|UFDC Home||myUFDC Home | Help ||
|Table of Contents|
|List of Plates|
|I. A bird's-eye view|
|II. Management and men|
|III. The raw material|
|IV. The Gatun Dam|
|V. The Culebra Cut|
|VI. Wages and living|
|VIII. Scenes along the route|
|IX. Panama of today|
|X. The battle against disease|
|XI. The realisation of a dream|
|XII. French muddle and American...|
|XIII. The strange story of the...|
|XIV. The baby Republic and its...|
|XV. For God and gold|
|XVI. The sack of Panama|
|XVII. The West Indies and...|
|XVIII. Resources and trade of the...|
|XIX. The future in the Pacific|
|XX. What is the use of it all?|
STANDARD VIEW MARC VIEW
This item has the following downloads:
|Table of Contents|
Front Cover 1
Front Cover 2
Front Matter 1
Front Matter 2
Table of Contents
List of Plates
I. A bird's-eye view
II. Management and men
III. The raw material
IV. The Gatun Dam
V. The Culebra Cut
VI. Wages and living
VIII. Scenes along the route
IX. Panama of today
X. The battle against disease
XI. The realisation of a dream
XII. French muddle and American delay
XIII. The strange story of the Panama Republic
XIV. The baby Republic and its fate
XV. For God and gold
XVI. The sack of Panama
XVII. The West Indies and the Canal
XVIII. Resources and trade of the Isthmus
XIX. The future in the Pacific
XX. What is the use of it all?
Back Cover 1
Back Cover 2
THIS VOLUME HAS BEEN
BY THE UNIVERSITY OF
Digitized by the Internet Archive
PANAMA AND WHAT IT MEANS
OTHER BOOKS BY
JOHN FOSTER FRASER
The Land of Veiled Women
Australia: The Making of a
Quaint Subjects of the King
The Real Siberia
Pictures from the Balkans
Canada as It Is
CASSELL AND CO., LTD., LONDON,
NEW YORK, TORONTO AND MELBOURNE.
THE (/.A\l I~ l' THE CANAL Z(CNI-:.
I /,/,q,- /.1/i by 1 i,/, *;a' 'nd-rwod, "//d, //, I'i''.i II .C.
AND WHAT IT MEANS
/ ( c' F
WITH A MAP AND FORTY-EIGHT PLATES
CASSELL AND COMPANY, LTD
London, New York, Toronto and Melbourne
First Edition February 19r3.
Reprinted April g913.
