The maintenance and operation of the Panama Canal


Material Information

The maintenance and operation of the Panama Canal
Physical Description:
44 p. : incl. illus., chart. ; 24 cm.
Morrow, Jay Johnson, 1870-1937
Panama Canal Press
Place of Publication:
Mount Hope, C.Z.
Publication Date:


Subjects / Keywords:
Panama Canal (Panama)   ( lcsh )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )


Statement of Responsibility:
by Jay J. Morrow.
General Note:
"A lecture delivered before the New York section, American Society of Civil Engineers, in New York city, January 10, 1923; and repeated before the Society of Civil Engineers of Washington, D.C., January 17, 1923."

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Source Institution:
University of Florida
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
oclc - 06868720
lccn - 23026784
sobekcm - AA00006081_00001
lcc - TC774 .M75
System ID:

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Maintenance and Operation


The Panama Canal


(Colonel, United States Army, Retired)

A lecture delivered before the New York Section, American Society of Civil
Engineers, in New York City, January o1, 1923; and repeated
before the Society of Civil Engineers of Washington,
D. C., January 17, 1923.


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in 2011 with funding from
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They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters;
These see the works of the Lord, and His wonders in the deep.-Psalms,
107; 23, 24.

The Panama Canal is the realization of one of the
great dreams of the centuries. Into its building were
woven the enthusiasm, the constructive and creative
genius, and the patriotism of our highest type of men.
From Roosevelt down to the adventurous roughnecks
who actually made the mud fly, this spirit was everyday
manifest and still lives after the great task is done.
This article, which I have the honor to present, is largely
a collection of facts-but an epic of cold and prosaic
facts concerning a dream that has come true may have
a beauty of romance surpassing those dreams of the
imagination that never can become realized achieve-
In this presentation I have, so far as possible, limited
myself to operation of the Canal since the close of the
construction period. This, for the reason that most of
you are more or less familiar with the construction
problems and the achievements in their solution.
However, in presenting the photographs it has appeared
advisable occasionally to hark back to a construction
view to call attention mainly to the unsatisfactory
presentation of big construction which a completed
Canal presents to the visitor.
An intelligent view of the problems involved in the
successful administration of The Panama Canal re-
quires an understanding of the fact that we have at

Panama more than the artificial waterway for the
passage of ships from ocean to ocean; in fact, there
are three distinct factors in Canal administration:
First, the operation and maintenance of the Canal;
second, the administration of civil government for a
community that includes 6,ooo American civilians,
1o,ooo American soldiers and sailors, and 16,000 natives
or West Indians, of whom 14,000 are employed by the
Canal or dependent on employees, and the remainder
farmers cultivating small patches in the jungle; and
third, the operation of all kinds of auxiliary business
enterprises attending the successful handling of the
first two factors. I will first briefly outline these
auxiliary business enterprises.
Our auxiliary enterprises include, among others, a
railroad across the Isthmus and a steamship line be-
tween New York and Cristobal. The Panama Railroad
antedates the Canal by half a century. Constructed
originally, between 1850 and 1855, by American en-
gineers and with American capital, it was subsequently
acquired by the French Canal Company, and came
into possession of the United States, together with the
other French property on the Isthmus in 1904. The
Panama Railroad still operates as a corporation; but
all of the stock is government owned; the Secretary
of War appoints the board of directors, and the Governor
of The Panama Canal is President of the Company.
The control of the railroad and steamship line was an
important factor in the successful construction of the
Canal, and is still essential to its economical and
efficient operation. As common carriers they have
earned more than $20,000,000 profits in less than 20
years, which might have been much larger but for the
policy of maintaining charges at a reasonable level.
As a government-owned line we could not profiteer,
or at any rate we did not. This can not be challenged

as successful operation by a quasi-governmental agency,
especially when it is remembered that during this entire
period all governmental freight and passengers were
carried at very substantial reductions from commercial
We have an office in Washington which handles our
State's work, such as purchases and inspection of sup-
plies and employment of skilled labor, as well as form-
ing an admirable center for communication with all
governmental bureaus, and particularly with the
Secretary of War and with marine and other business

1.IUI1-fo,,t dr., duckl al Pall,-. ha dl,,h Ila,,- hq- it ,r,,
We operate two dry docks, one at Balboa, with the
same dimensions as the Canal locks, 1,ooo feet long
and I o feet wide, capable of handling any ship afloat,
and a smaller dock at Cristobal, 300 feet long and 50
feet wide.
Adjacent to the Balboa dry dock there are modern
shops equipped to handle marine repair work of any
character or any extent, as well as car and locomotive
repairs for the Panama Railroad and such maintenance
jobs as the Canal and its equipment may require.
Repair wharves, 3,500 feet long, adjoin the shops on
the side opposite the dry dock.

At Cristobal there are shops on a smaller scale, capa-
ble of handling ordinary voyage repairs. A ship at
Cristobal requiring repairs for which the facilities there
are inadequate passes through the Canal free of tolls
for repair at Balboa.
For vessels calling at Cristobal or Balboa to discharge
or load cargo or for the convenience of passengers,
complete modern terminal facilities have been provided.
At Cristobal there are three piers, each about 1,300
by 200 feet, with enclosed sheds 945 by 165 feet. There
are also two wharves joining at an angle at Cristobal
Point, with a total length of 1,5oo feet and a width of


~-a- : --
Piers at Cristobal, as seen on coming nto port from the Atlantic.

about 1oo feet, of which 80 feet is under shed. These
terminals are of steel-and-concrete construction. The
depth of water alongside is 41 feet at mean tide.
At Balboa there is one large pier I,ooo feet long and
201 feet wide, of the same construction as the Cristobal
Including the wharves, the total area of docking at
Cristobal is 855,000 square feet, and at Balboa 201,000
square feet, of which approximately 70 per cent is under
A salvage steamer, fully equipped, is maintained
ready at all times to proceed to the assistance of any

vessel in distress in the vicinity of the Canal, and sea-
going tugs are available to pick up vessels that may
require towing.
The coaling plants at Cristobal and Balboa have a
combined storage capacity of 700,000 tons, and they
are equipped with the most efficient handling machin-
ery. Records have been made in the bunkering of ships
which we believe have never been duplicated else-
where-for instance, the following: The S. S. Wiltshire
in November, 1920, took I,102 tons in I hour and 25
minutes; the S. S. Maimea in May, 1921, took 656

