outgoing and returning ships may trim their sails to favorable winds;
and the experienced navigator may have the aid of confluent currents,
and enter the monsoons at greater advantage.

Napoleon III, when a prisoner in Ham, thoroughly examined the
advantages of the American route. “In regard to the United States of
America,” he observes, “all the distances would be shortened 1400 miles
and fifteen days”——“Europe would gain forty-seven days in a voyage
to the coast of South America, while the United States would gain
sixty-two days. To China and Sidney, Europe would gain twenty-nine
days, and the United States twenty-four days.”

But it is not as rivals that the two routes should be compared, but
as parts of the same system by which maritime nations are brought
into commercial union. The benefit which each route will confer upon
commerce is doubled by considering the effects of both together. The
one opens the gates to the East, the other to the West. While one route
is favorable to outward ships, the other affords equal advantages to
the homeward bound, so that in many cases the most desirable route
would lead to a circumnavigation of the globe.

To appreciate the importance of such a system of navigation, and
exhibit some of the advantages of the American route, it may be well to
compare it with the old route, by the way of the Cape, which will still
remain the principal highway to the East.

“The Englishman,” says Lieut. Maury, “meets the American in all the
markets of the world with the advantage of ten days or upward. Cut
through the Isthmus, and instead of some ten days’ sail or more, the
scale would be turned, and we shall have the advantage of some twenty
days’ sail, thus making a difference of thirty or forty days under
canvas.” The distance between New York, China, India, and Australia,
and the west coast of South America exceeds that by way of Cape Horn
from 8,000 to 14,000 miles.

To the States lying in the great basin of the Mississippi, and to all
the cities situated on its navigable waters, the gain is much greater.
These parts of the continent, now secluded by their position from
direct trade with the west coast of South America and the Indies, will
be brought into closer commercial relations with these ports of the
world. With but one transshipment, the silk, teas, spices, and fabrics
of India, China, Japan, and the Pacific Islands may be landed on the
banks of the Mississippi, Missouri, and Ohio.

The following tables, taken from the Report of Lieut. Maury to the
Committee on Naval Affairs, will show the sailing distance from New
York and Liverpool to the principal ports beyond and around Cape Horn
and the Cape of Good Hope. The distances to South and North Pacific
ports are greatly reduced by the Darien or Panama route.

                                       │    FROM    │   FROM
                                       │ LIVERPOOL. │ NEW YORK.
                                       │   MILES.   │  MILES.
    To Calcutta, via Cape of Good Hope │   16,000   │  17,500
       Calcutta, via Cape Horn         │   21,500   │  23,000
       Canton, via Cape Horn           │   20,000   │  21,500
       Canton, via Cape of Good Hope   │   18,000   │  19,500
       Valparaiso, via Cape Horn       │   11,400   │  12,900
       Callao, via Cape Horn           │   12,000   │  13,500
       Guayaquil, via Cape Horn        │   12,800   │  14,300
       Panama, via Cape Horn           │   14,500   │  16,000
       San Blas, via Cape Horn         │   16,300   │  17,800
       Mazatlan, via Cape Horn         │   16,500   │  18,000
       San Diego, via Cape Horn        │   17,000   │  18,500
       San Francisco, via Cape Horn    │   17,500   │  19,000

The following table shows the saving of time from New York by the new
route, via the Isthmus of Panama, as compared with the old routes,
via Cape Horn and Cape of Good Hope, to the places therein named,
estimating the distance which a common trading ship will sail per day
to be one hundred and ten miles, and calculating for the voyage out and

                        │  VIA   │  OF    │  VIA   │  OF    │VIA THE
                        │  GOOD  │OUT AND │  HORN. │OUT AND │   OF
                        │  HOPE. │ HOME.  │        │ HOME.  │PANAMA.
                        │ MILES  │ DAYS   │ MILES  │ DAYS   │ MILES
    Calcutta            │ 17,500 │  318   │ 23,000 │  418   │ 13,400
    Canton              │ 19,500 │  354   │ 21,500 │  390   │ 10,600
    Shanghai            │ 20,000 │  362   │ 22,000 │  400   │ 10,400
    Valparaiso          │        │        │ 12,900 │  234   │  4,800
    Callao              │        │        │ 13,500 │  244   │  3,500
    Guayaquil           │        │        │ 14,300 │  260   │  2,800
    Panama              │        │        │ 16,000 │  290   │  2,000
    San Blas            │        │        │ 17,800 │  322   │  3,800
    Mazatlan            │        │        │ 18,000 │  326   │  4,000
    San Diego           │        │        │ 18,500 │  336   │  4,500
    San Francisco       │        │        │ 19,000 │  344   │  5,000
    Wellington, N. Z.   │ 13,740 │        │ 11,100 │        │  8,480
    Melbourne, Australia│ 13,230 │        │ 12,720 │        │  9,890
                        │LENGTH  │ SAVING │ TIME   │ SAVING │ TIME
                        │  OF    │   IN   │ SAVED  │   IN   │ SAVED
                        │PASSAGE │DISTANCE│  BY    │DISTANCE│  BY
                        │OUT AND │OVER THE│ISTHMUS │  OVER  │ISTHMUS
    FROM N. Y. TO       │ HOME.  │ROUTE BY│ OVER   │  THE   │ OVER
                        │        │CAPE OF │ TIME   │ ROUTE  │TIME BY
                        │        │  GOOD  │BY CAPE │   BY   │ CAPE
                        │        │  HOPE. │ HOPE,  │  CAPE  │ HOPE,
                        │        │        │OUT AND │  HORN. │OUT AND
                        │        │        │ HOME.  │        │ HOME.
                        │ DAYS   │ MILES  │  DAYS  │ MILES  │ DAYS
    Calcutta            │  244   │ 4,100  │    74  │  9,600 │  174
    Canton              │  192   │ 8,900  │   162  │ 10,900 │  198
    Shanghai            │  188   │ 9,600  │   174  │ 11,600 │  212
    Valparaiso          │   86   │        │        │  8,100 │  148
    Callao              │   62   │        │        │ 10,000 │  182
    Guayaquil           │   50   │        │        │ 11,500 │  210
    Panama              │   36   │        │        │ 14,000 │  254
    San Blas            │   68   │        │        │ 14,000 │  254
    Mazatlan            │   72   │        │        │ 14,000 │  254
    San Diego           │   82   │        │        │ 14,000 │  254
    San Francisco       │   90   │        │        │ 14,000 │  254
    Wellington, N. Z.   │        │ 5,260  │        │  2,620 │
    Melbourne, Australia│        │ 3,340  │        │  2,830 │

The following condensed statement, from tables carefully prepared by
an advocate of intermarine canals, exhibits some of the commercial
advantages depending upon the completion of the route:

    _Table showing the saving to the trade of the world, in
        insurance on vessels and cargoes, interest on cargoes,
        saving of wear and tear of ships, and saving of wages,
        provisions, etc., by using the Isthmus Canal_:

           United States              $35,995,930
           England                      9,950,348
           France                       2,183,930
           Other countries              1,400,000
               Total yearly saving    $49,530,208

Exports of Great Britain increased one hundred and seven per cent. in
ten years; exports of France increased one hundred and thirty per cent.
in ten years; exports of the United States increased ninety-three per
cent. in ten years. If the trade increases one hundred per cent. in
the next ten years, the saving to the world will then be ninety-nine
millions sixty thousand four hundred and sixteen dollars ($99,060,416)
per annum.

Taking this statement as a basis, and representing the gross pecuniary
interest of the United States in the proposed canal as unity, the
saving to Great Britain will be one-fourth, to France one-eighteenth,
and to all other countries one-thirty-fifth.

This preponderance of interest on the part of the United States may
be taken to imply a proportionate share in the cost. Such would
be a correct conclusion if our Government retained control of the
route. Surrendering the latter claim, she relinquishes with it her
proportionate liability, and is entitled to be received as one of the
contracting parties upon terms of equality. The respective shares of
the parties is, however, a proper subject for diplomatic arrangement.
But while the greatest saving accrues to the United States, the
absolute value of our oriental exports and imports is about equal
to that of Great Britain, and about double that of France and other

Neutralization of the Isthmus is only, in appearance, a suspension
of the policy understood as the Monroe Doctrine. It can be made an
international recognition of that policy. Such objections, even if
well founded, sink into insignificance in comparison with the benefits
which must accrue to mankind at large. The United States has not shown
herself so incapable of adopting a policy in accordance with her high
destiny, as to justify a suspicion that she will ever by her acts
sanction the selfish theory that “nations may combine to oppress and
plunder, but rarely for any useful or benevolent purpose.” The progress
of events has already made her an arbiter in the destiny of nations,
and she can no longer, by an insular and anti-social policy, separate
herself from the interests of the great family of nations. Mutual and
liberal concessions in the generous spirit of our civilization, looking
to the extension of commerce, industry, arts, science, and religion
throughout the world, can alone lead to that harmonious coöperation
without which an interoceanic ship canal must remain forever

The above tables supply material for other important conclusions.
Eighteen vessels, sailing from as many different ports in East India,
China, Japan, Australia, and South America, would save the average
distance of 8,791 miles, equivalent to a voyage by sail of about eighty
days, or to between thirty-six and forty days by steam.

Supposing the average tonnage of ships to be one thousand tons, then
three thousand and ninety-four steamships would be requisite to carry
the freight which would now seek the Isthmus annually. The saving of
time to trade and to each man would be about three and four-tenths
years to every generation of thirty-three years. The amount of tonnage
above mentioned would give employment to 86,632 seamen, giving to
them, by the new route, a saving of time in one generation amounting
to the aggregate of 294,548 years. The benefits being diffused among
all engaged or interested, directly or indirectly, the accession to
the time, wealth, and industry of so large a number of men is not only
a great economic and commercial advantage, but may be regarded as
participating in the nature of those beneficent, moral movements which
characterize the age.

The annual saving to the trade of the world is shown to be
$49,530,208.00. The annual increase of the trade of Great Britain,
France, and the United States is together more than one hundred per
cent. The saving to the maritime powers in one year at the end of a
decade will be $99,060,416.00. Assuming the trade of the three powers
to increase in the same ratio, the total amount saved at the end of ten
years will be equal to the aggregate of the amounts saved each year,
and foots up as follows:

    Amount saved at end of first year              $54,483,228.80
      “      “       “     second year              59,436,249.60
      “      “       “     third year               64,389,270.40
      “      “       “     fourth year              69,342,291.20
      “      “       “     fifth year               74,295,312.00
      “      “       “     sixth year               79,248,332.80
      “      “       “     seventh year             84,201,353.60
      “      “       “     eighth year              89,154,374.40
      “      “       “     ninth year               94,107,395.20
      “      “       “     tenth year               99,060,416.10
              Entire amount saved in ten years    $767,718,224.10

This result is verified by an estimate based upon the tonnage which
will be actually engaged in this trade:

    Maintenance of ship and crew of 1000 tons           $500 per month.
    Interest of 1½ per cent. on tonnage worth $17,000    255     “
    Insurance at 1 per cent. on value of ship worth
              $18,000                                    180     “
                          Saving per month              $935
    Add reduction of insurance upon ship and cargo
              at 1 per cent.                             350
                          Total saving per month       $1285

The annual saving for each ship will be $15,420, giving as the
aggregate saved upon the tonnage which would pass the Isthmus the sum
of $47,709,480, and the saving of one year at the end of a decade
as $95,418,960, a sum sufficiently near the first to establish its

The following tables were compiled by Mr. F. W. Kelley, of New York,
and were intended to exhibit the effect upon the trade of the world by
the completion of the canal through the Isthmus:

        _Table showing the trade of the U. S. that would pass
            through the Isthmus Canal, if now finished. Taken
            from the official returns for 1857._
                                            │ EXPORTS AND │
             COUNTRIES TRADED WITH.         │  IMPORTS.   │    TONNAGE.
    Russian North American Possessions      │ $   126,537 │ $     5,735
    Dutch East Indies                       │     904,550 │      16,589
    British Australia and New Zealand       │   4,728,083 │      52,105
    British East Indies                     │  11,744,151 │     177,121
    French East Indies                      │      98,432 │       3,665
    Half of Mexico                          │   9,601,063 │      34,673
    Half of New Granada                     │   5,375,354 │     131,708
    Central America                         │     425,081 │      36,599
    Chile                                   │   6,645,634 │      63,749
    Peru                                    │     716,679 │     193,131
    Ecuador                                 │      48,979 │       1,979
    Sandwich Islands                        │   1,151,849 │      33,876
    China                                   │  12,752,062 │     123,578
    Other ports in Asia and Pacific         │      80,143 │       4,549
    Whale Fisheries                         │  10,796,090 │     116,730
    California to East United States        │  35,000,000 │     861,698
           Value of cargoes                 │$100,294,687 │ $ 1,857,485
           Value of ships, at $50 per ton   │  92,874,250 │
           Total value of ships and cargoes │$193,168,937 │ $92,874,250

“Whale ships and coasting vessels have been estimated generally
throughout this appendix at forty dollars ($40) per ton. The United
States and European commerce around the Capes is conducted in
first-class ships, which often cost eighty dollars ($80) per ton. Fifty
dollars ($50) have therefore been taken as the fair average value in
the construction of this table, which does not include coasting trade.”

        _Table showing the trade of England that would pass
            through the Isthmus Canal, if now finished. Taken
            from the official returns for 1856._
                                            │ EXPORTS AND │
             COUNTRIES TRADED WITH.         │  IMPORTS.   │   TONNAGE.
    Half of Mexico                          │$  2,775,137 │$    11,833
    Half of Central America                 │   1,244,817 │      5,615
    Half of New Granada                     │   2,437,605 │     10,188
    Chile                                   │  15,486,110 │    118,311
    Peru                                    │  20,473,520 │    244,319
    Ecuador                                 │     360,015 │      1,820
    China     ┐    Outward; only          ┌ │   7,077,390 │     68,530
    Java      ├    40 days saved          ┤ │   3,821,410 │     16,003
    Singapore ┘     by the canal          └ │   4,364,070 │     16,500
    Australia and New Zealand               │  78,246,095 │    522,426
    Sandwich Islands                        │     520,560 │      1,950
    California                              │   2,378,105 │     11,800
           Value of trade                   │$139,184,834 │$ 1,029,295
           Value of ships, at $50 per ton   │  51,464,750 │
           Total value of trade and ships   │$190,649,584 │$51,464,750

        _Table showing the trade of France that would pass
            through the Isthmus Canal, if now finished. Taken
            from the official returns for 1857._
                                       │             │
                                       │ EXPORTS AND │
         COUNTRIES TRADED WITH.        │   IMPORTS.  │       TONNAGE.
    Chile                              │ $10,000,000 │        $25,688
    Peru                               │  13,160,000 │         35,096
    Half of Mexico                     │   2,790,000 │         10,004
    Half of New Grenada                │   1,090,000 │          2,389
    Ecuador                            │     440,000 │          1,651
    Bolivia                            │     100,000 │          1,000
    California                         │   2,073,859 │          8,997
                      ┐              ┌ │             │
    China             ├ Outward only ┤ │   2,180,000 │          2,028
    Dutch East Indies ┘              └ │   4,440,000 │         20,400
    Sandwich Islands                   │   2,000,000 │          4,119
    Philippine Islands                 │   1,000,000 │          1,463
    Australia                          │  19,800,000 │         50,000
         Value of cargoes              │ $59,073,859 │       $162,735
         Value of ships at $50 per ton │   8,136,750 │
         Total value                   │ $67,210,609 │     $8,136,750

The value of the tonnage which would take the Darien route is,
according to the above table, $152,475,750, and the total value of
exports and imports passing the same way is:

    England                                           $193,168,939
    United States                                      190,649,584
    France                                              67,210,609
          Total value of trade passing the Isthmus    $451,029,132

But the aggregate amount of British imports and exports from and to
India and China is $378,587,122, giving the value of the trade which
would pass through the Suez and Darien Canals $636,447,315, yearly.

The rapidly growing trade between Levantine ports and India would take
the Suez route, but between the European ports and the Pacific coast of
North and South America, and between the east and west coasts of these
two continents, the American route would be exclusively employed.

In selecting a route to oriental ports it is evident, from the facts
of physical geography, as stated by Lieut. Maury, Napoleon III, and
the writer in the _London Times_, that the navigator seeking to make a
rapid voyage would adopt the American route both going and returning,
except, perhaps, between Levantine and Indian ports. Between French,
English, Levantine, and Indian ports, the outward voyage by way of
Darien, or Panama, and homeward by way of Suez would, in many cases, be
favorable to the quickest trip.

The Suez Canal was built by French talent, French energy, French
machinery, and French money. England and the Mediterranean States
participate in the benefit. But the larger share of the profit belongs
to France, by reason of her ports and industrial resources; and so far
as France and the Levant enter into a direct trade with India, so far,
it has been supposed, will the value of trade between Great Britain and
India be impaired.

We have spoken of the piercement of the American Isthmus as an
international work. It should rather be the work of American energy,
American talent, and American money. It is part of the American
continent. No foreign nation can have the same military control of
it that Great Britain now has of the Suez Canal. The benefit of its
construction, although shared by the maritime powers, will be most
important to the Americas, and by reason of resources, organization,
and position, especially to the United States. It deserves
consideration as an American project.


[4] 17,738 miles during S. W. monsoon. For a part of this table I am
indebted to Com. B. F. Sands, U. S. N.


    The Canal considered as an American Project
        exclusively—Currents and Winds—Resources of the Basins
        of the Rivers of the Gulf and Caribbean Sea—Their
        Productive Capacity compared with the Mediterranean Basins.