1. A BIRD'S-EYE VIEW
2. MANAGEMENT AND MEN .
8. THE RAW MATERIAL
4. THE GATUN DAM .
5. THE CULEBRA CUT
6. WAGES AND LIVING
8. SCENES ALONG THE ROUTE
9. PANAMA OF TO-DAY .
10. THE BATTLE AGAINST DISEASE
11. THE REALISATION OF A DREAM
12. FRENCH MUDDLE AND AMERICAN DE
18. THE STRANGE STORY OF THE PA
14. THE BABY REPUBLIC AND ITS FATE
15. FOR GOD AND GOLD
16. THE SACK OF PANAMA .
17. THE WEST INDIES AND THE CANAL
18. RESOURCES AND TRADE OF THE ISTHMUS
19. THE FUTURE IN THE PACIFIC
20. WHAT IS THE USE OF IT ALL ?
LIST OF PLATES
Colonel Goethals Frontispiece
Map of the Panama Canal 1
Diagram of Elevations when the Canal is Finished 4
A Steam Shovel at Work .. 6
A Track-shifting Machine .. 8
A Spreader" at Work .. 10
Steam Shovels at Work, September 9, 1912 16
Building the Breakwater to protect the Atlantic
Entrance to the Canal, July 21, 1911 24
The Gatun Dam, with the Water of the Lake begin-
ning to Rise, June 7, 1912 .. 30
Gatun Spillway: General View looking West,
August 4, 1912 32
The Spillway at Gatun, showing the Rising Surface
of Gatun Lake in the Distance, September 7, 1912 34
Gatun Upper Lock, showing Guard Gates, Operating
Gates, Intermediate Gates, and Safety Gates in
Process of Construction, June, 1912 36
A Bend in the Culebra Cut, June, 1912 40
The Notorious Cucaracha Slide," October 23, 1911 42
Hand Drill Gang boring Holes for Dynamite to
blast Moving Face of a "Slide in the Culebra
Cut, February, 1912 44
Culebra Cut, looking North from Contractors' Hill,
and showing Terraces left after removing Super-
imposed Weight to avoid Slides" 46
viii LIST OF PLATES
A Landslide of 300,000 Cubic Yards in the Culebra
Cut, near Empire, August 21, 1912 48
Meal Time amongst the Coloured Workers 50
Sleeping Quarters for the Labourers 54
The Front Street in Colon 58
The Statue to Columbus at Cristobel 64
In the Jungle 74
Heated Volcanic Rock in the Culebra Cut, February
16, 1912 .78
Building a Lighthouse on the Edge of the Jungle 80
Where the Canal will enter the Pacific, June, 1912 88
From the Old Spanish Fort at Panama; Islands
guarding Entrance to the Canal in the Distance 94
The Tivoli Hotel at Panama 100
The Cathedral in Panama City 106
Spraying Trenches with Kerosene to kill the Malaria
A Section of the Great Culebra Cut, June, 1912 118
Culebra Cut at Culebra: View looking South : Blast-
ing Rock on Contractors' Hill, January, 1912 128
Culebra Cut, looking North from a Point just South
of the Empire Suspension Bridge 132
Gatun Lower Locks-Middle and Upper Locks in the
Distance, January, 1912 138
Gatun Middle Locks, looking South, June 7, 1912 144
An Old French Locomotive, near Empire 148
Two Old French Dredgers; Shovel beginning to
Work in the Background, June 20, 1910 152
Where the American Canal intersects the Old French
Canal on the Atlantic Side, June 11, 1912 160
General View of the Pedro Miguel Locks, looking
South, May 4, 1911 166
LIST OF PLATES ix
Gatun Lower Lock, looking towards the Atlantic,
June 7, 1912 .. 176
The Pedro Miguel Locks: the West Chamber, View
looking North from the Lower Main Gates,
March 29, 1912 182
Miraflores Locks, looking North, June 14, 1912 192
The Lower Main Gates in the Pedro Miguel Lock,
showing Outlet in the Wall, March 28, 1912 200
Miraflores Lower Locks, August 16, 1912 224
Wreck Cranes freeing a Steam Shovel buried by a
Slide in the Culebra Cut, August 25, 1912 232
Dumping Concrete for the Walls of the Pedro Miguel
Locks, November, 1910 .. 240
Concrete Mixing Plant .. 244
Gang of 150 Men shifting Track by Hand, January,
1912 .. 256
Constructing the Approaching Wall of Concrete at
the Pedro Miguel Locks, June, 1912 264
Dumping Dirt" from Canal Excavations ; the Steel
Wedge hauled by a Chain rapidly pushes all the
Debris on one Side 272
Planamal Canal........ mmmmm
1ailna a R. R ..........
Pallnta I 1.Proposed
new Ym/t'. .r.o..t-..- -- -------
lP \ \ 11 \ I.
G U L F O F
T \l1lcl l. l I: I..k. 1
'I A 111I.IA 1;
c 'I I IIA
)).lll l 'I .l M ill
I *; il I. 2
PANAMA AND WHAT IT
A BIRD'S-EYE VIEW
"YES," observed the American enthusiast, it is a
great ditch. You see those flat cars piled with
dirt? Well, by the time the Atlantic joins the
Pacific we shall have removed as much dirt as would
fill a train of such cars 96,000 miles long, which is
getting pretty near four times round the earth.
Yes, it is a great ditch."
This is the spirit of the 35,000 men who, between
Colon and Panama, are digging and blasting, dam-
ming rivers, fighting landslips, building locks, so the
great Canal will be finished long before the official
opening day, which is in 1915.