The 500,000-ton coaling plant at Cristobal.

tons in 45 minutes; the S. S. Cape Henry in May, 1922,
took 285 tons in 20 minutes. These are bunkering
figures and not cargo figures. The plant can give a
collier a cargo of coal at 2,000 tons per hour. The coal-
ing plants are supplied from Norfolk by our own col-
liers and barges, operated as part of the fleet of the
Panama Railroad Steamship Line. There is no coal
on the Isthmus except that handled by the Panama
Railroad Company for The Panama Canal.
We have 10 fuel oil storage tanks, with an aggregate
capacity of approximately 450,000 barrels. There are,
in addition to these, 21 tanks, owned by 8 private

companies, with a total capacity of about 1,000,000
barrels, and new tanks are in process of erection. All
oil is handled by central pumping plants at either ter-
minal port, owned and operated by The Panama Canal.
From its storehouses the Canal is prepared to supply
deck and engine room stores of every description, while
the Commissary Department of the Panama Railroad
Company can fill orders for provisions in any quanti-
ties, including fresh meats, dairy products, etc., in cold
storage. The Commissary Department also operates
a chain of small department stores from which our em-

ployees and the personnel of the Army and Navy on the
Isthmus can supply practically all of their wants.
In conjunction with our own abattoir and packing
plant, we have approximately 50,000 acres of cleared
cattle pastures, where we fatten stock imported from
Colombia and other nearby countries.
Prior to May i, 1922, the Canal operated a system of
restaurants for its employees and for transients. These
have now been leased. We still own and operate two
first-class hotels, which we are also prepared to lease if
we can get a satisfactory bid. We are inviting tenders
for operating our beef, pork, and other wholesale

Some of these subsidiary business enterprises-for
instance the coaling plants, packing plant, and com-
missaries-are operated by the Panama Railroad Com-
pany and with railroad funds, but except for purposes
of accounting the distinction is unimportant. They
are all integral parts of the Panama Canal organization.
To Americans unacquainted with the peculiar con-
ditions on the Isthmus this intrusion of their Govern-
ment into industries which are commonly conducted
by private enterprise may cause surprise. No one can
be more opposed that I am to ownership and operation

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Hotel \s n II.III Atlantic side.
by the Government where individual or private control
could possibly succeed. It is possible that with the
development of trade at Panama there will come a day
when the business is large enough to justify participa-
tion by one or more well-equipped companies, and when
this time comes it will be found that the Government
will gladly yield to private industry such parts of the
work as can be effectively handled by ordinary business
methods. Commerce requires and has a right to expect
at the Canal certain conveniences, which the Govern-
ment also requires, and it is my belief that under present
conditions the Government can meet the demand

MR 85341-2

better than a private corporation could. The ships
and operating force must have the service and until
we can be assured that they will get it from others,
the Government must furnish it.
An important part of our operations has to do with
the housing of employees, caring for their health and
furnishing wholesome amusements. Within the past
year the housing, which had been at the cost of the
Government up to January I, 1922, has been placed
on a basis where financially it maintains itself.
In the handling of its employees The Panama Canal
is now practically on the same basis as the big industries
in the tropics which are under private control, such
as the United Fruit Company and other American
corporations that are conducting operations at a great
distance from the home base.
Under instructions issued by the Secretary of War,
the subsidiary enterprises conducted by the Canal
must pay their own way, or else we must show cause
why they should be continued. In normal times this
is not difficult, but during the past two years of deflation
we have experienced the same troubles as other mer-
cantile enterprises. For instance, we have had to take
a loss on coal, cattle, and commissary stocks bought
at the peak of the market, and the Panama Railroad
Steamship Line has been affected by the slump in
ocean freight rates and has lost money.
We are under one serious handicap in that our plant
was designed to meet the possible military and naval
requirements of the United States, and not merely for
commercial operation. Our abattoir and packing house,
for example, were constructed during the war when we
had contracts for supplying beef to the Army. These
contracts were subsequently canceled, and we were left
with a plant on our hands that is too large for economi-
cal operation on the present reduced scale. The marine

repair shops, coaling plants, and fuel oil handling plants
were designed to take care of the requirements of a
fleet using the Canal as a base in time of war. At present
we handle comparatively little coal or oil for the Navy,
and get no important Naval repair work. This results
in an excessive overhead on all of these plants except
the fuel oil handling plant. The same comment applies
to our hospitals, which are larger than normal use would
Our docks were intended for a transshipment business,
which has not yet developed on the scale that was antici-
pated. The present tendency, in fact, is toward the
development of through lines, with comparatively little
transshipment at the Canal. A movement is underway
at present, however, to extend the use of these wharf
and storage facilities by a system of delivering cargo at
Cristobal, there to await orders for transshipment else-
where. A similar system is in use in various parts of
the world. We are under obligations to the Republic of
Panama not to shut her off from the benefits she
naturally expects lying at a crossroads of the world's
commerce, and our Government will meticulously
observe this engagement. But under the treaty we have
the right to ship goods through without duty restric-
tions. It is my belief that such a step would be of great
convenience to commerce and of immediate benefit to
the Republic of Panama, and therefore I venture to hope
that at no distant date the Canal Zone will have only so
much of the status of a "free port" as is covered by free-
dom to store goods in transit without customs restric-
tions or any expense except minor transportation
charges and storage, enabling shippers by completion
of bill of lading to obtain through rate. Under such
conditions the system of wharves and piers which we
have constructed at the Canal would not long be