Let the reader refer to Berghaus’s map of winds and currents, and any
map of the alluvial basins of the river systems of Europe and America.
He will observe that the Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico constitute
but one sea, partially divided by the West Indies and Cuba, which,
stretching toward Yucatan, is separated from that part of Central
America by a channel 100 miles wide and 6000 feet deep.

The equatorial current, crossing the ocean with the trade-winds, enters
the Caribbean Sea, and, passing between Cuba and Yucatan into the Gulf
of Mexico, flows out through the Strait of Florida. Ships from the east
following this current are led in the path of favorable winds, both
going and returning.

The Pacific trade-winds and equatorial current are equally favorable to
the outward and homeward bound voyager. The skillful navigator shapes
his course north of the equatorial current when returning from China to
San Francisco or Panama.

The Humboldt and Mexican currents aid the coastwise trade. Thus, by the
converging winds and currents, this great intertropical sea seems to be
designated by nature as the future commercial center of the world.

The two American seas have been styled by Lieut. Maury as the heart of
the continent. Its two compartments have been compared to the auricle
and ventricle of the human heart, through which, in regular pulsations,
by unceasing systole and dyastole, the ocean currents find constant
entrance and exit, and circulate through all the world-arteries their
vivifying influence.

Pursuing the analogy, the two continents, from their general shape
and the alimentary part they perform, may not inaptly be compared to
the lungs, which convert the blood of commerce into the nutrient and
productive elements which contribute to the health and growth of the
nationalities of two continents.

The rivers having their natural outlet in the Caribbean Sea and the
Gulf of Mexico, bring into commercial union two regions producing all
the commodities of the globe. The rivers of North America bear to the
Gulf the successive harvests of the temperate zone, and receive in
return the fruits, woods, dyes, drugs, spices, coffee, cotton, and
tobacco of intertropical America.

No part of the globe combines so many natural advantages as are found
united around this body of water. Its shores present every advantage of
soil, climate, vegetation, and convenient harbors likely to attract an
enterprising and commercial people. The table lands of Mexico, Yucatan,
Guatemala, Honduras, and Columbia afford the most salubrious climate,
scenery of the rarest beauty and sublimity, equable temperature, and an
endless succession of fruits and harvests. Mountains of perpetual snow
look down on plains of unceasing verdure. All that is requisite for the
support of life grows spontaneously.

The descriptions of Humboldt represent the table lands as suitable
to the highest development of the race. One wonders that the tide of
immigration, guided by the rational instinct for superior advantages,
has not filled every bay and estuary and overspread the plains; or,
sweeping down from the north, the Anglo-Americans have not taken
possession, as the hardy races of the North of Europe overran the
degenerate mixture of nations which overspread the northern shores of
the Mediterranean.

Those portions of the world which possess the finest climate, whose
soil returns the largest yield from the least amount of labor, are held
by degenerate and effete representatives of a moribund civilization.

In America no alpine barrier interrupts communication with the
interior, but an indefinite expanse of plains, prairies, and table
lands stretch away to the north, or form broad plateau, as in Central
and South America.

Millions of square miles of arable lands are intersected by rivers
of unrivaled extent. The Mississippi, rising in such proximity to
the northern lakes as to make their shores tributary to the trade of
its valley, flows through twenty degrees of latitude before reaching
the Gulf of Mexico. The Amazon, nearly at right-angles with the
Mississippi, developing its course chiefly in longitude, bears the
varied products of its valley to the ocean, where the equatorial
current makes it tributary to the Caribbean Sea. The Amazon is more
directly connected with this sea by the Orinoco, with which it is
united by the Rio Negro. Humboldt surveyed the channel joining the two
rivers, and ascertained the feasibility of a navigable channel between
them at high water.

The different positions of the main commercial arteries of the two
continents—the one extending through temperate latitudes, the other
through tropical longitudes—supply the greatest variety of commodities
for commercial interchange. The Mediterranean system, finding its most
extensive development in longitude, is limited in the variety of its
products by the climatic uniformity of one zone. While American rivers
flow through twenty-five degrees of latitude, the European rivers of
the Mediterranean extend through but ten degrees.

Berghaus’s map supplies data for a comparison of the river system
of the two great continent-bounded seas of the Eastern and Western

                                                          SQUARE MILES.
    Area of the Mississippi basin, including the basins  ┐
       of its tributaries, the Missouri, Ohio, Arkansas, ├   2,231,000
       Red River, etc.                                   ┘
    Rio del Norte                                              180,000
                          ┌ Magdelina                           72,000
    South American basins ┤ Orinoco                            250,000
                          └ Amazon                           1,512,000
    Entire area of basins which drain into the Gulf of
        Mexico and Caribbean Sea                             4,245,000

_Area of the Basins of the Mediterranean Systems of Rivers._

                                                  SQUARE MILES.
    European, Euxine, and Caspian                    1,890,000
    Basin of the Nile                                  520,000
        Area of basins of the Mediterranean rivers   2,410,000

Area of basin of the river system of the Gulf of Mexico and the
Caribbean Sea is 4,245,000 square miles, a productive area nearly
double that of the Mediterranean, which it exceeds by 1,835,000 square

In the extent of its navigable rivers, the difference is
proportionately large. The Mississippi and its tributaries constitute
a continuous channel for steam navigation of 12,000 miles in extent,
which would be nearly doubled by reckoning the length of the navigable
channels at the period of high water.

The river system of the Mediterranean, Euxine, and the Caspian, to
which may be added that of the Nile, will not together exceed 5000
miles, or less than half the length of navigable channels of the
American system.

The natural advantages of the Mediterranean of America may be summed
up as follows: with double the productive area, it has capacity for a
greater variety of products, by reason of its variety of climate; it
has double the extent of navigable rivers, which pour their bounties
into the same sea; and not only are the rivers and continents tributary
to this region, but the ocean currents and winds, converging at the
same point, bring the products of the Orient to exchange for those of
the New World.

In a letter addressed to Mr. Rockwell, M. C., at that time secretary of
the special committee to whom was referred a resolution of Congress,
asking for information respecting routes to the Pacific, Lieut. Maury
has, with signal ability and in not too glowing language, sketched the
future of the American Mediterranean, (which is destined to surpass its
European prototype,) whose fine harbors will become the marts of an
opulent trade and the centers of a higher standard of civilization.

These desirable ends will be greatly accelerated by the intermarine
canal between the two seas, by which the trade of China and Japan may
meet the commodities of Europe—

                           “Argosies of stately sails,
    Pilots of the purple twilight, dropping down with costly bales,”

and the products brought down by the Mississippi and the Amazon into
the Gulf of Mexico.


    Effect of the Canal on the Interest of the Valley of the
        Mississippi—Pacific Railroad as a Rival of the Isthmean
        Canal—Rates of Freight on Ocean, Lakes, Rivers, Canals,
        and Railroads—San Francisco and the Trade of China
        and Japan—Considerations of General Interest—Probable Revenue.

The products of the Valley of the Mississippi and its tributaries
may be collected at points along the river, to be shipped direct for
China, Japan, Australia; and the products of the Orient may be brought,
without breaking bulk, to Galveston, New Orleans, Mobile, Pensacola,
Appalachicola, and even Memphis, Cairo, St. Louis, Louisville, and
Cincinnati, thence to be distributed by the river system, which extends
throughout the States of the South, and reaches even to the borders of
British America. With one, or at most two, transshipments, the produce
of the Indies may be transported, by the way of the Illinois river, or
the projected improvement of the Fox and Wisconsin rivers, to Chicago
and Lake Michigan, thence to be distributed throughout the shores of
the northern lakes.

Teas, silks, Japanese and East India goods may be transported by way of
the ship canal and the Mississippi river, and delivered at St. Louis at
one-third or one-fourth the cost of transportation of the same articles
by the Pacific railroad. While the Pacific railroad is a great national
highway, bringing into political and commercial union two great
sections of the country, building up cities, opening mines, bringing
under cultivation a vast extent of arable land along its route, the
proposed canal across the American Isthmus must be the sole dispenser
of the bulkier products of China and the Indies.

The question may be asked how far the railroads constructed and to be
constructed between the Atlantic and Pacific, especially within the
limits of the United States of America, may supersede the commercial
advantages which would result from the canalization of the Isthmus?

Trade has always increased in proportion to the facilities for
transportation; and it is evident that, even in the most populous
country, the reciprocal relation of production and consumption may be
increased by a better organization and a more judicious application
of labor. In all cases of competition between railroads with canal,
lake, or coast trade, the result has been the reduction of rates and
the increase in the quantity of material transported. Two railroads,
American and Canadian, skirt the shores of the Northern Lakes, making,
with the line of lake steamers, three competing lines. The consequence
of this rivalry has been a reduction upon freight during the summer
months, to enable the two roads to compete with the lake route and

To exhibit the relative cost of different methods of transportation, a
statement is subjoined. The following table, compiled from different
sources, exhibits the cost per ton per mile of transportation of
freight upon the ocean, lakes, rivers, canals, and railroads:

                       TRANSPORTATION BY            │PER TON PER MILE.
                                                    │ CENTS. │ MILES
    Ocean—long voyage                               │        │ 1
    Ocean—short  “                                  │        │ 2 to 4
    Lakes—long   “ ┐                                │        │ 2
    Lakes—short  “ ├ U. S.                          │        │ 3 to 4
                   ┘                                │        │
    St. Lawrence River                              │        │ 3
    Hudson River                                    │        │ 2½
    Ohio River—long voyage                          │   1    │ 1.54
    Ohio River—short  “                             │   1    │ 3.6
    Missouri River—long voyage                      │        │ 8.37
    Missouri River—short  “                         │   2    │ 0.1
    Mississippi River—long voyage                   │        │ 5.07
    Mississippi River—short  “                      │        │ 8.50
    Erie Canal enlargement                          │        │ 4
    Railways transporting coal                      │  1 to  │ 6
    Reading Railroad transporting coal              │        │ 9.71
    Reading Railroad transporting merchandise       │        │ 4.468
    Railways—ordinary grades                        │   1    │ 2½
                     ┌                            ┐ │        │
    Pacific Railroad ┤ for transporting different ├ │   3    │ 2.8
                     └     kinds of freight.      ┘ │   6    │ 0.6
    Suez Canal—$2 per ton, transit of 100 miles     │   2    │ 00
    Proposed Panama Canal—$1 per ton,               │        │
              transit of 50 miles                   │   1    │ 00

The railroad rates above given have been established upon thoroughfares
favorable for the attainment of a minimum. But upon all roads to be
constructed between the Atlantic and Pacific, much higher rates must
prevail for many years. Hurried construction, through a wilderness
deficient in material and obstructed by hostile savages, must increase
the cost of construction. For the same reason, the execution of
the work is likely to be defective and the location of the route
imperfect. The expense of alteration and repair must be proportionately
increased. The cost of stations, machine shops, depots of fuel, and
supply of water must far exceed the disbursements for the same objects
in a settled country, possessing the advantages of skilled labor and
convenient transportation.

To meet the additional expense, the rates for passengers and freights
will have to be increased to probably six or eight times the value
assigned for ordinary grades.

On the other hand, ocean transportation by way of the Isthmean Canal,
collecting by tolls enough to pay the cost of repair—say one dollar per
ton transit, or one cent per ton per mile for fifty miles—would be but
one-fourth the average rate per ton per mile for the three thousand
miles of transportation on the Pacific Railroad.

Passengers will always take the quickest route. Valuable packages of
goods, gold, and silver, and even teas and small packages of costly
silks, will be transported by the railroad. The Pacific coast and
the interior country lying between the head of navigation of the
tributaries of the Mississippi, will receive the commodities of the
East chiefly through the port of San Francisco.

The following table shows the relative distances of San Francisco and
London from Oriental ports:

                   │VIA SUEZ.│   DIRECT.   │SAN FRANCISCO.│ LONDON.
                   │ MILES.  │    MILES.   │     MILES.   │ MILES.
    Melbourne      │ 11,281  │    7,902    │     3,379    │
    Yokohama       │ 11,504  │    7,520    │     6,984    │
    Shanghai       │ 10,469  │    5,555    │     4,914    │
    Hong Kong      │  9,669  │    6,355    │     3,314    │
    Manila         │  6,939  │    6,135    │     3,504    │
    Singapore      │  8,239  │    7,785    │       454    │
    Penang         │  7,856  │    8,165    │              │    306
    Calcutta       │  7,946  │    9,665    │              │  1,719
    Ceylon         │  8,646  │    9,378    │              │  2,732

From the above table it is evident that England will have a formidable
rival for the trade of the East in the Pacific ports, and the interior
which they will be called on to supply.

It is manifest that an intermarine canal is not impracticable to
American talent and energy. It can undoubtedly be executed by
international coöperation. It is demanded by the common interest,
commercial, political, and social, of all peoples. It is supported by
humanitarian considerations, immediate in their influence, broad and
practical in their relations to the interests of society.

The chief obstacle to its execution is its cost, which would be nearly
double that of the Suez Canal. Mr. Kelly estimates that 3,090,000 tons
would pass through the American canal yearly. Assuming that its total
cost will be 150 millions of dollars, the revenue from tolls, at the
rate of one cent per ton per mile, would amount to nearly twenty per
cent. of the entire outlay.

No work, so costly nor fraught with such stupendous consequences, has
ever been attempted by man. The history of civilization is the history
of the efforts of man to assert the right and to increase the means of
individual development. The monuments of science, skill, and industry,
left by ancient nations to perpetuate the names and conquests of Kings
and Pharaohs, were wrung by oppression from suffering men.

To us is left the opportunity for a more extended organization—a
combined world movement—in the interest of science and religion, for
the extension of liberty, and for the diffusion of civilization among
the races of mankind.

Less than the cost of one year of war, will establish for all time—only
to be shaken by a paroxysm of nature—this enduring monument of peace
and good will, and will secure to the United States a conquest pregnant
with vast moral and political possibilities. It is an object worthy of

Fifty years ago the Pacific Railroad, the Panama Railroad, the Mt.
Cenis Tunnel, the International Telegraph and the Suez Canal, were
visionary schemes. It seemed the acmé of poetical fiction when the
poet spoke of girdling the earth in forty minutes, as the work of
supernatural agency. Sir Humphrey Davy, making science the basis of
fiction, attempted to arrive at some conception of the composition of
distant planets and the nature of their inhabitants. We can now send
a message across the Atlantic in a minute, and know with certainty
something of the composition of planets, stars, and nebulæ. These
achievements have become the common property of the civilized world.

The piercement of the Isthmus does not involve greater practical nor
intellectual difficulties. Neither science, ability, nor energy, is
wanting. Conviction of its utility, sufficiently wide spread to secure
the popular good will, and leading to a national movement in favor of
combined international action, will secure the early completion of this
great marine highway.

To secure popular favor it seems only necessary to exhibit the material
advantages which must flow from its execution. Some of the facts,
showing how far the completion of the canal would affect the commerce
of the world, have been stated.

A small space may be given to the probable revenue. The moderate
estimate given in Admiral Davis’s report may be assumed as a basis,
which may be safety taken as doubling itself in ten years.

The tonnage which would pass the Isthmus yearly is, at one dollar per
ton toll, $3,094,070.

    At end of the first  year                     $ 3,403,477
      “       “   second  “                         3,712,884
      “       “   third   “                         4,022,291
      “       “   fourth  “                         4,331,698
      “       “   fifth   “                         4,641,105
      “       “   sixth   “                         4,950,512
      “       “   seventh “                         5,259,919
      “       “   eighth  “                         5,569,326
      “       “   ninth   “                         5,878,733
      “       “   tenth   “                         6,188,140
       Gross receipts for tolls during ten years  $47,958,085

This estimate is undoubtedly less than the revenue which will be

No conjectural estimate is made of the probable development of the
agricultural and mineral wealth of the valleys of the Mississippi and
the Amazon, of the shores of the Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean Sea, and
Pacific coast of America. And yet, in attempting to form an idea of the
probable revenue and actual value of this canal, all the industrial
resources called into being by its influence should be taken into
consideration. It is like opening the gate to commerce, which, for
centuries, man has struggled to unlock.

No event in history has been followed by more marvelous consequences
than the discovery of Columbus. So closely is man bound up with matter,
that every conquest of nature not only adds to his material comfort,
but opens new fields for the moral and intellectual progress of the
race. America not only opened new industrial resources, but afforded
the population of Europe an opportunity to escape from the social,
moral, and physical oppression of caste, bigotry, and capital, which
had become intolerable.

If we could lift the veil which conceals the future, and could see “the
vision of the world and the wonder that will be,” it is not improbable
that we should see the vast elements of progress latent in the American
continents, working out their legitimate and logical results, as
wonderful as those which have transpired since the colonization of

We should see the industrial resources—which have drawn thither in
the struggle for existence the most energetic of the races of the
globe—giving occupation to a happy and united people. The hum of
industry, and the din of the steam hammers, would mingle together
with smoke of furnaces and of factories, above the inexhaustible coal
fields of Pennsylvania, Virginia, Illinois, and Iowa. The grain of
Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, and Kansas would be shipped to New Orleans,
to be exchanged for the cotton and sugar of the South, and the coffee,
dyes, and tobacco of Costa Rico, Havana, and Ambelema; the magnificent
table lands of Mexico, Guatemala, Yucatan, and the plateau of Bogotá,
occupied by a people more highly cultivated and capable of appreciating
the grandeur of the scenery and salubrity of the climate, and of
utilizing the fertility of the soil and the physical advantages of
those most favored regions.

Opulent cities would spring up in the bays of Tampa, Mobile, and
Pensacola. New Orleans, Galveston, and Vera Cruz would rival Marseilles
and ancient Venice. From the ports of Carthagena, Sabanilla, Maracaibo,
and Para, would be shipped the produce of the valleys of the Magdelina
and the Amazon. Great as would be the transformations effected by these
changes, they would be less than those which have transformed the
continent of America into a congeries of civilized States.