It is a big thing. The world is looking on. It
is an enterprise which fits the American tempera-
ment. It is a dramatic as well as a colossal under-
taking. Others have tried to build canals across
the Isthmus. The French came to failure. The
2 PANAMA AND WHAT IT MEANS
Americans came to succeed. Everybody is working
at top speed, and the end is within sight.
Yet at the first glance there is nothing which
excites the ordinary man. Indeed, the ordinary
man, if dumped down on the Isthmus and not in-
formed he was looking upon the excavations for the
Panama Canal, would probably be no more impressed
than if he were looking at some big railway cutting
through a hilly country. It is only when he hears
of the difficulties encountered and overcome, and
sees the armies of men at work in the cuts-sweat-
ing and grimy the whole day through-hears the
drills eating into the rocks, is startled when the
earth reverberates with violent explosions, sees giant
engines delve the hillside, piling cars with debris,
and the railway line is shifted nearer to the work
by great arms in front of an engine, done in a sixth
of the time it would take men to do, that he begins
to realise the immensity of the undertaking.
Exactly how the Americans got from the Republic
of Panama complete control of a stretch of country
ten miles wide, and reaching forty miles from the
Atlantic to the Pacific, and the agency whereby the
Republic of Panama came into being at all-declar-
ing independence from the Republic of Colombia,
which was a necessary preliminary to the deal
between the Americans and the Panamanians-is a
complicated story with different versions.
A BIRD'S-EYE VIEW
Anyway, after spoking the wheels of other enter-
prises for a good many years, the United States did
the right thing and determined to build the Canal
as a national enterprise. Taking it that the end
justifies the means, the American people are now
putting their shoulders back and breathing proudly.
Before the Americans came the Isthmus was
one of the earth's pestiferous spots: swampy,
miasmic, with mosquitoes carrying yellow fever and
malaria. Colon was "the white man's grave."
Panama reeked with uncleanness and disease. The
interlying jungle country bred continuous sickness.
The Isthmus is not yet a health resort; but in
the immediate Canal regions it is no longer a coun-
try dangerous to health. The Americans have there
laid by the heels the mosquitoes which carried the
disease. All likely breeding grounds of swamp are
saturated with kerosene. You go for miles, and the
air stinks with the black, slimy stuff. Nearly every
ditch is smeared with it. Where pools accumulate
in the vicinity of the workings, niggers with copper
cans on their backs saunter round and spray freely.
All this has got to do with the Panama Canal,
because when the French were trying their hands
men died like flies. The first thing, therefore, the
Americans set about was to make it possible for
men to come and work on the Isthmus without feel-
ing they were having a gamble with death.
4 PANAMA AND WHAT IT MEANS
Now five miles on each side of the Canal is called
the Canal Zone. Within that area the Americans
are supreme. They own about three-quarters of
the territory, and they can acquire the rest when-
ever they like. The two towns of Panama and
Colon, though really within, are technically regarded
as outside the Zone.
As these are the only towns worth thirty cents
in the Isthmus, the Republic of Panama must be
left a few people within the boundaries. So the
Americans allow the Panamanians to have a Govern-
ment; but America keeps control of the sanitation
in both towns: no foul Spanish-negro-Indian camps
of disease at either end of the Canal I
The residences of the officials at Colon are all
like gigantic meat safes. The houses are enclosed
in cases of copper screening, and folk sit on the
balcony and gaze at you through the mesh. It is
the same at the little towns along the route, par-
ticularly Culebra, the capital of the Zone. Likewise
at Panama. The white man is guarded from the
malaria-carrying mosquito. The tawny, chocolate,
dusky, ebony labourers, to the number of twenty-
five thousand, are left to look after themselves.
Mosquitoes do not like nigger flesh.
Once the idea was to have a sea-level canal
between ocean and ocean-a sort of Straits of
Panama. But that would have taken too long
Land excavated shewn thus: M The Vertical Scale is exaggerated 100 times.
.Atlantic Division. ------- --------- -----Central Division. 31 72 Miles.- -- --- -- -Pacific Division.- --
7-15 Miles. 853 Mils.