The scale and capital cost of our various plants is
justified on grounds of national defense, but they compli-
cate the problem of economical administration in time
of peace. It is only by careful management and close
attention to detail that operating losses can be avoided.
Nevertheless we do avoid them in the main, and over
any considerable period of years our business operations
will show a profit. With the gradual increase of com-
mercial traffic, operating problems which are now
difficult will find a natural and easy solution.
In addition to the operation of the Canal proper and
its dependent business enterprises, our organization is
charged with the government and sanitation of the
Canal Zone. This includes public order and fire pro-
tection, the maintenance of streets, water supply and
sewers, education, a postal service, quarantine, customs
and immigration service, and services to American sea-
When provision was made by Act of Congress for the
operation of the Canal, authority and responsibility were
concentrated in the President to be exercised by a
Governor, reporting to the President, through the
Secretary of War. The experience of the construction
period had indicated very clearly that limited or
divided authority on the Isthmus was inconsistent with
efficient management. Nevertheless, proposals have
been made from time to time and for various reasons
which, if adopted, would have disrupted the present
unity of control. For instance, it was recommended
that the Division of Posts, the Customs Service, the
Shipping Commissioners, and the Quarantine Service
should be divorced from The Panama Canal organiza-
tion and turned over to the various departments and
bureaus which administer similar services in the United
States. This would have resulted in vesting ultimate
authority over these services in officials at Washington

with no knowledge of local conditions and to whom the
Canal and its requirements would be of minor interest
and importance. In the case of the quarantine officers,
customs inspectors, and shipping commissioners, close
cooperation with one another and with the port cap-
tains, pilots, and representatives of other Canal de-
partments would be impossible, and the present
efficiency of our service to shipping would be destroyed.
There was nothing to recommend the scheme except that
it would have reduced the apparent cost of operating

General view of Ancon Hospital; Commissary in foreground.

the Canal by transferring a part of the necessary force
to other departments of the Government. The ulti-
mate expense to the United States would undoubtedly
have been greater than it is now. Fortunately, none
of these recommendations have been approved.
It was also proposed, some months ago, to station
a prohibition enforcement agent on the Isthmus who
would report to the Director in Washington. There is
no need for such an officer down there, as the Canal
Zone police are quite capable of excluding liquor from
the Zone, which is probably the driest territory under

the flag, and his appointment would have been incon-
sistent with the principle of concentrated authority and
Sanitation has always been of supreme importance at
Panama. When we went there, in 1904, yellow fever
was endemic, there were frequent outbreaks of bubonic
plague, cholera, and smallpox, and the entire population
was debilitated by malaria. All of these diseases,
except malaria, have been stamped out, and the

Permanent drainage ditch.
malarial rate has been reduced to an almost negligible
figure. This has cost money, and the expenses of sani-
tation are still heavy, but since 1919 we have found it
possible to reduce the force of sanitary inspectors and
their gangs by nearly 50 per cent, without increasing
the sick rate or lowering our standard of protection.
We have simply profited by our own experiences,
substituting economical methods for others that were
wasteful without being more effective, and gradually
increased the permanent ditch work.

What I have said will indicate in a general way the
variety and complexity of the administrative problems
involved in the operation of The Panama Canal. Most
of the major engineering problems were solved during
the construction period, but I will now turn to certain
features in the working of the Canal proper which may
be of more immediate interest to engineers.
No problem encountered in the construction and
operation of the Panama Canal has given rise to so

Section of Gaillard Cut near Culebra in 1909-1 years before final grade was reached.
much discussion as the slides in Gaillard Cut. They
are confined to an area extending less than i mile on
either side of Gold Hill, where the excavation was
deepest, but they seriously interfered with construc-
tion work, and blocked the Canal once for 6 months
after it was opened to navigation.
The most serious of the slides, the only one in fact
that has been really disastrous, involved a simultaneous
movement of both banks at East and West Culebra,
north of Gold Hill, which, in September, 1915, com-
pletely blocked the channel with a ridge of earth and

rock 250 feet wide and rising 65 feet above the water
level. From September, 1915, to April, 1916, the Canal
was closed to navigation. During that period the
dredges worked 24 hours a day, Sundays and holidays
included, until the channel was restored. During the
fiscal year 1916, which included the period of this slide,
more than 12,000,000 cubic yards of material were
removed from Gaillard Cut. It is of interest to record
here than in one day of 24 hours, working three shifts,
the dredge Cascadas removed 23,305 cubic yards of
rock from Culebra slides, about 35,000 tons. This

Cut looking north from west bank, showing complete blocking of Canal channel by slides from
cast and west banks, November 18, 1915.
means averaging a 15-yard dipper load every 55 seconds.
Shifting of scows consumed some time. The dredge
actually worked at the rate of 40 seconds to the 15-yard
bite. That rock was being moved at about the rate of
A-ton per second. The record of a sister dredge, the
Paraiso, 17,000 yards, comes next to this, and it is
believed that even this figure tops any dipper dredge
24-hour record in 45-foot depths.
The Cucaracha slide, on the south side of Gold Hill,
is the oldest of the slides and was the most persistently
troublesome in the construction period. It is said to

have begun to move when the French were working
there, in the early 8o's, and several times during the
dry excavation by the Americans it pushed across the
Cut, overturning trains and tracks, and banked up
against the opposite side. When water was admitted
to the Cut from Gatun Lake, in October, 1913, Cucara-
cha slide blocked its passage to the south end of the Cut.
A sluiceway was dug and blasted through the base of
the slide, to allow the water to fill the south end of the