Such speculations have a sober basis of fact. They are not wholly
useless if they attract the attention of those who have more time
for patient investigation. Sufficient has been said to show that the
objects to be attained merit consideration.


    Admiral Davis’s Report—Table of the Tunnels of the
        different Isthmean Routes—Altitude of Ridge at
        Darien—Comparative Cost of Canals with and without
        Tunnels—Lift Locks and Thorough Cut—Tide in the Atlantic
        and Pacific—Moderate Lockage can not Obstruct the
        Navigation—Gisborne on Thorough Cut—His Error as to
        Velocity of Water—Objections to Strait—Tabular Statement
        of the Cost of Tunnels, English, French, German, and
        American—Tunnel of Mont Cenis—Hoosac Tunnel—Profiles
        of Mont Cenis and Hoosac Tunnels—Dimensions of Ship
        Tunnel—Cost of Open Canal—General Michler’s Report—Guard
        Locks Necessary—Cost of System of Lift Locks—Conclusions
        Supported by Garella and Michel Chevalier.

In compliance with a resolution of the Senate, dated March 19, 1866,
we have an admirable report from Admiral Davis. In this report the
relative merit of different lines is exhibited; carefully prepared
tables, showing the amount of freight which would pass the Isthmus; a
list of ninety publications and fourteen maps, are appended. Ten of
these maps, based on recent surveys, supply much valuable information.

“It is to the Isthmus of Darien,” says Admiral Davis, “that we must
look for a solution of the question of an interoceanic ship canal.” And
he quotes from Airian, “who has made a careful study of this subject,”
the assertion that, “with regard to the Cordillera, in proportion as it
advances, proceeding from the base of the Isthmus, it descends a good
deal, and is only, so to speak, a range of hills or isolated peaks, the
bases of which are intersected by ravines, which point out to engineers
the true route of the canal. The Indians in the neighborhood of
Caledonia Bay make use of these passages. One of them is elevated fifty
metres (164 feet), and is covered with a luxuriant growth of mahogany,
palm, ebony, and other trees.” “This description,” Admiral Davis
remarks, “is not based on actual measurement, but from probabilities
deduced from M. Garella’s survey of another part of the Isthmus, and
from data, equally conjectural, drawn from the published statements of
Messrs. Cullen and Gisborne.”

A thorough exploration may justify this conjecture, but no data
exists for fixing the absolute altitude at 164 feet. The value of the
statements of Messrs. Cullen and Gisborne may be contested.

It will be seen from the altitude given in the table below, that
however correct in point of fact these opinions may be, they are not
sustained by the figures taken from the maps accompanying the Admiral’s

        _Table showing the length of Railroads and Canals,
            length of Tunnels, altitudes of Summits, estimated
            cost of some of the lines proposed for uniting the
            two Oceans, from actual surveys_:
                           │       │   LENGTH   │ LENGTH │ALTITUDES
           ROUTES.         │LENGTH.│   TO BE    │   OF   │   OF
                           │       │CONSTRUCTED.│TUNNELS.│ SUMMIT.
                           │ MILES │   MILES    │ MILES  │  FEET
    Tehuantepec            │  190  │            │        │   855
         “                 │       │            │        │   843
    Honduras               │  234  │    234     │        │  2956
    Nicaragua to Realijo   │  298  │    160     │        │   174
        “     “  Brito     │  194  │            │        │   600
    Panama                 │   53⅔ │            │ 3.7    │   459
      “                    │   48  │     48     │        │   280
    San Blas               │   30  │            │ 7      │  1500
    Darien to San Miguel   │   42  │            │ 7 to 8 │   980
      “          “         │       │            │        │  1020
      “    Lara to Sucubti │       │            │        │   610?
    Atrato to Humboldt Bay │  126  │            │ 3½     │
      “          “      “  │  149⅔ │     52⅔    │ 2½     │   970
      “    to Cupica       │       │            │        │
                           │            │  CANAL  │ AUTHORITIES
           ROUTES.         │ ESTIMATED  │   OR    │     AND
                           │   COST.    │RAILROAD.│  REMARKS.
    Tehuantepec            │$ 16,900,000│  Canal. │ M. Moro.
         “                 │   7,847,896│Railroad.│ J. J. Williams.
    Honduras               │            │  Canal. │ Trautwine.
    Nicaragua to Realijo   │  20,000,000│    “    │ Napoleon III.
        “     “  Brito     │  32,000,000│    “    │ O. W. Childs.
    Panama                 │  27,000,000│    “    │ M. N. Garella.
      “                    │  50,000,000│    “    │ Col. G. W. Hughes.
    San Blas               │            │    “    │ McDougal.
    Darien to San Miguel   │  65,000,000│    “    │ Gisborne.
      “          “         │            │    “    │ Prevost & Strain.
      “    Lara to Sucubti │            │    “    │ Bourdial.
    Atrato to Humboldt Bay │ 145,000,000│    “    │ Kennish.
      “          “      “  │ 134,450,154│    “    │ Lt. Michler, U.S.A.
      “    to Cupica       │ 325,000,000│    “    │ Trautwine.

From the above table it would appear that the altitude of the dividing
ridge falls off toward the two extremities of the Isthmus, viz.: near
the Tehuantepec and the Atrato routes, but the greatest depressions
have been found between Aspinwall and Panama, and on the line by the
way of Lake Nicaragua and Lake Managua.

At the Isthmus of Darien _altitudes of from one to two thousand
feet_ are found. Cullen’s pass of 150 feet proved to be estimated at
one-ninth of its true height. The least elevation of the divide is that
given by M. Bourdial. This engineer did not cross the Isthmus, and his
statement is so vague, the reader is left in doubt whether he actually
reached the summit. Notwithstanding this uncertainty, there still
exists a faint hope that “it is to the Isthmus of Darien we must first
look for a solution of the question of an interoceanic canal.”

From another statement in this very valuable report, we feel
reluctantly compelled to dissent. By imposing unnecessary conditions
in the statement of the problem, its solution may be indefinitely

“The interoceanic canal,” it is affirmed, “in width, depth, in supply
of water, in good anchorage and secure harbors at both ends, and in
absolute freedom from obstruction by lifting-locks, or otherwise, must
possess, as nearly as possible, the character of a strait.”

To insist that the canal must possess the character of a strait, may
give rise to the necessity for a thorough-cut of such extreme depth,
or a tunnel of so great length, as to render the work practically
impossible. A line suitable for a thorough-cut may possibly be found,
but so important a project should not be endangered by limiting its
practicability to a communication of that nature.

If, by the employment of “lift-locks,” the cost of the canal can be
materially reduced, the question to be considered is, to what extent
such structures would obstruct navigation? This question depends upon
the amount of trade drawn to the Isthmus by the canal.

The relative cost of the two methods for piercing the Isthmus can be
best determined by a comparison of the cost of a canal in an open
country with one by means of tunnels. These considerations, since
they afford criteria for judging of the merits of different routes,
may be considered more minutely. Let us assume the trade passing over
the Isthmus—were the canal now completed—to increase one hundred
per cent. in ten years; there would then be 2,066 tons in transitu
daily, requiring seven ships of about 300 tons burthen each.[5] The
progressive increase in the size of ships will raise this average to
between 500 to 1,000 tons; reducing the number of ships arriving at
the Isthmus daily, to five and three respectively. But, assuming the
smaller average, giving the larger number of seven ships daily passing
through the canal; an increase of four hundred per cent. in the trade
would be equivalent to fourteen ships, or to seven ships leaving
opposite extremities of the canal, and passing each other daily upon
homeward and outward voyages.

Locks of four hundred feet long by ninety feet wide can be filled or
emptied in twenty minutes; and this time can be reduced for smaller
vessels by additional lock-gates, and for larger vessels by an increase
in the size and number of filling valves.

The entire trade likely to seek this route, increased four hundred
per cent. of its present amount, could be passed through one lock in
about four hours and forty minutes. As the vessels come from opposite
directions, one-half of the number would be waiting for lockage at the
same point, which would reduce the time required for this purpose to
two hours and twenty minutes. Eight locks, having an average lift of
twelve and one-half feet, would delay the increased commerce eighteen
hours and forty minutes, and would raise the level of the canal fifty
feet; while to raise the level one hundred feet the delay would not
exceed two days.[6]

As a summit level may be a necessary part of any Isthmean canal, it
is manifest that the resulting lockage can not seriously obstruct
navigation. The design of an artificial strait may therefore be
reasonably abandoned, if, by so doing, the extraordinary cost of
tunneling is excluded by the employment of a small number of lift-locks.

On account of the rise of the tide on the Pacific coast guard locks,
not much less costly than lift-locks, must be an essential part of any
canal from ocean to ocean.

The mean tide of the two oceans is about the same.

    _Table of tides, according to observation, from Col. Totten’s Report._
                                 │ PACIFIC AT │ PACIFIC AT  │ ATLANTIC AT
                                 │   PANAMA.  │   PANAMA.   │  ASPINWALL.
                                 │ MAY & JUNE │ NOV. & DEC. │ AUG. & SEPT.
                                 │    FEET.   │    FEET.    │   FEET.
      Greatest rise of tide      │    17.72   │    21.30    │   1.60
      Least rise of tide         │     7.94   │    9.70     │   0.62
      Average                    │    12.08   │   14.10     │   1.16
      Mean tide of Pacific above │            │             │
           mean tide of Atlantic │     0.759  │    0.14     │    ——

Mr. Lloyd found a difference of 27.44 feet between high and low water
at Panama. The Red Sea is 3 inches higher than the Mediterranean.
The Atlantic at Brest is 3½ feet higher than the Mediterranean at

The small variation in the mean tide at Panama of the two oceans is
probably due to the action of winds and the Gulf Stream. At Panama the
highest flood tide rises about ten and one-half feet above the level
of the mean tide of the Atlantic, and the extreme ebb falls about the
same number of feet below it. The alternate currents through the new
strait, caused by the rise and fall of the tide, would prove a serious
inconvenience to navigation.

The Pacific tide, piling up at the head of the new cut, and entering
the strait with considerable violence, would be propelled toward the
Gulf in a manner analogous to the progression of the tidal wave in
a river. Upon the ebb of the tide a reverse current would prevail.
Navigation would not only be obstructed by these alternate currents,
but the channel would be choked by drifting timber washed into the
canal during the rainy season. Silt and sand would be deposited in bars
at the outlet of the canal, or swept inward to form shoals where the
current could no longer transport it.

Mr. Gisborne, in his report, devotes some space to speculations on
these results. “There can be no doubt,” he remarks, “that at high water
there will be a current from the Pacific to the Atlantic, and that
during the ebb tide there will be a current in the opposite direction.
The extent of these currents, and the place of their greatest effect,
depends on the comparative sectional area of different portions; and if
the cross-section is uniform throughout, will be some time after high
tide in the Pacific and at the Atlantic end of the canal. The phase of
the tide wave (or the appreciable effect of the tide) will take one
and one-half hours to reach from one end to the other, and presuming
the current to be uniform in the whole length”——“the question may be
examined as a maximum, _i. e._, what will be the surface velocity of
a canal thirty miles long, having a fall of eleven feet, or with a
horizontal bottom having at one end twenty-eight feet, and at the other

Employing Du Buat’s formula, with the following quantities:

    Mean depth                35.50 feet.
    Mean width               183.50   “
    Mean border              244.80   “
    Area water section     6,147.255  “
    Hydraulic mean depth      25.11   “
    Fall per mile              0.33   “

he deduces a maximum surface velocity of three miles per hour. The
assumed average fall per mile is strictly a variable function, and at
its maximum would give a result greatly in excess of that deduced by
Mr. Gisborne.

There is no reason for this assumption of a fall of 0.33 of a foot per
mile. It directly involves the question to be determined, since the
velocity depends upon the inclination of the surface. The value deduced
by the formula is not the maximum but the minimum velocity attained in
the canal upon the assumed fall per mile.

There is another error in Mr. Gisborne’s statement. “The tide,” he
remarks, “would take one and one-half hours to reach from one end to
the other, presuming the current to be uniform; what,” he asks, “will
be the surface velocity in a canal thirty miles long?”

This statement contradicts his calculations, and involves also the
question at issue. If the tide travels to the end of a canal thirty
miles long in “one and one-half hours,” it is evident that it must move
at the rate of twenty miles per hour, a velocity which renders Mr.
Gisborne’s strait impracticable for navigation.

In fact, neither assumption is tenable. The problem is very complex,
or, rather, with the data given, indeterminate. It is well known that
the tide is propagated up the channel of a river in a succession
of long waves, or swells, and that when the tidal wave is entering
the mouth of the river, the waves which have reached the head are
returning. The same movement is observed, on an exaggerated scale,
in the successive breakers which roll in to meet the one which is
returning, after it has expended its force upon the beach.

In the case of the Isthmean Canal, the rising tide, after having
passed the mean, will have a downward slope into the canal. In rivers,
notwithstanding the local rise of the water, the slope is never
reversed, but is simply reduced in its angle of inclination.

The problem involves the inclination of the surface, or the
determination of the limits of tidal action at successive stages of
the tide. While the head of water increases, there is also a constant
increase of the retardation of the flow of water into the canal. The
outflowing water will run more rapidly than the inflowing, on account
of the indefinite area over which it will spread and the diminution of
the retarding influences. Both outflowing and inflowing current will
seriously obstruct navigation. The banks of the canal will wash away,
and bars will accumulate about the mouth.

While these objections are valid against a thorough-cut canal without
locks, they do not apply to a strait of a quarter of a mile in width.
As the cost of a canal is the chief difficulty in the way of its
construction, it is necessary to abandon the idea of a strait, and to
adopt that of a thorough-cut with guard-locks, as the only known means
of protecting the canal from the injurious effects of the tide.

In order to form a correct opinion of the cost of canals with and
without tunnels, attention is called to the expense incurred in the
execution of this kind of work.

    _Dimensions and Cost of some English Tunnels._
      │                       │       │      │THICKNESS│LENGTH│KIND OF
      │                       │HEIGHT.│WIDTH.│    OF   │ IN   │MASONRY.
      │                       │       │      │ ARCHING.│YARDS.│
      │                       │FT.IN. │FT.IN.│  FT.IN. │      │
    1 │Thames & Med. Canal    │ 39.0  │35.6  │  ...    │ 3960 │ BR’K
    2 │Islington, Regents Can.│ 21.6  │20.6  │  1.6    │  900 │  “
    3 │Tetney, Haven Canal    │ 16.2  │17.0  │  1.2    │ 2962½│  “
    4 │Walford, N.W.R.R.      │ 26.6  │27.0  │  1.6    │ 1830 │  “
    5 │Box Tunnel, G.W. “     │ 36.0  │36.0  │  2.3    │ 3121 │  “
    6 │Littleboro’, M.&L. “   │ 27.6  │27.0  │  1.10½  │ 2860 │  “
    7 │Thames, Foot Passage   │ 2.3   │37.6  │  2.6    │  400 │  “
    8 │Bletchingly, S.E.R.R.  │ 30.0  │30.0  │  1.10½  │ 1324 │  “
    9 │Saltwood,     “   “    │ 30.6  │30.0  │  2.3    │  954 │  “
      │                       │  TOTAL  │COST PER│YEAR │   MATERIAL
      │                       │  COST.  │ YARD.  │WHEN │  CUT THROUGH.
      │                       │         │        │BUILT│
      │                       │ DOLLARS.│ DOLLS. │     │
    1 │Thames & Med. Canal    │  ...    │  145.00│1800 │Chalk,
      │                       │         │        │     │ Fuller’s earth.
    2 │Islington, Regents Can.│  ...    │  ...   │1812 │London clay.
    3 │Tetney, Haven Canal    │  563,405│  192.50│1827 │Various.
    4 │Walford, N.W.R.R.      │  ...    │  ...   │1838 │Chalk.
    5 │Box Tunnel, G.W. “     │1,561,500│  500.00│1838 │Freestone.
    6 │Littleboro’, M.&L. “   │4,255,000│  440.00│1841 │Various.
    7 │Thames, Foot Passage   │2,273,570│5,685.00│1842 │London clay.
    8 │Bletchingly, S.E.R.R.  │  486,185│  351.00│1842 │Shale.
    9 │Saltwood,     “   “    │  562,710│  590.00│1843 │Lower greensand.

Canal tunnels are rarely larger than 16½ feet by 18 feet high.
Supposing the same dimensions to obtain in French tunnels, the cost per
lineal yard of the following named tunnels will furnish a basis for

                                 │  LENGTH   │ COST PER
         NAMES OF TUNNELS.       │ IN YARDS. │   YARD.
    Norieu, St. Quinten Canal    │  13,128   │ $14.00
    Pouilly, Canal de Bourgoyne  │    3,660  │ 393.75
    Soussay, Canal de Bourgoyne  │    3,852  │  45.50
    Maurages, Canal de Marne     │    5,320  │ 325.00
    St. Argnan, Canal d’Ardennes │      288  │ 200.00


Among railroad tunnels, the following are selected from different parts
of the continent:

      NAMES OF  │         │       │ HEIGHT│ NUMBER  │ SECTION
                │         │       │ RAILS.│ SHAFTS. │ RAILS.
                │  YDS.   │   FT. │  FT.  │         │ SQ. FT.
    Chezy       │   496   │ 24.27 │ 18.04 │   0     │ 365.84
    Arschwiller │  2928   │ 24.27 │ 18.04 │   6     │ 374.77
    Alouette    │  1350   │ 25.58 │ 20.00 │  21     │ 428.68
    La Motte    │  2799   │ 24.92 │ 21.98 │  ...    │ 519.71
    Nerthe      │  5072   │ 26.24 │ 24.60 │  24     │   ...
    St. Martin  │  1509   │ 25.25 │ 19.35 │  10     │ 415.34
    Blaisy      │  4483   │ 26.24 │ 24.60 │  20     │   ...
      NAMES OF  │COST PER │   TIME IN     │
                │ YARD.   │               │
                │ DOLS.   │     MO’S.     │
    Chezy       │  411    │     32        │ Sand and clay.
    Arschwiller │  176    │     95        │ Sandstone.
    Alouette    │  305    │     23        │ Clay.
    La Motte    │  180    │     30        │ Clay, marl, sandstone.
    Nerthe      │  412    │     36        │ Limestone.
    St. Martin  │  475    │     60        │ Porphyritic rock.
    Blaisy      │  ...    │     ...       │ Limestone.