Cucaracha Slide extending into Cut-October, 1913.
Cut, after which dredges attacked it from both sides.
The channel was cleared to full width and depth by the
time the Canal was opened to commerce, on August
15, 1914.
In August, 1916, a movement of the Cucaracha slide,
south of Gold Hill, caused a suspension of traffic for
8 days, and a movement of the East Culebra slide in
January, 1917, caused another suspension for 2 days.
There was no further trouble of serious importance
until February 21, 1920, when a general movement
occurred in the Cucaracha slide, carrying huge masses
MR 85341-3

of earth and rock into the Canal prism, and for 3
months giving intermittent obstruction to traffic.
The operation of the large dipper dredges accomplished
the removal of the obstruction at a sufficient rate to
keep the Canal open to all traffic, with exception of
occasional delays in February, March, April, and May,
1920, 27 ships being delayed for 54 ship days, with a
maximum delay to any one ship of 4 days.
During this movement of 1920 some of the hard rock
that had sheared off the south face of Gold Hill years
earlier, when the softer rock under its mushroom-shaped
top had given away, was pushed out into the channel.
The dredges could not move a mass of large pieces or a
single piece which lay close to mid-channel and measured
60 feet in length, 30 feet in breadth, and 20 feet in
depth, with 25 feet of water over it. This was the size
of a large 2-story house, and under 25 feet of water.
The drill barge Teredo was placed over this rock at 7
o'clock one evening. She drilled it, charged it, and
blasted it in one 8-hour shift. At 7 o'clock the next
morning the two dredges tackled it and by 5 that
evening it was all in barges on its way to the dump.
No other organization in the world can duplicate that
Since then, though there have been slides of minor
importance, traffic has not been suspended or delayed.
A slide movement occurred on the afternoon of July
14, 1921, on the east side of the Cut, one-half mile north
of the Culebra slides, which carried 185,ooo cubic yards
of material into the prism, and left the Canal only 150
feet wide along the west bank, with a channel of but
100 feet width and 20 feet depth. We were lucky in
that that day's traffic had passed; the slide occurred
about 3 p. m. For the next day's traffic we had a chan-
nel of 150 feet width and 30 feet depth, and that day's
traffic went through, and on the second day three of

our largest dreadnaughts, carrying our diplomatic
mission to the Peruvian Centennial, passed through, all
on their schedule time. No ship was delayed. This
operation gives a fair idea of the dependability of our
Dredging Division. When the slide moved, one dredge
was operating in the Cut a mile-and-a-half distant.
She took out her first dipper load in 50 minutes.
The"other was working in Balboa Harbor, and had to be

I Il t...-.I .jrJd dipper dredge at Cucaracha Slide-June, 1914.

towed up through 3 locks and 9 miles of Canal. She
was at work in 7 hours.
We had another movement on December 21, 1922,
at the north end of East Culebra, which put 150,000
yards into the prism and about 450,000 yards additional
into the dredged basin. Two dredges jumped right
on it and for next day's traffic had 35 feet by I5o feet
width through the bar. The force worked through
Sunday and Christmas day, and the channel was almost
cleared before New Year's. One hundred and twenty-

seven thousand yards were moved in o1 days with
two dredges, each working 16 hours.
Since the opening of the Canal the dredges have
removed from the Gaillard Cut more than 37,000,000
cubic yards of material, the greater part of it chargeable
to slides. The excavation in the Cut last year totaled
slightly less than i1 million cubic yards.
We believe we no longer have a serious slide problem.
The three great slides, at East and West Culebra and
Cucaracha, the sources of all uneasiness and contro-
versy, and the only ones that have caused appreciable
trouble, have already been controlled and are almost
dead. There is of course a possibility that these areas
may be extended somewhat in the future, and other
smaller slides may occur, but serious difficulty is not
In dealing with the slides, of all the theories that were
tried which were at all applicable to a work of this
magnitude-and they were many-none has been found
to be practical but that which was developed under
General Goethals in the construction days. This
consists of the removal of material at the base of the
slide by the dredges until an angle of repose has been
obtained, assisted by a system of surface drainage and
closing of peripheral cracks by hydraulic grading.
These methods have been based on first-hand knowledge
of perhaps the most diversified geological formation
ever encountered in excavation and experience with the
deepest open cuts ever made. Even with the aid of the
best geologic knowledge obtainable, experience was
found to be the best guide.
The slides are now important, mainly because they
slightly increase the cost of operation by compelling us
to hold in reserve dredging equipment in excess of what
would be required for the ordinary maintenance of the
channel; an emergency may arise at anV time, and we
must be prepared to meet it instantly.

Some of our excess dredging equipment can be used
to advantage, while it is not otherwise employed, in
giving additional width to the channel at bends where
navigation is difficult. It is now being used to cut
off the so-called La Pita Point. This work is not now
essential, but it makes for easier navigation, and will be
essential when traffic has increased to the point which
will force night navigation through the Cut. During
its completion it serves to keep busy for 3 or 4 years


Gaillard Cut as it appears today-the Empress of Australia.
equipment which we are obliged to maintain as insurance
against such slides as the one of July, 1921.
While the slides are no longer a menace under present
conditions, they would prove a most serious factor if an
attempt were ever made to convert the lock canal
into a sea-level canal, a project frequently resurrected
under the alluring designation of "The Straits of
Panama." Given unlimited time and money, it might
be feasible to carry the excavation in the Gaillard
Cut 85 feet deeper, but no engineer with first-hand
information of the conditions would attempt to estimate

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either the yardage or the cost. There are other objec-
tions to the sea-level project, notably the difficulty
of controlling the Chagres River and the other large
streams which now discharge into Gatun Lake; and
it may be doubted whether any sea-level canal of
feasible cross section would permit of a heavier traffic
than the present lock canal. The sea-level canal has
little to recommend it, since all arguments based on the
element of safety are nullified by an experience which
extends now over a period of 8 years, and proves
conclusively that the passage of a vessel through the
present Canal is attended by no risk that is not in-
separable from the handling of ships in narrow waters.
From the sea to the locks our present channel is 500
feet wide, through the Gatun Lake from 500 feet to
1,ooo feet, and through the Gaillard Cut, which is less
than 9 miles long, 300 feet. There is no part of the
Canal in which two ships can not pass with safety, and,
except at rare intervals when the slides were acute, it
has never been necessary to tie up a ship in the Canal.
For that emergency, mooring stations have been
provided on either side of the slide area. The speed
permitted ships in transit varies from 6 to 15 knots,
according to the width of the channel, and the passage
from ocean to ocean requires but from 6 to 7 hours.
No practicable sea-level canal could provide channels
of this width or permit of so rapid a transit.
A feature of lock operations at the Panama Canal
which is novel, is the use of electric locomotives to tow
vessels through the locks. These locomotives operate
on tracks laid upon the lock walls parallel to the
chambers. For a small vessel 4 are used, 2 ahead, on
either bow, towing, and 2 astern, holding back. For
larger vessels 6 and 8 locomotives are used, in which case
I or 2 pair travel amidship.
This system was designed primarily for safety, as it
insures absolute control of a vessel while it is in the

locks, and prevents contact with the lock walls or gates,
which could not easily be prevented if vessels proceeded
under their own power or were warped in with capstans
or winches. It has the further important advantage
of greater speed than would be possible under any other
system of maneuvering vessels through the locks with
the precautions which that operation requires.
The necessity for these towing locomotives has
occasionally been questioned, and we have been asked
why we can not employ the methods of the Sault Ste.

Ships aboat to pass at Gatun Lake end of Gaillard Cut.
Marie Canal, where thousands of vessels annually pass
through the locks under their own power. The con-
ditions are in reality entirely dissimilar. Ships on the
Great Lakes are of specialized and uniform design,
built with conditions at the Soo in mind, and equipped
with mooring and towing machines, checking devices,
and emergency signalling apparatus between the bridge
and the engine room. They are of comparatively low
draft and are handled much more easily than vessels
of greater draft. Their crews speak English and have
no difficulty in communicating with the lock operators,
and since they pass the locks on an average once in

every 5 days during the season, they soon become
trained in the required maneuvers. These radical
differences render any conclusions drawn from practice
at the Soo of little value on the Panama Canal.
At Panama no single feature has contributed more
to the safe, orderly, and rapid transit of vessels through
the locks than these towing locomotives. They can not
be criticized except on the score of expense, and that
is fully justified by the results obtained. The masters of
ships using the Canal would probably be the most
vigorous opponents to any change in the present
The gates, valves, fender chains, and all operating
machinery installed at the locks, have all justified their
design and proven to be exactly adapted to the purposes
for which they were intended. This simple statement
speaks volumes for the work done by Goethals, Hodges,
Schildhauer, and Goldmark. Economy, as well as
safety and efficiency, has been attained, the control
boards having been so arranged that one operator can
handle every movement required to put a vessel through
a lock or an entire flight of locks. The operation of the
locks, while it involves nothing more than a combina-
tion and adaptation of well-known devices, is, neverthe-
less, an impressive example of mechanical efficiency.
While the Canal is adequately lighted for navigation
at night and it is entirely practicable to operate on the
basis of a 24-hour day, ships are not now dispatched
unless they can pass through the Gaillard Cut during
the hours of daylight. There are two reasons for this
restriction. The present volume of traffic, with an
average of about o1 ships a day, does not justify the
expense of continuous operation, and as long as dredging
operations require two shifts it is desirable to keep the
Cut clear at night for our own dredges, tugs, and scows
engaged in maintenance work.

During the administration of my predecessor, Gen.
Chester Harding, studies were begun to develop a
method of dispatching ships which would permit us
to reduce the lock-operating force without interfering
with the rapid passing of vessels through the Canal.
It had been the practice to dispatch vessels within
the established time limits without any systematic
effort to space them other than was necessary to avoid
obvious congestion. This required a force at the
locks which the study has proven could be reduced.
I i --

-. i -

Gatun middle locks under construction-April, 1911.
The operators, in addition to the one man in the con-
trol tower, are engaged alternately on the towing loco-
motives and on maintenance work. When two or more
vessels arrived at one time, as frequently happened, it
was necessary to take men off maintenance work to man
the additional locomotives that were required, and time
was lost. We have three shifts of operators at each lock,
and we proposed so to arrange the work that one shift
or at most two, could normally take care of lockages,
while the other was employed on maintenance work

without interruption. With this object in view, a
system was worked out of dispatching ships on a fixed
schedule, so that they would arrive at the locks at
regular intervals and at predetermined hours, and this
system was placed in operation in August, 1921. Steam-
ship companies and American chambers of commerce
on both coasts registered emphatic protest when the
schedule was first introduced, under the misappre-
hension that adherence to the dispatching schedule
would cause delays to shipping. These protests were

Gatun Locks.
in some cases based on the erroneous belief that the
Canal, to save a few dollars, was substituting a limited
operating day for continuous operation. But the navi-
gation of the Cut has always been restricted to the
hours of daylight. When our forces and the masters
of vessels became accustomed to the operation of the
schedule it was found to work smoothly. The schedule
itself has been modified and given greater elasticity as
experience dictated. Besides permitting a more eco-
nomical operation of the locks, it makes for safer navi-
gation by insuring the arrival of vessels at the locks when

there are no adverse currents set up by lock operations.
Vessels arriving at Cristobal inner harbor prior to 1.30
p. m. and at Balboa inner harbor prior to 1.45 p. m.
are put through the Canal on the same day. When the
southbound traffic is light, vessels are dispatched from
Balboa provided they can arrive at the first lock prior
to 3.30 p. m. These are substantially the same hours
as under the old rules. A materially better service is
impracticable while the navigation of the Gaillard Cut
is restricted to the hours of daylight, and it will be
some years before the volume of traffic will justify night
It was found advisable at an early date in the opera-
tion of the Canal to detail special pilots to take vessels
through the locks, rather than to leave the channel
pilot in charge during the entire transit. This was to
insure the closest possible coordination between the
pilot on the bridge and the towing locomotive operators
on the lock wall, who operate under the pilot's signals.
This system is open to the objection that a pilot unac-
quainted with the steering qualities and other peculiari-
ties of a ship is placed on board at a short distance from
the approach wall and then takes charge of the difficult
operation of entering the lock. For this reason, in the
winter of 1921-1922, the lock pilots were taken off at
Gatun for 6 months, and the channel pilots were allowed
to take their vessels through these locks. As a result
of this experiment we returned to the original lock-pilot
system. There are two lock pilots assigned to each lock;
they board approaching vessels at not less than 300
yards from the approach wall, and leave them after the
towing locomotives cast off in the last chamber.
Occasionally, when a lock pilot is not immediately
available and a vessel might otherwise be delayed, the
channel pilot will take her through the locks; and on
days when the traffic is unusually heavy, lock pilots

are withdrawn from their usual duties to act as channel
pilots. But the usual rule requires the special pilot at
each lock.
In the Marine Division, The Panama Canal has built
up an organization of unquestioned efficiency for hand-
ling vessels in transit and capable of meeting any
demands which may be made upon it. This division
has always been headed by a captain of -our Navy.
Its efficiency was tested in January, 1921, when the