The cost of the Thames tunnel was greatly increased by a shield,
designed by Brunel, to keep out the water. Omitting this tunnel from
comparison the English works exceed the French, or Continental, in cost
of construction.

The boldest work of the kind yet undertaken is the Mt. Cenis tunnel, to
connect France and Italy by a continuous railway. In length it is seven
miles, with a width of 26′ 6″ and a height of 20′ 8″. Its completion is
anticipated in April, 1871.

The monthly advance by hand-labor was twenty-two and a-half yards. The
progress is doubled by machinery, and during the past year has averaged
330 feet per month. Air, compressed by water power, is conveyed
inside to give motion to chisels, which form cavities for blasting by
gunpowder. The average progress per day in 1865, with the machinery,
was about 9 feet.

The estimated cost was $550 per running foot, but the rate was
increased to $640; the entire cost of the tunnel being estimated at
$9,200,000. The use of machinery at Mt. Cenis was found to expedite the
work, but at an increase of expense.

The trial of machinery at the Hoosac tunnel, upon the Troy and
Greenfield Railroad, has not been favorable to its employment. This
tunnel will be four and three-quarter miles long. Originally projected
with a width of 24 feet, and a height of 20 feet, it has been
contracted to 14 feet wide, and 18 feet high. The estimated cost was
$2,696,229. The rate first assumed was $137 per running foot. The rate
per cubic yard varies from $5 to $22, and $30, for the excavation of

The contract prices for the Hoosac tunnel, in 1869, were as follows:

    Tunnel enlargement, per yard                           $    16.00
    Heading enlargement, east end, per yard                      9.00
    Heading enlargement, west end, per yard                      9.75
    Full size tunnel extension, east end, per yard              11.00
        “           “           west end, per yard              12.00
        “           “           central section, per yard       14.00
    Central drain, with air and water pipes complete,
              per lineal foot                                   13.00
    Sinking shaft (27 × 15), per foot, depth                   395.00
    Pipes (10 inch), set in shaft                                6.00
    Arching (in brick at $9 per M), per M                       22.00
    Excavating and constructing 50 lineal feet of stone
              arch, and filling                             23,000.00

Although more than two hundred railroad tunnels have been constructed
in the United States, and an unknown number of canal tunnels, facts in
regard to them are difficult of access. Recent bids for tunnel work
upon United States railroads have been offered at $5.40 per cubic yard
for excavations. Canal tunnels, of the ordinary dimensions of 297
square feet area, would cost $113.20 per running foot.

The uncertainty of the nature of tunnel excavation, the unexpected
difficulties to be overcome, baffle all anticipatory estimate. The
variable rates in the preceding tables establish this fact. The average
cost per running yard upon French canals is about $152, which sum
probably includes arching. Rates of labor in the United States would
increase the cost about four times this amount.

Comparing the contract price of American tunnels, as given above, with
the table of English tunnels, and bearing in mind that the cost of
arching is included in the latter, we find in Nos. 3, 6, and 9, the
cost of English tunnels is in excess; number 3 being nearly double,
and number 9 one-tenth more, while, in every other case, the cost at
American rates is greater, varying from one-third to five and one-half
times more.

The shale, schist, and trachyte of the Isthmean ridge is of variable
consistence. Many places exhibit friable, seamy strata, disintegrating
upon exposure to the atmosphere. A tunnel of the dimensions to admit
the passage of ships, when carried through rock of this character,
will require a lining of masonry to prevent falling material from
obstructing the way.

To pass ships with the topmast struck, the intrados of the arch should
be 100 feet above the surface of the water. A semi-ellipse with
semi-transverse, and conjugate diameters of 100 feet, added to the
canal prism of thirty feet in depth, will give an area of tunnel equal
to 10,104 superficial feet, or to 1,976,263 cubic yards per mile.


Assuming that the cost of tunneling through the Isthmus can be executed
at $10 per cubic yard, we shall have 19,762,630 dollars as the cost of
one mile of tunnel. Estimating the excavation alone at present contract
price, $5.40 per cubic yard for small tunnels, one mile of ship tunnel
will cost $10,670,820. An open canal upon the line of the canal
proposed by General Michler, uniting the Atrato with Humboldt Bay, will
cost, according to the estimate of that officer, $1,792,202 per mile.

This amount, taken from the careful and elaborate estimates contained
in General Michler’s report, may be assumed as a basis of comparison of
the two proposed methods of intermarine communication, viz.: by uniting
the two oceans upon one level by a tunnel, or by means of a moderate
number of “lift-locks.” Eight locks, four at each end of the canal, or
sixteen locks, eight at each end of the canal, will raise the summit
fifty feet above tide in the first case, and one hundred in the second,
and will cost eight millions, and sixteen millions respectively. Since
two guard locks will be requisite for either method of communication
(_i. e._ by “strait,” or canal with lift-locks), their cost should
be excluded from the above sums, which are thereby reduced to six
millions, and fourteen millions of dollars. These sums are fixed as the
probable limits of the cost of a system of lift-locks sufficient to
overcome the divide of the Isthmus, and also to supply the reader with
a standard, by which he may judge of the merits of different routes.

The construction of a ship tunnel is, as has been said, “a herculean
task,” and it is not apparent that “the prejudice against it will
be removed by the operations at Mt. Cenis.” A moderate number of
lift-locks seems preferable to a tunnel of one mile in length, which,
in turn, would be more economical than an excessive number of locks. A
greater number than we have mentioned may be deemed excessive.

A thorough-cut upon the level of the ocean would be a desirable method
of canalization, but it seems like hampering the important design
of an intermarine highway for the commerce of the world, with an
impracticable condition, to insist that it should possess “absolute
freedom from obstruction by lifting locks,” or that it should possess,
in any degree, the “character of a strait.”

In this statement I find I have the support of M. Garella and Michel
Chavalier. The opposition to the system of lift-locks appears to have
originated in the objection expressed in Mr. Wheaton’s letter to Mr.
Buchanan, to the large number of these structures, recommended in M.
Moro’s plan for the canalization of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec.


[5] Present average of the tonnage of ships of the commercial marine
is 380 to 400 tons. The calculation supposes a commercial year of 300
days, and that the same number of ships arrive daily.

[6] The Egyptian correspondent of the Boston Advertiser, March 15,
1870, observes: “The channel at Lake Timseh has not much more than 19
feet of water, as on the day of opening. We met two steamers on their
way to Bombay, an English vessel going for cotton, and the French
steamer Asie. This was evidently all the business of the day, and from
the report of the company, it is a fair average of the amount of work
done. The company say they register one thousand five hundred tons a

    In December, 1869   9 steamers and sailing ships   40,000 francs.
    In January, 1870   16    “                “       170,000    “
    In February, 1870  28    “                “       269,000    “
    In March, 1870     52    “                “       450,000    “


    Our Geographical Knowledge of the Isthmus—The Value of
        Early Narratives and Histories—Projects for Uniting
        the two Oceans by Canals and Railroads—Criteria for
        Assisting the Judgment—Tunnels, Harbors, Locks,
        Dimensions of Canal—Tehuantepec—The Garay Grant—Moro’s
        Survey—Barnard’s Survey—Honduras—A Better Route
        Practicable—Nicaragua—Louis Napoleon’s Scheme—Col.
        Childs’ Report—Variations of Route—Advantages of
        this Line—Chiriqui—St. Clair Morton—No Information
        Extant—Costa Rica—Railroad Practicable—Great Altitude
        of Ridge—Panama—Information Abundant—Garella’s
        Route—Hughes’s Route—Advantages—Cost of Canal on this
        Route—Mexican Desagues—Panama and Aspinwall—Harbors
        Easily Improved—Panama Railroad Company—San Blas
        and Bayano River—F. W. Kelly—McDougal’s Survey—Fine
        Harbors—Tunnel Seven Miles Long—Darien—Between Caledonia
        Bay and the Gulf of San Miguel—Baron Humboldt—Vasco
        Nunez—Paterson’s Colony—Causes of Its Failure—Dr. Cullen
        and Savana River—Reports the Ridge 150 Feet—English
        Company—Concessions of the Granadian Government—Mr.
        Gisborne Sent to Darien—His Speculations—Delayed
        at Carthagena—Stopped by the Indians—Supposed
        Success—Misunderstanding with Dr. Cullen—Returns to
        England—Provisional Directory Organized—Controversy
        Between Sir Charles Fox and the London Times—Combined
        Expedition of Four Governments—Lieut. Strain’s
        Misfortunes—Fails to Find a Pass—Dr. Cullen and
        Mr. Gisborne’s Failure—Captain Prevost Fails to
        Cross—Dr. Cullen Changes His Opinion—French Expedition
        under Bourdiol—Fails to Cross—Granadian Expedition
        Fails—Condensed Statement of the Results of all
        the Expeditions—Captains Prevost and Parsons see
        Evidences of a Pass—Darien Not Yet Explored—San Miguel
        to the Gulf of Urabá—The Atrato Route—Successful
        Survey—Representations of Unprofessional Persons—Gorgoza
        and De La Charme—Their Route—Trautwine —Mr. Porter and
        Kennish’s Routes—Lieut. Michler’s Route —Extracts from
        Michler’s Report—Tunnel Two and One-Half Miles—Cost too
        Small—Barometric—Levels—Humboldt’s Opinion.

Having hastily sketched the relation of the proposed canal to the
commerce of the world, its importance is sufficiently apparent to
justify a careful consideration of the condition of our knowledge of
the geography of the Isthmus. The facts and reasoning of previous
chapters will furnish a standard, in the absence of a better, for
trying the merits of the routes about to be described, and will
indicate the nature of the deficiency to be supplied by future

The American Isthmus extends in length about twelve hundred miles, from
the Coazacoalcos River, in Mexico, to the valley of the Atrato, in
Columbia. It includes the Mexican States of Tehuantepec, the Republics
of Yucatan, Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, San Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa
Rica, the Mosquito Kingdom, and the State of Panama, one of the States
of Columbia. Embracing a varied and salubrious climate; a rich soil,
clothed with the luxuriance of tropical vegetation; ruins of an ancient
people, consisting of vast and silent cities, whose impressive but
grotesque architecture, embodying a civilization unique and insular, is
overgrown with forest of flor de robles, mahogany, and palm; divided
throughout its entire length by a volcanic dyke, rising to altitudes
of five to six thousand feet, and sinking into depressions two hundred
and eighty feet above the level of the sea; concealing in its strata
the matrices of gold and precious stones; expanding in Yucatan to a
width of six hundred and fifty miles, and contracting at San Blas and
Darien to thirty or forty miles—this connecting link, the result of
a submarine endogenous movement subsequent to the elevation of the
continents which it unites, opposes a solitary but not insurmountable
barrier to the commercial union of the two oceans.

The narratives of Dampier, Wafer, the adventures of the Spanish
Buccaneers who infested the South Sea, and the descriptions of Las
Casas, Fonseca, Don Andres de Ariza, however interesting historically,
add but little to the physico-geographical knowledge of the country.
These histories contain accounts of earthquakes as terrific as that
which has recently visited the coast; of sieges notable for bold
assault and gallant defense; of gold mines opened and abandoned; of
strange fauna, birds of splendid plumage, and a tropical flora of
gorgeous colors; but the reader will seek in vain for information of
practical value in determining the question of a practicable route for
an interoceanic ship canal.

Recent explorers have supplied much accurate information of special
routes. The following table exhibits the different projects for uniting
the Atlantic and Pacific:

    1. TEHUANTEPEC, by the Coazacoalcos and Chicapa.
    2. HONDURAS.
    3. NICARAGUA, from San Juan de Nicaragua and Lake Nicaragua,
       five variations, viz.:
          R. San Carlos, G. de Nicoya,
          R. Nino, Tempisque, G. de Nicoya,
          R. Sapoa, B. Salinas,
          San Juan del Sud,
          and Brito.
       From San Juan de Nicaragua, by way of Lake Nicaragua and Managua,
       three variations, viz.:
          R. Tamarinda.
          B. Realejo.
          B. Fonseca.
    4. PANAMA, four distinct routes, viz.:
          Gorgona, Panama.
          Trinidad, Caymito.
          Navy Bay, R. Chagres, R. Bonito, R. Bernardo.
          San Blas, R. Chepo.
    5. DARIEN, including the old province of Chócó; the different
       routes and the variations are five in number, viz.:
          B. Caledonia, G. San Miguel.
          Rs. Arguia, Paya, Tuyra, G. San Miguel.
          B. Napipi, Cupica.
          R. Truando, Kelley’s Island.
          R. Tuyra, G. Urabá or R. Atrato.

The above lists include canal projects; the following list enumerates
the projected railroads:

       I. Coazacoalcos, Tehuantepec.
      II. B. Honduras to G. of Fonseca.
     III. R. San Juan, Nicaragua, Managua.
      IV. Port Limon to Caldera, Costa Rica.
       V. Chiriqui inlet to Golfo Dulce.
      VI. Aspinwall, Panama, (railroad finished.)
     VII. Gorgon B., Realijo.          ┐
                                       ├ Nicaragua
    VIII. Gorgon B., San Juan del Sur. ┘

Before describing the routes above enumerated, some criteria for
assisting the judgment may be brought together, as follows:

    1. The Isthmean Canal may be a thorough-cut, with

    2. It should be without a tunnel.

    3. It may have a summit-level and moderate lockage, to avoid
       excessive tunneling and cutting.

    4. Great advantages in other respects—viz.: shortness of
       line and fine harbors—may compensate for a short tunnel.

    5. The route should possess good harbors, or such as can be
       easily improved.

    6. Dimension of the canal and size of the locks. The canal
       should be sufficiently wide to permit ships to pass
       easily, or it should have convenient turn-outs.

The width of the intermarine canal proposed by Mr. Kennish, to unite
the Atrato and the Pacific, is estimated to have 200 feet. General
Michler assumes a width of 100 feet, and states that vessels can
pass alternately from one end to the other, employing tug-boats and
telegraphic signals to avoid confusion.

The canal now in process of construction, under the direction of
General Wilson, around the Des Moines rapids on the Mississippi, has a
width of 250 feet in embankment.

The Engineer in charge of the canal around the falls of the Ohio at
Louisville, proposes a width of 120 feet, which is the same as that of
the Caledonia Canal.

The Suez Canal has a minimum width at water surface of 190 feet.
This last dimension, with a sufficient number of turn-outs, would be
suitable for the canal across the American Isthmus.

The locks of the Des Moines Canal are 380 feet between gates, by 80
feet wide. General Weitzel proposes, for the Louisville Canal, locks
400 feet between gates, and 100 feet wide. The Isthmean locks may be
400 feet between gates, and 90 feet wide.

Locks of these dimensions, if all unnecessary dressing of the stone is
dispensed with, may probably be erected for one million of dollars.

It is unnecessary to mention other ship canals and locks, built for the
accommodation of ships of less tonnage than those which would make the
intermarine transit.

The following description, commencing at Tehuantepec, will treat of
each route in succession:


In March, 1842, Santa Anna, “for the purpose of aggrandizing the nation
and rendering the people happy,” granted certain privileges to Don
Jose de Garay, to enable him to open a line of communication between
the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, through the Isthmus of Tehuantepec.
The route was to be neutral to all nations at peace with the Mexican
Republic. The “negotiation” was permitted to hold for public use all
unoccupied land, not more than one-fourth of a league on either side
of the line, which was conceded to them in _fee simple_. The right
of collecting dues was conceded for fifty years, and the exclusive
privilege of freight, by steam vessel or railroad, for sixty years.

The survey was intrusted to Sr. Moro, an Italian engineer of
distinction. The distance from sea to sea was ascertained to be 135
miles in a straight line. Wide plains and table land adjacent each
ocean were found to be broken by the Andes, rising to the height of 650
feet above the level of the sea.

Thirty miles of the Coazacoalcos River, after passing the bar, is
navigable for ships of the largest class, and fifteen miles for vessels
of light draught, leaving 115 miles of railroad to be made.

Sr. Moro, taking the dimensions and cost of the Caledonia Canal as
a standard, estimates the cost of a similar ship canal across the
Isthmus[7] at $17,000,000. He includes in his estimate the cost of one
hundred and sixty-one (161) locks, which may be reduced to one hundred
and twenty. These results were not deemed satisfactory.

The privileges granted to Mr. Garay were secured by P. A. Hargous and
Major (now Brevet Major-General) Barnard, Corps of Engineers. W. H.
Sidell and others were employed to survey the route of a railroad. Of
this survey we have the very interesting report of J. J. Williams,
containing information of the statistics, geology, and topography of
the country. The summit is 855 feet above tide; the entire length of
the line is 190 miles. A summit-level and tunnel would be necessary
to carry a canal across the ridge. Com’d Perry and Lieut. Temple, U.
S. N., found about twelve feet water on the Coazacoalcos bar. The bar
is supposed to be composed of hard clay, admitting of a permanent
improvement. Capt. Basil Hall, R. N., and Com. Shubrick, U. S. N.,
speak of the Pacific terminus at Ventosa Bay as exceeding boisterous
and unfavorable for anchorage.