Oil tanker in Miraflores Locks; tankers are an important feature of the traffic.
Atlantic Fleet passed through the Canal for maneuvers
in the Pacific. In 2 days a total of 32 naval vessels,
including battleships of great beam and draft, and 9
commercial vessels, made the complete transit from
Atlantic to Pacific, and 2 commercial vessels from
Pacific to Atlantic. This is the heaviest traffic that
has yet been handled in the same length of time.*
It did not approach the capacity of the Canal, but it
* These records made in January, 1921, have since been surpassed. The record number of transits for
one day, 38, was made on February 15, 1923, when 14 commercial vessels, 5 battleships, 13 submarines, 3
minesweepers, 2 barges, and a naval auxiliary ship passed through the Canal.
On May 25, 1923, 25 commercial vessels transited the Canal. Their aggregate net tonnage was 145,382
tons, and tolls of $136,604.77 were paid on them. This was a new record day for commercial transit.

indicated what could be done in an emergency by a
force organized to take care of a normal traffic averaging
8 vessels a day.
The water supply available to maintain the summit
level of a lock canal at Panama has been the subject
of most careful study. During the rainy season, which
extends normally through 8 months of the year, we
have a surplus of water, but during the dry season,
with the normal length of 4 months, the inflow into
Gatun Lake is approximately balanced by evaporation
alone. The Lake is now our only storage basin. It is
filled to elevation 87 at the close of the rainy season,
and we draw upon it for lockages, hydroelectric power,
and municipal uses, through the year. The intention
is not to permit the lake level to fall below 80, which
leaves a theoretical depth of 40 feet in the Gaillard Cut.
The storage capacity in this top 7 feet is about 32 bil-
lion cubic feet. This has proved ample to take care of the
present volume of traffic, and it will suffice for several
years to come. But as traffic increases it will become
necessary to provide for additional storage. The
original plans for a lock canal contemplated a dam
across the gorge of the Chagres River, at Alhajuela, o1
miles above the point where the river enters the canal
prism. \e are now proceeding with a contour survey
to determine the capacity of the proposed reservoir.
It is estimated at 15 billion cubic feet.
Of the total inflow into Gatun Lake under present
conditions, amounting last year to 189 billion cubic
feet, approximately o1 per cent is lost by evaporation,
lockages take 12 per cent, 26 per cent is used by the
hydroelectric station at Gatun which supplies power
for the operation of the Canal and all of its accessories,
and 51 per cent is wasted over the spillway.
A dam at Alhajuela will permit us to conserve a part
of the water which is now wasted. It may also prove

advisable to build a hydroelectric station at Alhajuela.
Water used there for the generation of power will flow
into Gatun Lake, where it will still be available for
lockages or power. In the meantime we can reduce the
consumption of water for power by transferring during
the dry season a part or the whole of the load from the
hydroelectric plant at Gatun to the steam plant at Mira-
flores, which is held in reserve to meet possible break-
downs at Gatun or on the transmission line or an emer-
gency due to extreme dry-season conditions.

Discharge from Gatun Spillway through 6 gates.
The significant points are that we are now using only
12 per cent of the available inflow for lockages, that the
construction of the Alhajuela dam will increase the
surplus available during the dry season by approxi-
mately 50 per cent, and that, although it is economical
now to draw on the Lake for hydroelectric power, this
draft can be reduced or, in case of necessity, discontinued
during a part of the year.
It is important to note also that this discussion of the
water problem is based on a minimum depth of 40
feet through the Gaillard Cut, sufficient to carry any

ship yet constructed. The usefulness of the Canal
would be but little impaired if the depth of water were
reduced to 35 feet for very brief periods, and the great
majority of ships making the transit could pass with
even less depth.
Besides the Alhajuela dam there is another project
under consideration which will provide additional
storage while eliminating a very minor defect to the
present Canal.


The reconstructed Panama Railroad passes through a part of Gatun Lake on heavy fills.
When water is drawn from the Lake to fill the Pedro
Miguel Lock, which means an average draft of 3,800,000
cubic feet in 7- minutes, the flow of water through the
Cut during the short period that the valves are open
is not equal to that required to fill the lock; conse-
quently the water at the lock entrance drops as much
as 18 inches, and when the valves close, equalization
of level rapidly takes place, followed by an overtravel
crest which rises more than a foot above the original
level. This surge in its alternate stages of crest and

trough travels the entire length of the Cut and as far
as the head of the Chagres Valley arm of the Lake.
After a series of oscillations of decreasing intensity the
water resumes its original level. The peak phase is
experienced at Gamboa at the northern end of the Cut,
8- miles from Pedro Miguel, approximately 25 minutes
after it has developed at the lock.
These surges do not materially interfere with naviga-
tion, but if Gatun Lake were at the level of 80 the
trough stage would reduce the depth of water in the Cut
from 40 feet to about 38.5 feet, and if the Lake were
above 87, the maximum under present conditions, the
crest stage of a surge would cause an overflow into the
bull wheel chambers at Pedro Miguel Locks, of which
the strut slot can not be raised above elevation plus
It is proposed to eliminate these surges by construct-
ing a reservoir to the west of the Pedro Miguel Lock
with a surface area of about 25 acres, and to draw water
for lockages from this reservoir instead of from the Cut.
The reservoir itself would in turn be refilled from the
Cut, but the flow would be under low head at a rate no
faster than 1,200 cubic feet per second. Obviously, the
last foot or so of water for filling the lock would still
have to be drawn directly from the Cut.
This supplementary construction would practically
eliminate the surge and it would be feasible to change
the allowable minimum dry-season level to 79 instead of
80, and the maximum elevation can be raised from 87
to 87.5, or possibly a few inches higher. This will
provide about 7 billion cubic feet of additional storage.
It is likely that this project can be installed for some
such sum as $1,000,000.
A conservative estimate of the lockage capacity of the
present locks, allowing the periodical unwatering of
one flight for painting and repairs, is 50,000,000 net tons

of shipping per annum, or over four times the present
volume of traffic. Careful studies indicate that after
the construction of the Alhajuela dam, and with either
a hydroelectric plant at Alhajuela or a reserve steam
plant to conserve water during the dry season, there will
be sufficient water to take care of this maximum volume
of traffic even under extreme dry-season conditions.
While any computation of the future growth of traffic
is subject to error, it is believed that the 50,000,000-
ton mark will not be exceeded before 1955. In other

Oil tanks and pumping station at Mount Hope.
words, the present Canal should prove adequate to
meet the demands that will be made upon it for a period
of about 30 years. Beyond that it is futile to prophesy.
It can be stated, however, that there are no insuperable
engineering difficulties that would prevent the con-
struction of 6 more locks, which can be undertaken
and completed in time to meet the demands of commerce.
The World War had far-reaching effects on Canal
traffic. Following its outbreak in 1914, German ship-
ping, which, after that of Great Britain, was the most


important factor in maritime trade, disappeared from
the seas. British shipping was commandeered for the
transportation of troops and supplies and for auxiliary
naval service, and neutral shipping was gradually
diverted by reason of advancing freight rates into war
trade in the North Atlantic and Mediterranean. The
old trade routes were disorganized, and many countries
which might have contributed a substantial tonnage to
the Canal, notably those on the west coast of Central
and South America, were so paralyzed by the loss of
their European markets that their foreign commerce
shrank for the time being to negligible dimensions.
As the war progressed, this was offset to a certain extent
by the development of special war trades, for instance,
the resumption of nitrate shipments from Chile for the
manufacture of explosives. But it is certain that the
war and post-war conditions have greatly retarded the
normal expansion of Canal traffic.
In spite of the adverse conditions of the past decade,
the net tonnage of vessels using the new waterway
has increased from less than 4,000,000 tons, in 1915,
to more than I1,ooo,ooo tons, in 1922, and will almost
certainly pass 13,000,000 tons in 1923.
Qf the I5,835 commercial vessels which passed
through the Canal prior to July I, 1922, 37 per cent
were under the American flag, and 35 per cent were
under the British flag. The Norwegians came third
with a little more than 6 per cent, and the Japanese
fourth with a fraction over 4 per cent. During the
past 3 years the Japanese have occupied third place,
and their trade through the Canal is growing rapidly.
Vessels of 28 other nations have used the Panama route.
The most important trade through the Canal at
present is that between the two seaboards of the United
States. In terms of cargo it represented, in the fiscal

year 1922, 23.5 per cent of the total, and it is growing
very rapidly, in part, no doubt, at the expense of our
transcontinental railroads.
The next in order of importance is that between
the Atlantic and Gulf ports of the United States and
the Far East, representing 18.6 per cent of the total.
In third place is the trade between the west coast of the
United States and Europe, representing 13.6 per cent

Portable cargo conveyors used on piers.
of the total. The trade of the United States and Europe
with the west coast of South America was an important
fraction of the whole during and immediately after the
war, but it has declined in the last 2 years, due to the
slump in Chilean nitrate exports and a slack demand
for other South American products. This section,
however, as it develops, will undoubtedly provide a
heavy volume of traffic in the future.
Of the westbound cargo moving through the Canal
in 1922, 68.6 per cent was shipped from our Atlantic

ports, and of the eastbound cargo 53.2 per cent was
shipped from our Pacific ports. While the Canal is
open to the world and is used by all maritime nations,
it is of paramount importance to our own country.
A discussion of The Panama Canal from any angle
would be incomplete without some reference to the
men who built it and are operating it to-day. From the
beginning, the job was one which appealed to the
imagination, and it attracted and held Americans of a
high type, who felt that they were working not only
for themselves but for their country and for the world.
The pioneers of 1904 and 1905 assumed the risk of death
by disease and the certainty of discomfort and privation
in an undeveloped tropical country. But even in those
early days the morale of the force was excellent. When
Colonel Goethals arrived on the Isthmus, in the spring
of 1907, he found an organization assembled by his
predecessor, Mr. John F. Stevens, which was enthusi-
astic and efficient. Its loyalty was largely personal;
every man on the job was a devoted admirer of Mr.
Stevens and suspicious of the new administration.
Colonel Goethals' first important task was to persuade
these men, whose attitude at the outset was distinctly
hostile, that he was determined and competent to
carry on the work of his able predecessor. He soon won
their entire devotion, and, starting with the nucleus he
found on the Isthmus, he built up an organization as
remarkable as the work it was accomplishing. His
ability to judge and handle men was perhaps his most
valuable asset and a factor of supreme importance in
the successful completion of the Canal. Although a
hard taskmaster, he was invariably and inflexibly just,
and patient where he could discover good intentions.
Toward the close of his long administration, the admira-
tion accorded to him by his subordinates assumed the
proportions of a cult.

The tradition of the construction days has been
carried over into the period of operation. Many of the
men now on the Isthmus served under Stevens and
Goethals, and the newcomers have caught their spirit.
The conditions of life have gradually changed.
The construction camps have been replaced by per-
manent towns, the more adventurous spirits have
either drifted away to other jobs or else been tamed by
the years, and instead of a shifting force of young,

Scene at Balboa Playground.
unmarried men, we have a more normal population
that includes as many dependent women and children
as a community in the United States. What was origi-
nally an expeditionary force has become a permanent
Occasionally at the crossroads we meet distinguished
travelers. Three Presidents have inspected the Canal,
and among the thousands of visitors we have seen many
whose work in the world has made them international