The merits of this route have been minutely described by Col. J. J.
Abert, Chief Corps Topographical Engineers, and Col. G. W. Hughes,
of the same corps; and by common consent the route is regarded as
possessing “little merit as a practicable line for the construction of
a ship canal.”


A barometric survey was made of this route. With excellent harbors, it
is obstructed by an elevated dividing ridge. The topographical features
of the country indicate the probable existence of a more favorable
pass. A better route may be found by starting from the Gulf of Dulce,
and proceeding toward the town of Guatemala; or by starting from the
same point, a more southerly direction appears to possess advantages.
Inference from maps of this region must be received with caution. The
route is condemned by Admiral Davis.


With the exception of the Panama route, no Isthmean project has
received so careful an examination as the lines passing through Lake
Nicaragua. This part of the Isthmus widens into continental proportions
of great fertility. The productive and industrial development of
this country, by means of railroad or canal, would supply a material
addition to the commerce of the world. With the growth of Central
America, our gulf ports—Galveston, New Orleans, Mobile, Appalachicola,
Pensacola, Tampa Bay, and Key West—would increase in military and
commercial importance.

This line possesses additional interest for the political reasons
adduced by the Emperor Napoleon III, in a memoir prepared by him when
a prisoner at Ham. Arranged with method and prepared with care, this
pamphlet bears the impress of a sagacious judgment. “In order,” says
the writer, “that the canal should become the principal element of
the advancement of Central America, it must be cut, not through the
narrowest part of the tongue of land, but through the country which is
most populous, the most healthy, and the most fertile, and which is
crossed by the greatest number of rivers, in order that its activity
may be communicated to the remotest part of the interior. England will
see with pleasure Central America become a flourishing and powerful
State, which will establish a balance of power by creating in Spanish
America a new center of active enterprise, powerful enough to give rise
to a feeling of nationality, and to prevent, by backing up Mexico, any
further encroachment from the North.”

The line selected by Louis Napoleon (although he errs in his statement
of distance), has not been improved by the changes in location proposed
by subsequent engineers. All these routes commence at San Juan de
Nicaragua, and follow the San Juan river to the Lake Nicaragua. From
this lake three other routes pass through Lake Managua to Realijo, and
to the Gulf of Fonseca. Lake Managua is about twenty feet above the
level of Lake Nicaragua. The dry season suspends the flow of water
between the lakes, and the question arises whether, even by the aid of
a dam, sufficient water can be stored in the smaller lake to feed the
summit level on each side of it during the dry season.

Col. Childs’ route terminates at Brito; a fifth at San Juan del Sud,
and three other variations of route near the same point of the Pacific
coast. Col. Childs’ report, which is very complete, was submitted to
a Board of English Engineers, and to Colonels Abert and Turnbull, of
the Corps of Topographical Engineers, U. S. A. Although the survey was
thoroughly and scientifically executed, the route was condemned by
these officers, because of the insufficiency of the harbors of Brito,
and the small dimensions of the canal proposed by Colonel Childs.

The length of the canal was divided into sections, for the convenience
of description and estimation of the cost:

                                                MILES.    FEET.
    Western division, from Brito to the Lake     18        588
    From Lake Nicaragua to head of San Juan      56        500
    Slack water of seven dams on the San Juan    90        800
    Canal to San Juan del Norte                  28        505
                                                ———        ———
                Total distance                  194        393

The maximum width of the canal was designed to be 118 feet, and the
depth 17 feet. The descent from the lake to Brito was accomplished by
fourteen locks.

The following table exhibits the distances from sea to sea of the
proposed lines originating at San Juan del Norte:

                        │         │             │FROM LAKE│FROM LAKE
                        │ MILES.  │    MILES.   │  MILES. │  MILES.
    To Brito            │  119    │      57     │    18   │
    Fonseca, Tamarinda  │  119    │     120     │         │     4
    Realijo             │  119    │     120     │         │     4
    Fonseca, Estero Real│  119    │     120     │         │     4
                        │         │DIST. BETWEEN│         │
                        │  MILES. │   MILES.    │ MILES.  │   MILES.
    To Brito            │         │             │  137    │    194
    Fonseca, Tamarinda  │    50   │     16      │  139    │    309
    Realijo             │    50   │     45      │  168    │    338
    Fonseca, Estero Real│    50   │     20      │  143    │    313

The ports on the Bay of Fonseca, and at Realijo, are good, but the
other ports designated as terminal points upon the Pacific are not so
favorable for shipping. San Juan del Norte, the initial point upon the
Atlantic of all these routes, will not admit ships of large draught,
and the harbor is rapidly deteriorating. All harbors of Central and
South America receiving rivers, and opening to the northward, are
decreasing in depth. The incessant wave-beat, caused by the trade-winds
and northers, acts like a ponderous hammer, wielded by an irresistible
force, whose unceasing efforts, for six months of the year, are exerted
to force the sand into the entrance of the harbors, and to arrest the
sediment brought down by the rivers. The result is a tortuous and
variable channel, and a shifting and shoaling bar.

The deterioration of the harbor of San Juan de Nicaragua, or Greytown,
has been minutely discussed by a board of scientific officers of the
United States Corps of Engineers, and of the Coast Survey Department.
Their conclusions were unfavorable to the improvement of the harbor.

Where the Cyane lay during the bombardment of Greytown a luxuriant
grass marsh is now growing. It has not been many years since this
harbor afforded refuge for shipping of ordinary draught, but it is not
unusual, at the present time, to find the harbor so completely closed
during a storm that a pedestrian may walk dry-footed across the former
entrance. Upon such occasion the harbor of Greytown is converted into
a lagoon until after the storm, when the accumulating water of the San
Juan erodes for itself a new outlet to the ocean.

It is apparent some other initial point must be found before this route
can be seriously considered as a suitable terminus for interoceanic
communication. Monkey Point is said to supply a good anchorage, and has
been suggested for this purpose. Monkey Point affords anchorage for
ships drawing rather more than three fathoms. By joining the island
with a breakwater of _pierre perdu_, of the length of about twelve
hundred feet, a good harbor, affording five fathoms water, can be

The writer is not aware that any surveys have ever been made for
connecting this point with the San Juan river, or with the lakes. It
is therefore unnecessary to mention other reports upon the same route,
or to do more than to refer to the plans, profiles, and details of the
“Interoceanic Canal of Nicaragua,” submitted at the Paris exhibition by
L. J. Thome de Gamond. The report of M. de Gamond is not at hand.

A healthy and productive country; two lakes affording an inexhaustible
supply for a summit level; a divide easily overcome at an altitude
represented as 174 feet, and the convenient channel of the San Juan,
through which the waters of Lakes Managua and Nicaragua find their way
from an amphitheater of hills to the Atlantic ocean, are advantages
which engineers and capitalists are loath to abandon, and which
the reader relinquishes with regret. We may expect, therefore, to
find the question continually revived. But its advantages have been

The San Juan river has cut an outlet for the canal through the ridge,
separating Lake Nicaragua from the Atlantic; but to pierce the divide
on the opposite side, which separates the lake from the Pacific, a
tunnel of about six miles in length will be requisite. The altitude
of the divide is six hundred feet above the level of the lake. The
singular omission in Colonel Childs’ report may have led Admiral Davis
to overlook so important an objection, or perhaps he may have thought
it unnecessary to multiply objections to a route which appeared
impracticable upon other grounds.


The so-called Isthmus of Chiriqui, lying between Panama and Nicaragua,
was explored by the late Lieut. St. Clair Morton, who was killed in
the siege of Petersburg. Lieut. Morton crossed the Isthmus twice,
and pronounced the route practicable for a railroad. As no notes of
this survey are extant, curiosity in regard to this route must remain
unsatisfied. Lieut. Jeffers, U. S. N., speaks favorably of the harbors.
Mr. Evans, the geologist, discovered an inferior kind of coal. Another
reconnoissance may develop some important information.


A railroad has been projected from Port Limon, near the tenth parallel
of latitude on the Atlantic, to Caldera, in the Gulf of Nicoya. Rising
to an altitude of 5,100 feet the route passes through a salubrious
climate, and over a productive soil. A macadamized road, 134 miles
long, with five stone bridges, has been completed along this line. As a
route for a ship canal the altitude of the summit appears to exclude it
from further consideration.


As the passenger route and highway of the trade between the Atlantic
and Pacific States of America, the mention of this line arrests
attention. Information in regard to it is full and accurate. Here,
alone, in all Central America, a railroad unites the two oceans.
Confining his remarks to the project of M. Garella, Admiral Davis
pronounces his condemnation of the route.

M. Garella’s route, starting from the Bay of Limon, on the Atlantic,
following the valley of the Chagres, ascending with 17 locks to the
summit, which it passes with a tunnel 17,500 feet in length, at an
altitude of 135 feet above high water in the Pacific, and descending
with 18 locks, terminates at the Bay of Vaca del Monte, on the
Atlantic. The altitude of the ridge to be pierced is 459 feet. The
commission of the “_Ponts et chaussés_” appointed to report upon
Garella’s project, object to the expense of tunneling, and to the
absence of evidence of the sufficiency of the mountain streams to feed
the summit level.

But a tunnel is not a necessary plan of piercing the Isthmus at this
point, nor is a summit level 135 feet above high water an unavoidable
necessity. The Panama railroad passes the divide without a tunnel, at
an altitude of 280 feet above tide. The fact that a route possessing
such advantages should be found so near the line of M. Garella,
encourages the belief that a more critical examination of other
prescribed routes may be rewarded with the same good fortune.

The merits above mentioned justify a more attentive consideration. The
advantages of the route may be enumerated as follows:

    1. A divide 280 feet above tide.
    2. Distance between oceans 48 miles.
    3. The Chagres river, emptying into the Atlantic, and the
       Rio Grande, flowing into the Pacific, together with the
       smaller rivers, Maraboso, Obispo, Dominica, Mandingo,
       which can be made tributary to the summit level of the
       canal. The rainfall in this region varies from 90 to 100
       inches, being three times the amount which ordinarily
       falls in the United States.
    4. The harbors at the termini, Panama and Aspinwall, have
       accommodated the trade of California and the Atlantic
       States, and are far superior to those of Port Said and Suez.
    5. Tunnel unnecessary.

Possessing such advantages, the objections which have led to the
ignoring of this route should be noticed.

The objection of the Commission of French Engineers to M. Garella’s
project has been mentioned. “The river Chagres,” it was observed, “was
gauged at Cruces and Gorgona, but the river is to be tapped above these

The summit upon Garella’s line is 459 feet above tide, while upon
the line of the Panama railroad it is but 280 feet. Garella proposes
to pierce the ridge, at 135 feet above tide, with a tunnel three and
four-tenths miles in length. No tunnel is required upon the other line.

Estimating the tunnel of M. Garella at the present contract price in
the United States, this part of the work alone will cost $57,623,380.
    Add 47 miles of open canal                            84,232,491.
                  Total cost of canal                   $141,855,871.

A canal by the aid of locks can be constructed between the two seas,
upon the line proposed by Col. Hughes, at a much less cost.

Assuming the same dimensions of canal—100 feet wide by 30 feet deep—and
the same prices as above, taken from General Michler’s report upon the
survey of the canal for joining the Atrato and the Pacific, and we
obtain the probable cost of constructing a canal upon this line, as

    For 50 miles of open canal                   $ 89,610,150
    12 locks raise the summit level 75 feet        12,000,000
    Breakwater, ship basin, and contingencies       8,000,000
                          Total cost of canal    $109,610,150

This diminution of cost of $32,245,721, due to the absence of a tunnel,
upon this route, allows of a margin more than can be required for
increasing the number of the locks, or for building, graving docks, and
other auxiliary conveniences in the harbors.

The execution of this work would require a cut of less dimensions than
the famous Mexican Desague of Huehuetoca, referred to by Humboldt, and
described by Admiral Fitzroy as “200 feet deep and 300 feet wide for
nearly a thousand yards, and above 100 feet deep through an extent of
nearly a thousand yards, (making altogether two miles of distance in
which the vast excavation would be capable of concealing the mast-head
of a first-rate man-of-war, executed in the last three centuries in
Central America,) should induce us to listen respectfully to the plans
of modern engineers, however startling they may appear at first.”

Another objection remains to be considered: “Navy Bay is an insecure
anchorage, and the harbor upon the Pacific is altogether insufficient
for vessels of even moderate draught.” “M. Garella is obliged to
include in his estimate the sum of a million and a quarter dollars for
the improvement of this harbor.”

On account of the rise of the tide, which varies as much as 22 feet,
vessels are compelled to anchor two and one-half miles from Panama, and
the passengers and freight are transported in light-draught steamers.
These difficulties may be converted, by the use of docks, as in English
harbors, into an advantage. The withdrawal of 20 to 23 feet of water at
extreme tides affords extraordinary facilities for constructing ship
basins and docks upon the natural pavement of rock which covers the
bottom of the bay in front of the City of Panama.

On the other side, Limon Bay possesses sufficient depth of water,
but is open to “northers.” The entrance of these dangerous winds may
be prevented by a stone breakwater, or one composed of screw piles,
driven sufficiently near to support iron or flanged plates, sliding
vertically into position, one above another, until the requisite height
is attained, and braced strongly at the back.

Notwithstanding northers, steamships arrive and depart regularly. The
Royal Mail Steamship Company are building wharves of stone and iron,
and the railroad company has projected a breakwater for the protection
of shipping.

Colonel G. W. Hughes, in a letter to the Hon. J. M. Clayton, at that
time Secretary of State, makes the following observations in regard
to this route: “The line I have traced for a railroad is, I think,
more favorable for a ship canal than that suggested by M. Garella.
If we adopt the same depth of cutting he suggests for an open cut,
it will leave the bottom of the canal 44 feet above the level of the
Pacific at high tide. This would be about ten feet lower than the
bed of the river at Gorgona. An open cut two hundred feet deep would
obviate all difficulty in crossing the Chagres at Gorgona, while the
Rio Grande, the Obispo, and the Mandingo might be converted into an
immense reservoir for supplying the summit-level with water, and the
Rio Chagres above Cruces, and the Pedro, Miguel, Camero, etc., would
furnish the lower level. A spacious tide basin might be constructed at
the mouth of the Rio Grande, a few miles west of Panama.”

For this project, so favorably recommended, it is necessary to obtain
the consent of the Panama Railroad Company to the use of land belonging
to their reservation.


This route is one of several surveyed under the generous patronage
of F. W. Kelly and others. The map of Mr. McDougal, the surveyor and
engineer, and the report of Admiral Davis, furnish some interesting
facts. The narrowest part of the Isthmus is found here, being thirty
miles from ocean to ocean, and here the tide of the Pacific is said to
approach within fifteen miles of the Atlantic coast.

Mr. McDougal proposes to pierce the ridge, which has an altitude of
1500 feet, at a height of 93½ feet above mean tide, by a tunnel seven
miles long. The harbor of San Blas is deep and spacious. The channel
leading into the Bay of Panama has not less than eighteen feet of
water at mean low tide, while the rise of the water is sixteen feet.
This result, Admiral Davis observes, does not agree with the admiralty

The map indicates the probable existence of a better route to the
north-west, and the surveyors were satisfied they saw evidences of a
depression in that direction.

Admiral Davis quotes the well-merited compliment of Sir R. Murchison,
to the zeal and energy with which Mr. Kelly has pursued “this great
and philanthropic object,” in which “all civilized nations are deeply


Between Caledonia Bay and the Gulf of San Miguel every effort to
make a thorough exploration has resulted in failure. Disappointed
expectations, arduous but fruitless labors, conflicting reports,
failure, starvation, and death have stamped with ill omen every
attempt to cross this part of the Isthmus. Baron Humboldt has directed
public attention to Darien, and Admiral Davis expresses his deliberate
conviction that to this part of the Isthmus we must look for a solution
of the question of interoceanic ship communication.

The history of so many attempts, proving so unexpectedly disastrous,
supplies much curious and valuable information. From the Paterson
colonization scheme to the unfortunate expedition of Lieut. Strain, one
word will characterize every attempt. The first settlement of Vasco
Nunez, in 1510, after eight years of calamitous trial, was abandoned.

Paterson’s colony was remarkable in the causes which led to its
inception; in the ability and statesman-like views of him who conceived
a design so vast and benevolent; in the governments enlisted in its
favor; in the sufferings of the colonists, and in its final abandonment.

William Paterson, a Scottish clergyman, of fertile resources, and great
political sagacity, the original designer of the Bank of England,
conceived the magnificent design of establishing a colony upon the
shores of Darien, based on principles of religious toleration and free
trade, which, occupying the highway of commerce, “grasping the riches
of both the Indies, and wresting the keys of commerce from Spain,”
should build up, on the shores of two oceans, cities surpassing his
own Edinburgh, and rivaling ancient Alexandria. With experience drawn
from long study and patient observation, he organized his scheme upon
liberal commercial principles, and an enlightened political policy.
Scotland, Hamburg, and Holland, contributed the sum of $4,500,000.
This large amount surprised London merchants, and spread panic in the
board of the East India Company. The unfriendly feeling of this great
corporation proved, in the end, fatal to the scheme. Aided by Spanish
intrigue, and Dutch rivalry, and bringing their vast machinery to bear
against the colonists, by argument and misrepresentation, they induced
William III. to issue an edict, forbidding all English colonies in
the West Indies from sending provisions, arms, or ammunition to the
Scottish colony of Darien.

Of 1,200 colonists, three hundred of whom represented the best blood of
Scotland, thirty only returned to tell the story of their sufferings.
Dissension, disease, and starvation, had accomplished the usual
results. Thus, this design for the union of two great oceans failed;
this effort to form a nucleus of a new system of beneficent wealth, and
commerce, came to an untimely end.

The Caledonia Bay was no longer frequented by the ships of England,
Holland and Scotland, The gold mines of Cana, worked by one thousand
men, under the Spanish domination, were destined to remain to the
present day, unmolested. The north-western slopes, and the head waters
of the Chuquanaqua, reverted to the undisputed possession of the
Indians, while, between the lower part of this river and along the
Savana, and the Bay of San Miguel, a mongrel population of 1,200 souls
cultivate bananas, and impose upon strangers.

Dr. Cullen justly claims to have recalled public attention to the
merits of this route. The fine harbors of San Miguel on the Pacific,
and of Caledonia Bay and Port Escocés on the Atlantic, taken in
connection with the narrowness of the Isthmus, would attract a casual
observer. The favorable opinion of Humboldt has led many to look
hopefully to this region. The advantageous situation of the Savana
River was pointed out by Dr. Cullen, who claims to have “crossed, and
recrossed, between Caledonia Bay, and Port Escocés alone, during the
rainy season, cutting and marking his way with a machete. From the
head of the Savana,” he continues, “a ravine, three leagues in length,
extends to Caledonia Bay, and there a canal might be cut with less
difficulty than elsewhere, if it were not for the opposition of the
natives. From the sea shore (at Caledonia) a plain extends to the base
of a ridge, which runs parallel to the coast, and whose summit is 350
feet. This ridge is not quite continuous and unbroken, but is divided
by transverse valleys, through which the Aglasenique and Aglatomente,
and other rivers have their course, and whose highest elevations do not
exceed 150 feet.”

Impressed by these favorable representations, and believing Dr.
Cullen’s statement of the existence of large gold deposits near
Esperitu Santu, and in the diggings of Veraguas, the distinguished
capitalists, Sir Charles Fox, John Henderson, and Thomas Brassy,
uniting with Dr. Cullen, obtained, by a decree of the Granadian
Congress, dated Bogotá, June 1st, 1852, the concession of the exclusive
privilege of cutting a ship canal across the Isthmus of Darien, between
the Gulf of San Miguel on the Pacific, and the Bay of Caledonia on the
Atlantic, with the liberty of selecting any other point on the Atlantic
coast between Puerto de Mosquitoes, and the west mouth of the Atrato,
for the entrance of the canal; and were granted, besides the lands
necessary for the canal and its works, 2,000,000 acres of land, to be
selected in any part of the Republic. All the ports of Darien were
declared free and neutral.

Notwithstanding these favorable conditions, it was deemed prudent, by
the distinguished capitalists above mentioned, to send out a competent
engineer to verify the statements of Dr. Cullen. Mr. Lionel Gisborne
was selected for the purpose, and was accompanied by Dr. Cullen, to
point out the way.

Before arriving in South America Mr. Gisborne, assuming the data
supplied by Dr. Cullen to be correct, enters into some interesting
speculations. “Let us suppose,” he observes, “the summit level to be
150 feet above the level of the sea. The Atlantic rise of tide is only
3 feet (1′ 5″); that of the Pacific is 25 feet (22 to 23), therefore,
the difference in the level, at high and low tide is 11 feet (this,
although suppositious, will, I anticipate, not be far from the truth).
In such a case I would propose to cut a canal through from ocean to
ocean without any locks,” etc.

Proceeding on the supposition of certain “circumstances likely to
coexist in a country whose chief geological formation is igneous,” he
proposed a second plan. “By embankments placed in the most advantageous
position” two lakes are to be formed upon each side of the ridge,
which, being cut through, ships can pass from lake to lake, and
lock down to either ocean from the opposite extremities. “The only
objection” to this plan, is, he thinks, “the loss of land inundated.”
“I hope,” he adds, “a tract of country will be found where one or the
other of these cases is applicable.” It is very remarkable that Mr.
Gisborne found a country adapted to this plan.

This expedition was long delayed in Cartejena, awaiting Dr. Cullen,
who was occupied with business connected with the survey before the
Congress of Bogotá. “I determined to wait for the English mails,”
writes Mr. Gisborne, “due here the 25th, otherwise I should certainly
not spend three weeks waiting for Dr. Cullen.” On another day, “an
instrumental survey,” he prognosticates, “seems to be out of the
question, so that our levels, theodolites, sextants, and chains, will
probably remain in the same box Troughton and Simms consigned them to
on our departure from England.”

Again, “I have read and listened about Darien Indians, their cruelty
and jealousy, until I am callous and unbelieving; but it frets me
to remain in doubt, ebbing out an existence in Cartejena. I have
determined,” he says, “to wait ten days longer—then D. V. Cullen, or no
Cullen, I shall try what can be done with these ungovernable Indians.”

Waiting impatiently, he speculates upon the Aurora Borealis, geology,
magnetic observations; ingeniously proposing, by the automatic action
of appropriate machinery, to make all meteorological phenomena register
its name and mission in a room selected for that purpose. This he
calls a “meteorological loom in which the web of time is spun with the
present for a pattern.”

“May 29th—The Bogotá mail has come, but no letter from Dr. Cullen.
Every thing here is mañana (to-morrow).”

He again takes to speculating on fortifications, and the beauty of
the senoritas. A reasonable man would have been contented. But he
leaves this primrose path to write, “Dr. Cullen has neither written,
nor appeared in person, and I am beginning to have my doubts whether
he will do so.” In the meantime Cullen was hammering at the “mañana”
Congress at Bogotá.

After waiting six weeks he left Cartejena in disgust, and landed,
without the indefatigable Doctor, in Caledonia Bay. Here he spent two
days wandering among the hills with his barometer, his spirits going
down as the mercury went up.

He was arrested by three half-naked Indians, who, in an unintelligible
language, but plainly to be understood gestures, commanded him to
follow. This he prudently acquiesced in, but not until he had, as he
thought, ascertained the dividing ridge between the Atlantic and the
Pacific to be 272 feet above tide. Falling asleep, with a contented
mind, he thought he heard the roar of the surf of the Pacific, but his
companion, Ford, very shrewdly suggested that they were still within
hearing of the Atlantic. With a gentle admonition that they must never
be caught there again they were permitted to return to their boat.

Naturally, he could not forbear another fling at the helpless Dr.
Cullen. “I had not much faith in Dr. Cullen’s map, as his descriptions
of land south-west of Port Escocés were directly contrary to the fact.”

The comment, on his failure may puzzle the reader. “I am far more
satisfied at having failed in crossing from Port Escocés than to have
crossed and returned (supposing that was possible with safety), and
reported a summit 275 feet, when, within a few miles, one of 40 is to
be got further inland.”

“It is dangerous to argue by induction,” observes Mr. Gisborne, and he
gives 238 pages in illustration of this truth.

Nothing daunted by his failure to effect a transit from the Atlantic
side of the Isthmus, he determines to proceed to Panama, and to make
another attempt from San Miguel on the Pacific. Proceeding up the
Savana river he disembarked with his Asst. Ford, who had charge of
the mountain barometer, and penetrating two days’ journey into the
interior, he is warned by a _log over a stream_ that he had reached
the country of his enemies, the Caledonia Indians. Remembering their
parting injunction he returned.

“A dreamy hope of success,” he writes, “is strengthened by inductive
argument, the cause of former failures leads to generalizations of
geological theories, and topographical analogy, and it was this
conviction that cheered me under all difficulties, making suffering an
indispensable appendage of success.”

Consoling himself with such reflections he met Dr. Cullen at Panama,
in high dudgeon. The Doctor reproached him with having broken his
instructions, and required that he should return to San Miguel.
Gisborne was recalcitrant. “Feeling satisfied that a ship canal could
be made across Darien, he urged Dr. Cullen to come to England, and, as
he said he was without money, I offered to advance the passage money.”

This generous offer was accepted. Having found, as he believed,
a summit of 150 feet above tide, corresponding with Dr. Cullen’s
statement, he submits two plans to his employers. One for a
thorough-cut without locks; the other by the junction of two lakes,
for which he had found a suitable physical conformity, in remarkable
harmony with his prophetic speculations before reaching Cartejena.

The first plan was estimated to cost £12,500,000, or about $62,500,000.

The friends of the measure in London were elated by the representations
of the expeditionists.

The Atlantic and Pacific Junction Company was incorporated by royal
charter, or act of Parliament. The capital, limited to £15,000,000,
was disposed of in shares of £100 each. A deposit of ten shillings on
each share was to be made without further liability, forming a sum of
£75,000 for preliminary expenses.

A provisional directory was organized, with Lord Wharncliffe as
chairman. Upon the publication of their prospectus, a lively
correspondence sprang up between the _London Times_ and Sir Charles
Fox. The writer of the _Times_ is charged with want of appreciation
of the merits of the Darien route, and retorts, that if no one is to
question Sir Charles Fox’s views, or even speak of their inaccuracies,
there must be an end of discussion.

While this controversy was raging, another expedition was being
organized, in numbers and appliances far exceeding any previous
attempt, with the same object. England, France, and the United States
coöperated with New Granada. Not since the landing of Paterson had so
formidable an expedition appeared in that region.

When the Virago entered the Bay of San Miguel, the Scorpion and
l’Espeigle, with Mr. Gisborne and Dr. Cullen on board, anchored in
Caledonia Bay. The French ship, La Chimere, and the American corvette,
Cyane, Lieut. Strain, at the same time joined the expedition, raising
the united crews to the number of 700 men.

The Granadian Government, in furtherance of the object of the
expedition, had established a depot near the junction of the rivers
Savana and Lara. It was confidently believed that the practicability of
the Darien route was about to be set at rest forever.

Relying on Mr. Gisborne’s and Dr. Cullen’s reports, Lieut. Strain, with
a party of twenty-seven men, two Granadian Commissioners, and ten days’
provisions, pushed forward up the bed of the Caledonia River. Here,
taking advantage of an opening among the trees, he examined, with a
spy-glass, the range of Cordillera, to find a semi-circular chain 1500
to 2000 feet in height. He concluded that this route could not be that
alluded to by Mr. Gisborne and Dr. Cullen. He still pushed forward up
arduous ascents. A seaman of the Cyane climbed a tree to reconnoiter
the country, and reported nothing but hills and mountains in every
direction. For a pathetic account of this unfortunate expedition, the
reader is referred to _Harper’s Monthly_, Vol. X.

After forty days of wandering, subsisting for the time chiefly on sour
palmetto berries, emaciated with hunger, lacerated with thorns, sick,
and half naked, Strain, having hastened ahead of his party, sought
succor in Yvisa. Proceeding to the Savana, he presented himself to
the English agent, who, receiving him with every kindness, shed tears
at the sight. Securing assistance, which was reluctantly granted, at
Yvisa, he hastily returned to find the remnant of his party, feebly
struggling back toward Caledonia Bay, having lost five of their number,
among whom were the two Granadian Commissioners.

Strain, mistaking the Chuquanaqua for the Savana, reached the Pacific
by the longest route. He claims that his expedition “has disproved a
magnificent preconceived theory,” and that instead of a summit-level of
150 feet, it is at least 1000 feet.

Three days after the departure of Strain, “another party, composed of
English and French together, under the guidance of Dr. Cullen and Mr.
Gisborne, set out from the same point, and endeavored to follow in his
track.” “Gisborne and Cullen could not follow their own maps,” and
after having “penetrated not more than six miles in all, returned.” Mr.
Gisborne, observes the narrator in the _Nouvelles Annales des Voyages_,
“dementait complétement” his former statements. They failed to confirm
the first statements, and the London company, organized with such high
hopes, was dissolved.

On the heels of Gisborne and Cullen, the Granadian expedition, under
the command of Codazzi, made a cotemporaneous essay. “How far,” says
Strain, “it penetrated is not known; but, struggling over the space of
a mile, it was broken up, and returned after having lost several men.”

While failure and misfortune was befalling the exploring parties
starting from the Atlantic coast, another attempt was made at the same
time to effect a transit from the now notable Savana. Capt. Prevost, of
the Virago, after advancing twenty-six miles, at the rate of one and
one-half miles per day, returned again to the Savana, followed, says
Mr. Gisborne, by two hundred hostile Indians. Four sailors, left to
guard a depot of provisions, were found murdered.

Capt. Prevost failed to find a practicable pass. Crossing valleys which
probably led to the Pacific, the altitude of which is not given, he
terminated his survey at a summit of 1080 feet above the level of the
ocean. “L’execution de canal interoceaneque était devenue á peu pris
impracticable,” remarks the reviewer.

After an examination of the maps of Gisborne, Prevost, Strain, and
Codazzi, there seems to be a general agreement in placing the summit
of the ridge at not less than one thousand feet above the level of the
tide. The united maps of Prevost and Gisborne exhibit their routes,
proceeding from opposite points and intersecting, and the continuous
profile between the two oceans fails to solve the question of a
practicable route. As one of these parties had the advantage of Dr.
Cullen’s personal guidance, it is but fair to allow him to supplement
his first statement by an explanation of the causes which led to a
failure so complete and unexpected.

Speaking of the party from the Virago, he observes that Capt. Prevost
“directed his explorations too far to the north-west.” That when it
stopped he was but thirty miles from the point where the line should

Strain, on the other hand, erred by going “too far to the south-west.”
In a word, the true line is to be found in the golden mean in which
Aristotle places all virtue.

But he has so far modified his first statement that he now thinks a
line, “with tunneling,” may be found between Sucubti and Port Escocés.
Under nine heads, he enumerates the advantages of this route.

The reader has, perhaps, concluded that, like Pantagruel’s army, this
subject is pretty well covered with tongue, and he may even adopt the
conclusion of a distinguished attorney-general upon the fallibility of
this unruly member. But one or two of the nine may be quoted. Under
No. 7 Dr. Cullen states the land rises to nine hundred and thirty
feet, and that here a tunnel will be required. No. 8 states that
between this point and the Pacific no obstacle is to be found. The
divide of one hundred and fifty feet, first discovered by Dr. Cullen,
expanded to ten times that altitude.

If men of intelligence and education can so err, all statements of
persons whose previous habits and studies have not fitted them for
passing judgment upon the relative merits of different canal routes
should be received with caution.

The failure of this formidable effort of four Governments to discover a
practicable route for a ship canal between Caledonia Bay and the Gulf
of San Miguel, while it disappointed reasonable expectation, stimulated
public curiosity. The French, in nowise discouraged, determined to make
another effort. The Granadian Minister, Francisco Martin, and Senator
F. Barrow, signed, at Paris, a treaty embodying certain concession.

According to agreement, the survey was to be conducted from the head of
the Chuquanaqua toward the village of Monti, where Codazzi represented
a summit of 460 feet.

M. Bourdiol, Civil Engineer, with a party of fifteen persons—afterward
increased to twenty by the addition of some natives—proceeded
carefully, cutting their way, and chaining and leveling at the rate
of about a mile a day. Reaching the Chuquanaqua below the junction of
the Sucubti, he was compelled to desist, by the approach of the rainy
season. He returned to Panama after an absence of sixty days.

The nearest approach to a determination of a pass by M. Bourdiol
appears in the rather equivocal statement, that the origin of the
valley of Monti is one hundred and eighty-two metres (about 597 feet).

If all of these explorers had left some permanent mark at the
termination of their surveys, succeeding parties could have taken
up the line where the former left off, and the determination of a
practicable route could have been made in one-half the time now

M. Bourdiol affirms that he verified the height of the Sucubti, as
given by Codazzi and Gisborne, but it is not apparent how he found the
same points determined by these engineers.

Where so many failed, with every accessory and advantage likely to
assure success, the pertinent inquiry suggests itself, Is there any one
fact in common which may serve to explain failures so universal? All
find difficulties in cutting the way, requiring natives accustomed to
the use of the machete; all are misled by imperfect maps, which fail
to give the altitude of the passes and the true course of the rivers.
While one party is turned back by the rainy season, another is stopped
by the Indians, another by want of time. But one party succeeded in
crossing from sea to sea, but under such circumstances that each day
was a struggle for existence, to the exclusion of the scientific
objects of the expedition.

The hostility of the Indians, although not always stated, appears to
have been the chief obstacle to a careful exploration; and internal
dissension concurred to bring failure upon the best appointed of these

The following table presents, at one view, all that is known of the
Darien routes:

            │                 │ SUMMIT │
     NAMES. │      LOCALITY.  │REPORTED│             REMARKS.
            │                 │  FEET. │
    Cullen  │Savana,          │        │
            │    Port Escocés.│   150? │“Crossed and recrossed?”
    Gisborne│  “    “         │   150? │ Saw across to former position?
    Cullen  │  ┌ Started at   │   980! │ ┌ Second attempt
    Gisborne│  ┤  Caledonia   │        │ ┤   and failed to
            │  └  Bay.        │        │ └   cross over.
    Strain  │ Caledonia Bay.  │  1000+ │ Lost his way on the Chuquanaqua.
    Prevost │  Savana River.  │  1080  │ Did not see the Pacific.
    Bourdiol│     “     “     │   597? │ Turned back by rain.

It would appear, at the first glance, that the question of a
practicable route across the Isthmus of Darien was settled by these
explorers.[8] Dr. Cullen, notwithstanding the unfortunate result of
his early prognostications, still remains sanguine, and opines that
the valleys of the Aglatomente and Aglasenaca afford levels favorable
to a canal; but Gisborne’s map represents the water-shed of the
Aglasenaca at 1,020 feet above the level of the sea, and supplies no
indications of a lower summit. But Capt. Prevost gives some important
testimony. In a letter to Admiral Moresby, written after the return
of his expedition, he speaks of valleys at a lower level than any yet
discovered, leading to the Pacific. His map confirms this statement.
Capt. Parsons, R. N., of the Scorpion, testifies to the same effect.
From the deck of his vessel he could discern a very decided break in
the ridge, which appeared continuous when viewed from other points.