The Canal community is one of typical Americans
living according to American traditions and American
standards. Their patriotism is beyond question. Dur-
ing the late war 421 employees of The Panama Canal
enlisted for active service. The number would have
been greater if it had been possible to release all who
wanted to go, but the operation of the Canal itself was
an important war service that could not be impaired,
and many were held because it was known that they
could best serve the country by remaining at their usual
posts. All of the drives for the Red Cross and for the
sale of bonds went over the top in the Canal Zone.
Of Canal employes who followed the flag, I gave their
lives. On the last anniversary of the armistice we
unveiled, at Balboa Heights, a tablet in their honor in a
beautiful and impressive service and at a point which
seemed designed for such use.
A proper question, and one which comes up in any
discussion concerning the Canal, can be put in the
popular phrase: "Does it pay?" I should answer this
from three points of view: First, as a commercial invest-
ment; second, as an investment in national defense;
and third, as an investment in national prestige, and
in each case I would answer unhesitatingly: "Yes, it is
paying and will pay more handsomely as the years go
In round numbers, the Canal has cost our Govern-
ment $375,000,000. As I have indicated, a large pro-
portion of this expenditure was made on the basis of
probable use for national defense. By direction of
Secretary Weeks we have made a study to determine
what part of the total expenditure should be considered
as national defense and what should be considered as
the proper cost of the Canal as a commercial under-
taking. The figures that were arrived at and approved
for accounting purposes were $246,000,000, as repre-
senting the commercial investment in the Canal itself

and $28,000,000, as invested in auxiliary business enter-
prises. On this basis the Canal accounts are now set up,
each separate account having its independent capitali-
zation. Upon the ability of each separate unit of
auxiliary business to prove its commercial worth will
depend its continuance in operation. Amortization is
provided for on the basis of various periods ranging
from 10 to 100 years, according to the life of the unit
in which we have made the investment. It is gratifying

U. S. S. Marjland in Pedro Miguel LocKs-Feuruary, 192J.
to be able to tell you that the receipts for last October
came very close to paying all the expenses of operation,
maintenance, amortization, and interest at 3 per cent
on the investment. November tolls slightly exceeded
October and the result will probably show about the
same. December tolls exceeded either of these two
months by about $50,000.* These months were months
of extraordinarily high tolls receipts, topping the
receipts of any month prior to October by over $ 50,000
and in December by $200,000, and it would be foolish
*Tolls for Jnua.irv were S192.715 more than December. Tolls for February, 1923 (a 28-
day month) ~n r. $1,123.954; for March, S1.827,718.44; April, $1,878,938.15; May, $1,972,216.04;
June $ i.''.'.4 v ,J

to predict that receipts for every month in the immedi-
ate future will reach these figures. But, as world com-
merce gets back to normalcy, the receipts for these
now record months will seem small. You should, also,
bear in mind that our expenditures will not increase in
the same proportion as the traffic. We could probably
handle twice as much business as at present with not
more than 20 per cent increase in expense. It is,
however, gratifying to be able to report that the Canal
is turning into the Treasury about twice as much
money as it is taking out.
As a factor in national defense the Canal is a profit-
able investment. Experts who have studied its military
and international aspects are in agreement on the
inestimable benefits of the Canal as a quick means of
transferring our ships of war from one ocean to another.
It is entirely possible that but for the nitrates that were
carried rapidly from Chile to the American and
European factories in 1916-1918 the Allies might have
lost the World War.
As a matter of national prestige the Canal is a wonder-
ful investment. I realize that it is impracticable for an
engineer to evaluate an item that goes into an account
so intangible as national prestige, and yet we all recog-
nize that such accounts may be of surpassing value.
The Canal and the community connected with its
operation are the finest expressions of American
thoroughness in engineering, public health, and com-
munity life that I have ever known, and certainly they
compare highly in these respects with the work of any
other nation. Engineers come from everywhere to
study our engineering work. Sanitarians have come
from both the British and Dutch East Indies, from
Japan and from all parts of Latin America to study
our public-health work. The United Fruit Company,
the Guggenheims, the Standard Oil, and other American


corporations operating in the tropics, have benefitted

by our errors as well as by our successes. In every part
of Latin America, when a question arises as to Ameri-
can thoroughness and skill comes the answer: "The
Panama Canal."


Administration Building, Balboa Heights.

If you agree with me that The Panama Canal, both

in construction and operation reflects credit on American

genius and furnishes at least one example of successful

'J. I
;.:~" r'"' i:
lu; I:
i J.
~*lcl :.

-'. aogA'ii"

61L1 ~isl:

business operation by the Government, you will prob-
ably also agree as to these, the reasons therefore. In
the construction days American genius for initiative,
organization, and indomitable energy, exemplified in
the persons of Roosevelt, Goethals, and Gorgas, insured
success. Another great help was the absolute divorce
from the bane of political appointments. Another,
as construction days neared their close, the builders of
the Canal devised the form of government as I have
briefly outlined it, and it has been permitted to remain
as designed. Congresses, Secretaries of War, and Presi-
dents have stood behind my predecessors and myself
in resisting efforts to change the scheme which has
worked so well. We enjoy two privileges not granted
to any other governmental operation, the loss of either
of which would at once ruin our efficiency: We are
relieved from the blight of fiscal year limitation; in
other words, an appropriation remains available until
expended. This enables us to set up reserves for
replacement and repairs and, in an emergency, to pro-
ceed with major repairs or entire replacement of large
items of plant without having to wait 2 years or more
for an appropriation. The other exceptional exemption
is the retention of the legal authority to use over and
over as a revolving fund the moneys received from the
Canal's business operations. Our tolls collections go
direct to the Treasury, but funds appropriated for the
operation, sanitation, or government may be used
several times over with an annual remittance of profits
to the United States Treasury. Congress has left
us these two privileges, recognizing the fact that we
can not otherwise operate a big business in a business-
like way. And, finally, one reason for our success
so far is one which should impress you gentlemen
strongly, and that is that all the Governors of the Canal
have been engineers. No member of any other pro-


fession can possibly be so well qualified to deal with the
many major problems arising from operation and
maintenance and, at the same time, to keep the entire
operating force keyed up to the doctrine that the
mission of the Canal is service to the ships, and that
all other functions must be bent or broken to fit that





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