These estimates we have learned to receive with caution. “A dreamy
hope of success is strengthened by inductive argument,” observes Mr.
Gisborne, “the cause of former failures leads to generalizations,”
etc., and such faint lights have so far proved veritable
will-o’-the-wisps. In the present instance, concurrent opinion is
highly favorable. The appearance of isolated summits, and disjointed
and dislocated character of schistose and trychitic rock; the testimony
of Prevost and Parsons, to the appearance of a break in the ridge;
the fact that Col. Hughes found at Panama a summit of two hundred and
eighty feet above the sea, at two miles north of the line, upon which
Garella could not find less than four hundred and fifty-nine feet
above the same level; all these facts, if not “confirmations strong
as proofs of Holy Writ,” are more than “trifles light as air,” and go
far to confirm the opinion that the Isthmus of Darien has not been
sufficiently explored.


Sr. Gorgoza, a Granadian, represents that he has passed over this
line, and found an altitude of one hundred and ninety feet. How this
elevation was determined without a barometer or spirit-level is not
clear. This part of the Isthmus is referred to in general terms by
Humboldt, Fitzroy, and Trautwine, but as these authorities echo each
other, the inference derives little additional strength from their


Taking leave of the Darien surveys, the explorations in the province of
Chócó come next in order. Under this head are included the surveys made
in the valley of the Atrato. Success appears to have accompanied these
operations, as disaster followed the Darien expeditions. The hopes
centering in any one Isthmean route have been in the inverse ratio of
the information concerning them.

The indispensable desiderata of a summit of moderate elevation, and
deep harbors, have not yet been found existing conjointly together. The
volcanic agency which hollowed out deep basins where ships may securely
anchor, has, at the same time, given unusual altitude to the dividing
ridge. Shallow harbors and low divides, and deep harbors and great
altitudes, accompany each other with the persistence of a law.

As the explorations dissipated the hope of one route, another was
taken up. Vague rumors continually reach us similar to those we have
already encountered. One of the latest of these is this: A Mr. or Sr.
Gorgoza, a resident of New Granada, has found a short and easy transit
across the Cordillera, between the Gulf of San Miguel and Urabà (or
Darien), by ascending the Tuyra, and crossing the valley of the Atrato.
According to his statement, the depression in the divide is not more
than 190 feet above the mean tide, and the distance between head
waters, navigable by canoes, is not more than three miles.


The March number of _Putnam’s Monthly_ contains a description of a
route surveyed by M. De La Charme, which occupies a position between
the Darien routes, and the line between Humboldt Bay and the Atrato,
surveyed by Lieut. Michler.

The article referred to gives an account of what appears to be the
latest reconnoissance made in that region, and claims for its author,
M. De La Charme, “the right of discovery.” Of this survey Sr. De
Gorgoza is the patron and prime mover.

The attention of Sr. De Gorgoza was called to this route by certain
“documents” containing “hints about passages used by the Indians in
crossing the Cordilleras.” These documents consisted of “reports
by the civil and ecclesiastical authorities about the province of
Balboa, which was, at that time, of great importance, from its rich
gold mines,” and are probably as reliable as any other civil and
ecclesiastical reports of the pious marauders of that period. These
reports were accompanied by “a map,” which seems, from a reference
upon page 133, to have been that remarkable specimen of puzzling
topography, known as Arisa’s map, a copy of which may be found appended
to the report of Admiral Davis. The usual reference is made to those
unconscious pioneers of interoceanic canal routes, the filibusters,
“who carried off quantities of gold, to the great detriment of the
Spanish treasury,” etc., etc.

This _reliable_ evidence is further corroborated by the flight of
birds. Some Pissisi ducks providentially appear to lead our explorer
upon the right path, and M. De La Charme is so convinced that the route
will be found in the direction taken by these web-footed engineers,
that he confidently affirms “there remained to me no doubt but at this
place I should find the desired passage. So persuaded,” he “prosecuted
his work with confidence.”

Many immaterial facts are circumstantially related, but we are not
told by what method the survey was conducted, nor whether M. De La
Charme was assisted in his work by professional engineers. Without such
assistance, his duties must have been complicated and laborious. As
mention is made of bogas and laborers only, we must conclude that this
arduous duty was performed without any intelligent assistance.

He states that strict attention was given to barometric measurements.
The notes should have been supplied in proof of the accuracy of his

The irregularities of the barometer along the dividing ridge of the
Isthmus and in South America have been noticed by Moro, Hughes,
Herndon, Maury, Michler, and other observers. Used with extreme care,
and according to the method recommended by Lieut. Col. Williamson,
U. S. A., the results obtained with this instrument are affected by
discrepancies and anomalies, which, along the Andes, vitiate the most
careful observations, and elude the grasp of the best formulæ.

A favorable reconnoissance with the barometer, in this region, should
receive a careful verification with more accurate instruments, but it
can not be regarded as establishing the feasibility of a route.

The map of M. De La Charme, like that of Dr. Cullen, is made up from
old maps. The additional topographical information is not laid down.

Two parties were sent to the Isthmus to verify this route. One,
composed of French engineers, was under the charge of M. Flacat; the
other, composed of American engineers, was under the direction of Mr.
Spooner. With both the principals Sr. De Gorgoza quarreled, and the
parties returned without accomplishing the work for which they had made
so long a journey.

The following paragraphs contain all that M. De La Charme claims to
have established. If correct, he is justly entitled to the right of
discovery, in the furtherance of which claim “he considers it his duty
to publish the present memorandum.”

“This canal should go in a straight course E. 20° S. from Real Viejo to
the village of Paya, thence south-east through the passage between the
Cordilleras and the Andes, and, finally, easterly or north-easterly,
as should prove best for the navigation from the Atlantic by the
Atrato. It would not be more than fifty miles long, and would traverse
a country whose formation presents no difficulties to the opening of
the same, either in the excavation or in the removal of the materials
excavated, an important point in works of this kind.

“The highest point or summit-level of the route thus explored was near
the village of Paya. It was, by barometrical measurement, one hundred
and seventy-eight feet (about 55 metres) above the level of the sea,
and this must necessarily be very nearly the true altitude. And, it may
be added, the field notes of the expedition contain satisfactory data
respecting the questions of practical engineering involved, such as
feeders, locks,” etc.

So little accurate information exists in regard to the topography of
the Isthmus, there is always a probability in favor of the discovery
of new routes. But the uncertainty which must attach to the sanguine
representations based upon interested but unprofessional examinations,
has been made sufficiently apparent. Such statements can not be
accepted without verification. This is doubtless all that Sr. Gorgoza


In July, 1857, the results of a survey from the Atrato to the Pacific,
made by Mr. Kennish, under the direction of F. W. Kelley, were laid
before the Secretaries of War and Navy. Mr. Trautwine had previously
surveyed the Atrato from its mouth to its head, crossing the ridge in
three places, obtaining much valuable information. Mr. Porter made a
survey in 1853. The survey of Mr. Kennish, before alluded to, was made
in 1855.

Commencing at the mouth of the Atrato River, the work to be done is
described as follows: The mouth of the Atrato being obstructed by bars,
the caño coquito, by which the river is to be united with the Gulf of
Urabà, having at the present time a depth of four feet water, is to be
excavated to a depth of thirty feet. From thence sixty-five miles to
the mouth of the Truando, the depth is not less than forty-seven feet.
The bar at the mouth of the Truando is eighteen feet. For six miles
the river has an average depth of fourteen feet. From thence to the
Pacific, twenty-six miles, much of the distance is through solid rock.
At 505 feet above the ocean level, Mr. Kennish proposes to pierce the
divide by a tunnel three and one-half miles in length, sufficiently
large to admit two ships abreast.

The harbor at the Pacific terminus requires improvement; guard locks
not considered necessary. Total length of the line, one hundred and
twenty-six miles. The results of this survey were regarded as highly
favorable by the friends of the measure.

Mr. Kelley regarded his labors and expenditures as well rewarded.
“Franklin,” he observes, “was not more delighted when he drew lightning
from the clouds, nor Columbus when he discovered America, than I was
when it was demonstrated, by instrumental measurement, that the two
oceans could be united, that all the science, industry, enlightened
enterprise, and generous expenditure had not been exhausted in vain.”

To verify this survey, Congress authorized the Secretaries of War and
Navy to organize a joint expedition. In accordance with this authority,
the Secretary of the Navy designated Com. Craven. This gallant officer
was afterward sunk off Mobile, and lost with all the crew of his ship.


To Lieut. N. Michler, Corps of Topographical Engineers, (now Brevet
Brigadier-General,) the execution of the topographical survey was
assigned. The operations of this officer were published in the form of
a diary, with special scientific reports and observations, accompanied
by maps and profiles. The special reports embrace observations upon
geology, botany, hipsometrical and astronomical determinations,
climatology, and field notes.

The itinerary is full and interesting, supplying information valuable
to future explorers. The reader is never asked to accept a statement
upon the _ipse dixit_ of the writer. The observation of a corps of
intelligent surveyors is laid before the reader.

The line adopted by General Michler may be described as follows: To
avoid the bar at the mouth of the Atrato, a canal, about two and
one-half miles, is to be cut through the channel of the caño coquito.
The mouth of this caño is protected by nature from the prevailing
winds. The Atrato affords navigation for the largest ships. The
remaining part of the line is described in General Michler’s words:
“Let the first section follow the projected line referred to above,
across the Lagunas to its intersection with the Truando; the second
section connects this last point by a straight line with the head
of the Palizadas; the third extends in a direct line to the foot of
the Saltos; the fourth in a curved line to the head of the Saltos,
including a tunnel of 800 feet through the Sierra de los Saltos; the
fifth leads directly to the mouth of the river Grundó, a tributary of
the Nercua; the sixth leaves the valley of the Nercua at the point by
a straight line, perpendicular to the axis of the Cordilleras de los
Andes, and, after piercing the mountains with a tunnel 12,500 feet
in length, continues on to the mouth of the Chuparador; the seventh
follows for some distance down the valley of the river Paracuchichí;
and, lastly, the eighth strikes in a direct line for the Bahia
Ensenadá, or Estero de Paracuchichí.

“The line proposed by Mr. Kennish differs very materially from the one
just described. It leaves the Atrato at the mouth of the Truando, and
follows the meanderings of the stream to its junction with the Nercua;
it then ascends the valleys of the latter and of the Hingador, and
strikes across the mountains to the Pacific. The length of the cut by
his plan is stated in his report to be 56.08 miles.

“In order to complete the line of canal communication between the
Atrato and the Pacific, it is necessary to connect the Estero de
Paracuchichí with Humboldt’s Bay. It is proposed to do this by a cut
from the former across the peninsula, and then by building out in its
prolongation, from the shores of the latter, jetties to form a passage
through the surf into deep water of the ocean. The depth of the cut
between them will have to be sufficient to allow for the swells of the
latter, at least from thirty-five to forty feet below low tide.”

To connect the Atrato with the Pacific by a canal without locks, there
would be 95 miles of river navigation, and 52⅔ miles of canal, making
an aggregate length of 147⅔ miles.

The following table gives the different items and the total cost of the

_Interoceanic Ship Canal_.

    _Summary of the estimated cost of the canal and appurtenances._
                                               │    ESTIMATE
                                               │ BY GEN. MICHLER
             OBJECT OF EXPENDITURE.            │  FOR EXCAVATION
                                               │  AND TUNNELING.
      Works at the mouth of the Atrato         │  $    500,000
      Excavation of earth                      │    24,835,173
      Rock cuttings                            │    64,774,950
      Tunneling                                │    13,995,000
      Pacific harbor improvements              │     1,150,000
      Light-house                              │        35,000
      Piers                                    │        25,000
      Depots on Pacific                        │        50,000
      Depots on line, and hospital             │        35,000
      Depot at junction                        │        15,000
      Executive department                     │       120,000
      Engineer department                      │       375,000
      Medical department                       │        80,000
      Pay department                           │        90,000
      Commissary department                    │       120,000
      Quartermaster’s department               │       135,000
      Dredging machinery                       │       350,000
      Hoisting and pumping engines’ machinery  │       875,000
                                               │  $107,560,123
          Add 25 per cent. for contingencies   │    26,890,031
                                               │  $134,450,154

This estimate supposes the dimensions of the canal to be 100 feet wide
and 30 feet deep. This rate ($2.50) per cubic yard is evidently too
small. Estimating this tunnel at the contract price being employed
($5.40), the cost will be $30,229,200; and should the price reach the
not improbable limit of $10 per cubic yard, the cost will be increased
to $55,970,000. Substituting these sums in place of the cost of
tunneling as given in the above estimate, and the total cost of the
canal along this route will, in the first case, be $150,684,354, and,
in the second case, $176,625,154, which is not excessive, if the tunnel
is to be lined throughout.

The Penaebach tunnel is the only one in England that is self-supporting.
It is driven through solid basalt. The Penmaenwhr tunnel, pierced
through hard green-stone, had to be lined throughout; and the Bangor
tunnel, supposed to be sufficiently firm, was afterward cased with
brick. It has been found necessary to line some of the tunnels of the
Washington aqueduct, which are driven through very hard gneiss.

Before taking leave of this instructive report, we have selected some
interesting portions of the narrative and scientific statements for

“The great falls of the Hingador are grand and exceedingly romantic,
and equal in height and beauty to many of those in other countries
which elicit so much admiration from all lovers of magnificent scenery.
The valley itself is pleasant to gaze upon; many bright streams gush
into it, and impart additional charms to the already picturesque
landscape of falls and rapids, and rich tropical vegetation. Several
thermal springs were discovered at the foot of the great falls.

“As the party had to wade through the water, over smooth and slippery
rocks, and clamber up steep precipices, it took four days to accomplish
this section of the survey. Several fragments of rocks were broken
off at the head of the falls for subsequent analysis. According to
the report of the geologist, of which the following is an extract,
‘the rocky falls were found to be overcoated with a light, shaly
conglomerate of a cemented texture, and containing, imbedded in a
calcareous matrix, coarse sand and gravel. Higher up, in one of the
western head branches of this stream, a more consolidated semi-rock was
noticed, containing copiously interspersed fragments of little shells.
This rock seems also to be impregnated with carbonate of lime.’”

The character of the natives may be gathered from the extract: “January
30th, 1858—Whilst seated on the rocks overlooking the falls, and
listening to the music of the roaring waters, as they rushed fiercely
past, with an occasional anxious glance at the curve of the river
above, in expectancy of the momentary appearance of the long-expected
canoe, the attention was suddenly drawn toward a long line of Indians,
men, women, and children, emerging from the trail over the Sierra. As
they filed by, several familiar faces were seen, and a kindly nod of
recognition given and returned. Each bore a pack, from the largest
to the smallest; these rested upon the back, and were supported by
bands, composed of the bark of trees, which passed in front of the
forehead. Most of their effects were packed away in baskets, made of
bark of certain trees, and very neatly manufactured. They proved to be
old friends from Tocame, and were _en route_ to make a visit to one of
their Tambos, on the Nercua. All fear as to moving ahead was dispelled
at sight of them. After depositing their loads on the rocks, near the
small haven, just above the falls, they all left again as quietly as
they had come, in order to bring up their canoes over the Saltos.

“Whilst the members of the engineer corps were extremely anxious to
discharge their duties accurately and faithfully, and to prosecute, in
the most thorough manner, every conceivable examination which could,
in the remotest degree, furnish additional information in reference
to the great work upon which they were engaged; still, circumstances
over which they had no control, such as their want of provisions, and
the scarcity of money wherewith to purchase and renew even necessary
supplies, compelled them to turn back from the Pacific, and leave
unaccomplished the reconnoissance of both the Paracuchichí and Jurador
rivers. To have rendered their labors complete these examinations
should have been made in connection with their other most interesting
duties. The future survey of these streams, and more especially of the
former, together with that of the country, between its head-waters and
those of the Pavarador, a tributary of the Nercua, and also between
some of the tributaries of the Truando and the coast, at some more
southern point of Humboldt Bay, may throw a flood of light upon the
feasibility of the work in contemplation.”

He again expresses his regret that he was unable to extend his

“It is to be greatly regretted that circumstances prevented the party
from gaining more minute information concerning the valley of the
Paracuchichí, and of the transversal passes leading from it through
the mountains into the valley of a large tributary of the Truando,
which flows in only a few miles above its mouth. As this river has more
than twice the quantity of water possessed by the Nercua, it is highly
probable that a still more favorable route can be found leading out
from its valley above the junction.”

The following table of comparison between altitudes, determined by the
level and by barometric observations, shows how much has been gained in
accuracy, since the time of Humboldt, in the use of the barometer:

        _Table of data used in computing the various heights,
             with the results as compared with the heights
                       obtained by the level._
                                         │MEAN READING │    MEAN
              STATIONS.                  │OF BAROMETER.│    TEMP.
                                         │   INCHES.   │    DEG.
    Sea coast                            │    29.874   │    80.
    First camp on Truando                │    29.817   │    75.4
    Tocame                               │    29.805   │    76.8
    Foot of Saltos                       │    29.759   │    76.1
    Observatory Hill                     │    29.663   │    76.6
    Head Salto Grande                    │    29.741   │    75.9
    Head of Saltos                       │    29.737   │    75.9
    Junction of Rivers Nercua and Truando│    29.674   │    77.
    Tambo                                │    29.607   │    77.
    First Ridge west of Rio Nercua       │    28.815   │    75.2
    [9]Log Crossing on         ┌ No. 1362│    29.053   │    75.2
                   Rio Hingador┤         │             │
                               └ No. 1363│    28.912   │    75.2
    Camp on Hingador                     │    29.074   │    75.2
    Dividing Ridge                       │    28.913   │    75.2
    Rio Chupepe                          │    29.631   │    75.2
    Rio Totumia, below Dos Bocas         │    29.837   │    75.2
                                         │ BAROMETRIC│HEIGHT│DIFFERENCE.
                                         │   HEIGHT. │  BY  │
              STATIONS.                  │           │LEVEL.│
                                         │     FEET. │ FEET.│  FEET.
    Sea coast                            │      ...  │ ...  │   ...
    First camp on Truando                │      58.39│ 44.57│+ 13.82
    Tocame                               │      69.6 │ 57.39│  12.21
    Foot of Saltos                       │     122.65│ 97.5 │  25.15
    Observatory Hill                     │     207.45│204.95│   2.5
    Head Salto Grande                    │     132.3 │138.79│-  6.49
    Head of Saltos                       │     138.1 │183.47│  45.37
    Junction of Rivers Nercua and Truando│     192.5 │192.6 │+  0.44
    Tambo                                │     260.92│264.4 │-  3.48
    First Ridge west of Rio Nercua       │   1,046.45│ ...  │   ...
    Log Crossing on            ┌ No. 1362│     809.42│791.23│+ 18.19
                  Rio Hingador ┤         │Mean 879.9 │ ...  │   ...
                               └ No. 1363│     949.94│ ...  │   ...
    Camp on Hingador                     │     788.6 │814.32│- 25.72
    Dividing Ridge                       │     948.5 │947.44│+  1.06
    Rio Chupepe                          │     240.24│241.35│-  1.11
    Rio Totumia, below Dos Bocas         │      40.6 │ 45.3 │   5.24

These hypsometric determinations differ from the true levels at the
points of observation from two to forty-five feet. These figures fall
considerably within the limit of error considered as probable by Baron
Humboldt. This distinguished observer states that the barometer may be
trusted to determine heights to within from seventy-five or ninety feet
of the truth.


[7] The Caledonia Canal is 25 miles long, and 122 feet wide at water
surface. Dimensions of locks, 178½ by 39 feet. Lockage, 95 feet.

[8] An announcement in the Cincinnati Commercial declares that the
exploring party now at Darien have failed to find a practicable route
at that point.—{May 11, 1870.}

[9] At this station the difference in the readings of the barometers
was so great that the height was computed from the mean of the readings
of each instrument separately. In other cases the united mean of both
was used. The height given in the table was computed from the readings
of the barometer which was used as a standard.


    Physico-Geographical Features—Deficiency of
        Information—Barometer—Colonel Williamson—Lieutenants
        Gibbon, Herndon and Maury—Señor Moro—Popagayos—Influence
        of the Andes—Climate—Rainy Season—Colonel Hughes

The present chapter includes certain physico-geographical features
subsidiary to the duties of the engineer and explorer. The object of
this paper excludes all matter, not possessing practical value for this
purpose, and admits of little more than mere mention.

The previous chapters indicate a deficiency in information in regard to
the following routes:

    1. Nicaragua—The practicability of a route between Monkey
       Point and the Lake Nicaragua, or San Juan River.
    2. Chiriqui—No information extant.
    3. Panama route, and improvement of the harbors.
    4. San Blas and Chepo—A better line may be practicable.
    5. Caledonia Bay, or the Gulf of Urabà to the Gulf of San Miguel,
       by way of the Savana or Lara Rivers.
    6. Examination of the depression noticed by Gen. Michler.
    7. The line proposed by Sr. Gorgoza.

The elevation of the passes upon these routes should be definitely
fixed. The instrument which must determine the question of
practicability is the Wye spirit-level. If the capacity of the harbors
are insufficient for the largest class of ships, or can not be made
available at a reasonable cost, further examination is unnecessary.


Notwithstanding the improved formulæ, and more careful method of
observation recommended by Lieut.-Col. Williamson, Corps Engineers,
the barometer is subject to peculiar and anomalous variations, along
the slopes of the Cordillera of the Isthmus and the Andes. Lieuts.
Gibbon and Herndon refer to this phenomenon. Lieut. Maury attributed
the effect to the damming or piling up of the trade-winds against the
mountains. A recent traveler in the valley of the Amazon, I. Orton,
observed the same phenomenon, but objects to Maury’s theory.

Sr. Moro makes the following observations: “If, under these
circumstances (prevalent winds), barometrical observations are made
simultaneously on both sides of the Sierra, on the side of the Gulf,
they will exhibit a lower elevation than the true one, the error being
greater as that station may happen to be lower down or more towards the
north; but if time should admit of waiting until the weather be equally
fine on both sides (which seldom happens), then the difference between
the levels of the barometrical columns is insensible.”

Ventosa is peculiarly windy, and Nicaragua is subject to the Popagayos,
a species of monsoon, upon the Pacific coast. But the more placid
climate of the Atrato is similarly affected. “It is known as an
established fact,” remarks Capt. Kennish, “that the clouds seldom
pass over the Cordillera toward the Pacific, but are attracted by the
mountains, and disgorge themselves on the Atlantic side; hence the
reason of the perpetual rain, thunder, and lightning in the Atrato
Valley, while on the Pacific coast there is scarcely any rain for eight
months of the year.”

This unequal meteorological condition affects the barometer, and
General Michler observed unaccountable discrepancies in the readings of
two barometers when he reached the Hingador. With this exception, the
results of this officer’s observation were as close an approximation to
the truth as can be expected in a reconnaissance, but it is impossible
to say what given observation may be affected by some unknown cause.

A comparison of hypsometric determinations with the same altitudes,
ascertained by the spirit-level, will furnish some important elements
for eliminating errors. But this operation doubles the labor of the
surveyor, and time and cost of his explorations.

The errors of the barometer have led to singular inferences, and the
errors of observers to many more. Humboldt, La Condamine, Boussingault,
give a decreasing pressure along the Andes; and Orton, taking this
statement for granted, asks, “Are the Andes sinking?” The evidence of
geological and historical periods is, that the Andes and sea coast are
rising. The exceptions to this rule are local, and perhaps only in

These objections to the use of this instrument only apply to situations
where the spirit-level can not be used. To determine heights
inaccessible to any other instrument, or for simultaneous observation
of the meteorological condition of an extensive area of country, the
portability of the barometer render it invaluable.

The height of the barometric column, on the Pacific slope of the Andes,
according to Orton, is 29.930. He gives two values for the Atlantic
side, 29.997 and 29.932. Michler gives the Atlantic coast of the Atrato


A well-defined rainy season prevails for the most part throughout
the Isthmus, and permits the selection of suitable weather for
the operations of the engineer. Rain varies with proximity to the
mountains, etc., but the interval from December to May may be regarded
as the dry season. The seasons are sometimes reversed, as in Costa
Rica. There the dry season prevails upon the Pacific coast from
November to April, but on the Atlantic the contrary prevails. Fall of
rain in Honduras from May to October is 90.89 inches.

The tierras templadas, or elevated table-lands, are universally
healthy, and the climate in those regions possesses a charm which
belongs exclusively to the tropics. The unhealthy influences of the
marshes and sea-coast is much exaggerated, and may be said to cease
during the winter or dry season.

Col. Hughes, who visited the most insalubrious part of the Isthmus,
remarks that travelers, “who live like civilized beings,” have little
to fear from the climate. The writer spent six months, chiefly near the
sea-coast of Columbia, during part of the time compelled to sleep among
the swamps of the delta of the Magdelina, and although exposed to the
sun during the day, and sleeping in the open air at night, not one case
of febrile sickness occurred in the party of which he was a member, nor
were more than two cases of fever observed among the natives during the
period of residence.

The temperature varies with the elevation above the sea. Thermometric
records are of small value without the monthly and daily means of

The following table may give some general notion of their range:

                 │   TEPEC. │         │       │RICA.│          │
    May          │    90°   │   71°   │  71°  │ 57° │   71°    │Average
    June         │    88°   │         │       │     │          │during
    April        │    83°   │   to    │  to   │ to  │   to     │February
    May          │    88°   │   89°   │  84°  │ 85° │   90°    │ 75.2
    June         │    81°   │         │       │     │          │
    December and │          │         │       │     │          │
      January    │    74°   │         │       │     │          │

In Guatemala average maximum 88.7°. Minimum 38.9°.

Statistics, governmental and social, of Central America, are very
uncertain. The revolutionary condition of a society, in which it is
the interest of the chiefs to impose unjust burdens on the people,
and of the people to deceive; where, before an enumeration can
fairly begin, the government which authorized it may be deposed, and
another substituted in its place; the poverty, anarchy, and social
demoralization which result, are circumstances very unfavorable to a
correct determination of the resources of the country, or the number of
its population.

The following figures may not be free from this uncertainty, but give
the best approximation that could be obtained:

       _Population of the States of Central America._
                             │ SQUARE MILES. │ POPULATION.
    Tehuantepec              │      ...      │    61,000
    Costa Rica               │    23,000     │   150,000
    Nicaragua                │    48,000     │   290,000
    San Salvador             │     9,600     │   294,000
    Guatemala                │    43,380     │   907,500
    Honduras                 │    42,000     │   350,000
    Panama, including Darien │      ...      │   168,000
                             │               ├────────────
                             │               │ 2,220,500

This population is of a mixed character, composed of Europeans,
Mestizoes, Indians, Negroes, and Zambos; the European element being
largely in the minority.


Explorers in every part of the Isthmus, with the exception of Darien,
give favorable accounts of the temper of the natives. Trautwine, who
crossed the divide at several points in the province of Chócó, regarded
a bundle of cigars as the best passport. General Michler depended on
the natives for provisions during a part of his survey, and was never

But the Darien and San Blas Indians have been permitted to threaten and
murder with impunity. They have been further emboldened by the timid
behavior, and exasperated by the conduct of expeditionists. Had the
hostile demonstration of the savages against Codazzi and Gisborne, and
the massacre of four of Capt. Prevost’s men, been promptly punished,
subsequent exploring parties might now pass through the country

Strain, who thoroughly distrusted them, acknowledges that in one case
his suspicions were unjust. After dismissing his guides, he remarks
that he “was afterward convinced that the Caledonia Indians, and their
Sucubti friends, intended to lead them by the most direct route to the
Savana, and that they were prevented doing so by the Indians of the
Chuquanaque, or the Chuqunos, whom they met on the seventh day’s march,
and whom from the first excited suspicion.” It would appear that this
unfortunate expedition would have been better served by a little more
confidence in these “formidable Indians,” as Gisborne calls them, and
a little acquaintance with their language, than by the fortitude it
afterward exhibited in encountering the trials which befell it.

When misfortune appeals so strongly to sympathy, as it does in this
case, criticism becomes an ungracious task. Throughout this paper we
have omitted much in observing the rule, laid down for ourselves, to
indicate what should be done, rather than notice what should not have
been done. We therefore quote with pleasure the following graphic
account of the difficulty of cutting a way through the tropical
undergrowth, which we find in Mr. Gisborne’s narrative:

_Cutting the way_, “we were wading along the river margin, or facing
clusters of prickly stems sometimes backing this mass of vegetation.
Every step had its difficulty, and every difficulty was attended with
additional bodily suffering; but our hearts nearly failed when an
interminable mangrove wood extended as far as the eye can reach.

“The twisted and interlaced roots, some eight feet high, grew out
of a bed of slimy mud, left by the tidal waters, making progress a
succession of gymnastic feats, in which the gift of balancing had no
small share. Hand and foot were equally occupied, and every muscle was
called into play; nearly an hour’s perseverance had only advanced us a
few hundred yards.”

Another description of the same character will exhibit some of the
difficulties: “Occasionally a swamp, growing an impenetrable mass of
vegetation, delayed our progress and expended our energies in fruitless
hacking. The only way to get through many of these cienegas was to
fall on one’s back into the middle of the matted vegetation, and then
compress a place the length of one’s self, which those behind trod
down. After persevering in this manner for several hundred yards, an
inlet would be reached with a soft, muddy bottom, and waist deep from
the flood. On the other bank, the same mode of progress had to be
adopted, until prickly palms, and still more prickly creepers, made a
variety in the difficulty and suffering.”

Strain met with similar obstruction. “Hitherto, Strain had led the
party, every day cutting a path with his cutlass. This was most
laborious, and Mr. Truxton insisted on going ahead in his place. The
undergrowth was exceedingly dense, and composed, for the most part, of
‘pinello,’ or little pine, a plant resembling that which produces the
pineapple, but with longer leaves, serrated with long spines, which
produce most painful wounds, especially as the last few days’ march had
stripped the trousers from many of the party.”

The best way to clear these obstructions has been found to employ
natives, with machetes. This method, invariably adopted in Central
America, has been recommended by Admiral Davis, who also advises the
explorer to carry with him a good supply of canned and concentrated


Suitable stone is found without difficulty. Hydraulic cement will
probably have to be imported, although hydraulic limestone is said to
have been found in the States of Vera Cruz and Oazaca.

The explorer will find difficulty in discovering building sand. The
sea beaches may afford suitable sand for hydraulic work. Bricks can be
manufactured, without difficulty, at many points.


The following, from the account of Lloyd and Sidell, gives the local
names and character of the most useful species:

    1. _Guachapali._—Abundant; four or five feet in diameter,
        like walnut; good under water.

    2. _Macano_, or _Cacique_.—Crooked, medium size;
        good in ground or water; much used.

    3. _Espino Amarillo._—Not abundant; good in water; yellow;
        not liable to decay, or to be attacked by insects; straight;
        easily worked; seven kinds.

    4. _Cedro Espinoso._—Large, straight, light; heart alone good
        in open air and under ground.

    5. _Cedro Cerollo._—Large, crooked, durable.

    6. _Cedro real, Amargo._—Finest cedar of the country; used
        for many purposes in carpentry and boat-building; grows to
        five or six feet in diameter, and is very common.

    7. _Nispero._—Large; not easily worked; stands well when
        sheltered; insects do not touch it; resists transverse
        strain; two kinds much esteemed.

    8. _Guayacan_, or _Guallacan_ (_Lignum vitæ_).—Common;
        close-grained; heavy; works well when green; grows to four or
        five feet in diameter; used for gun-carriages, wheels, etc.

    9. _Algarobo._—Excellent wood; hard and tough; reddish brown,
        with streaks; large; common; used for gun-carriages.

    10. _Mangle Caballero_ (_Mangrove_).—Good as the Nispero;
         abundant near water; gives pieces thirty to forty feet long, and
         one foot square; used for vessels.

    11. _Alcomorque_ (cork tree).—Supplies large beams, which
         wear well.

    12. _Malvicino._—Yellow; abundant; wears well; employed in

    13. _Caoba_ (mahogany).—Large; not heavy; good for interiors; if
         not properly seasoned, is brittle.

    14. _Robles._—Large; not heavy; easily worked; used for paddle
         by the Indians; stand well in air; two varieties, one not good.

    15. _Cocobolo Prieto._—Tough, hard; beautifully figured (like
         rosewood); three feet in diameter; fragrant when green; used
         for carpentry and cabinet work.

    16. _Tutumia_ (calabash tree).

    17. _Cano Blanco._—Cane; good for lathing when split.

    18. _Quira._—Tough, close-grained, heavy; different colors,
         from light brown to very dark; very high; from one to three and
         one-half feet in diameter; plentiful; used in house-building.

    19. _Madrono Fino._—Like box; one and one-half foot in diameter;
         excellent wood for turning.

Mr. Loyd gives a list of ninety-five varieties of woods, of which list
the above are the most valuable.


A mere enumeration of the geological specimens, which is all that
present knowledge upon this subject will permit, is not thought
desirable in this paper. Speculations and theories, if not premature,
would be out of place.

The physical geography of Central America is the proper subject for
a treatise. We have already seen how the table-lands of Guatemala,
from four to five thousand feet above the level of the sea, sink to an
insignificant height at Panama and Nicaragua. “There is no spot on the
globe,” says Humboldt, “so full of volcanoes as this part of America,
between 11° and 13° of latitude.”

Two or three volcanoes, Fuego and Agua, in the State of Guatemala, are
14,000 and 12,000 feet high. Some of the volcanoes of Nicaragua reach a
height of 7,000 feet. A common and remarkable characteristic of all of
them is, that they rise in a conical form from the plain.

         _Gold and silver produce of Central America._
                  │    GOLD.    │  SILVER.   │ BOTH METALS.
    1804 to 1848  │  $8,800,000 │ $4,400,000 │ $13,200,000
    1848 to 1868  │   5,000,000 │  3,000,000 │   8,000,000
           Total  │ $13,800,000 │ $7,400,000 │ $21,200,000

The mines of the Provinces of Panama and the Veraguas are not worked so
extensively as they deserve to be. A small quantity of gold is annually
produced in the Republics of Nicaragua, Honduras, Costa Rica, and San
Salvador. The Costa Rican mint, in 1852, coined between fifty and one
hundred thousand dollars annually. The actual gold product is estimated
at ten times this amount. The most important mines in new Granada
(Colombia) are found in the State of Antioquia. In 1868, the yield was
$1,500,000 gold; $193,000 silver. The detritus of all the rivers of
this State is auriferous. An English company works the Marmato gold
mine and the Santa Anna silver mine, near Honda, on the Magdelina
River. They have provided twelve stamping mills, representing one
hundred and ten heads, which crush from ten to nineteen thousand tons
per year, yielding, on an average, eleven pennyweights eleven grains of
gold per ton.

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