0 C .
I A 0 d
Y -- t d ..5 It ..1
I I- ."_ I t II"I O t'-.I.V
I '| 1.. 1' I .' .. -t:0 . . -,.r '. l t- -- .. V V I
Si: a / '2 E 71 2
.. -, ; C- ________________ I... .
Miles 0 1 8 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 ) 30 31 32 3: 1 356 7 356 3 39 3940 11 12 3 44 -) 46 .47 4~I 4i Miles
DIAGRAM OF ELEVATIONS WHEN THE CANAL IS FINISHED.
A BIRD'S-EYE VIEW
and was likely to cost too much. So the hoist
over the hills is done by locks, large enough to
carry any vessel now afloat.
Do not, however, imagine a pyramid of locks
raising warships and liners up mountain-sides into
the clouds. Dull fact must record that the highest
point any vessel will be lifted above sea level will
be 85 feet-up by three steps, across a great dam,
along an artificial river, and then gently down three
steps, and so to the sea.
You probably arrive in the Isthmus with the
belief that as Panama is on the Pacific side it is west
of Colon. If so, you have speedily to improve your
knowledge of geography. Colon really lies west of
Panama, and instead of the Canal running east to
west it runs from north to south-east.
From shore to shore the Canal is about forty
miles, but five miles have had to be cut through
shallow shores on both sides. Accordingly the real
length of the Canal from deep water to deep water
is fifty miles.
In the future, when you journey that way to
New Zealand, you will travel from the Atlantic
through a straight seven miles of 500 feet wide
canal. Then you come to Gatun, and three locks
will lift you 85 feet till you reach the level of Gatun
Lake. It is not a natural lake, but artificial, 164
square miles in area, created by damming the River
6 PANAMA AND WHAT IT MEANS
Chagres. Across this lake you can go at full steam
for 24 miles along a buoyed route. Then you reach
the Culebra Cut, the thing of which the Americans
are proudest, because it has caused them most
trouble. This cut is nine miles long, hills on each
side, and the cubic yards of earth-rock cut away
run into dozens of meaningless millions. When the
Americans have cut away what they consider enough
millions there is generally a slide," and down comes,
or out bulges, a few more millions of cubic yards,
burying implements, rousing "langwidge," and cost-
ing much money to remove. These slides are
turning the heads of many men grey; but they
are going to stop if a whole mountain-side has to
This cut will get its water from the Gatun Lake.
So to Pedro Miguel, where you will begin going
downstairs. A lock will lower you 80J feet to
Miraflores Lake. You will steam across a mile and
a half of lake. Then two locks will lower you 541
feet, and you will be on the level of the Pacific.
Away you go for over eight miles, and you glide
upon the waters on the west of the American
Such is the Panama Canal in rough outline. It
seems rather a simple affair in engineering; yet the
more one sees the more one wonders and admires.
For several weeks I jogged up and down the
SA STEAM SHOVEL AT WORK
A BIRD'S-EYE VIEW
drunken construction line, now along the bed of
the finished way-outside the locked region it is
40 feet below sea level-now scrambling over
" slides," now wandering through the huge white
casements of concrete locks.
The noise is tremendous. Bell-claging and
shrieking engines, with cars piled with excavated
earth, are rumbling off to aid in the construction
of a dam, or a great spit" on the Pacific side.
All the rock and soil is volcanic and grey and red
and irregular. Boom, boom, go the dynamite explo-
sions, and a chunk of a hillside is disintegrated.
A monster of an engine shovel, almost uncanny
in its movements, comes reeling forward over the
uneven way. It bends its head, and then sticks its
snout into the debris. There is a clatter, and it
jerks back its head, and in its maw are four tons of
broken rock. It heaves on one side, and from a door
under its chin, as it were, dumps its load on one
of the long cars. Then it plunges for another
The cars are ugly and battered. They have
a fence only on the side away from the shovel.
Between each car is a steel plate, so that it is just
like a long ribbon of a car. When the shovel has
deposited its mouthful a bronzed and sweating
American, with his blue shirt open at the throat,
gives the waggle of a yellow flag, and the engine-
8 PANAMA AND WHAT IT MEANS
driver hauls along a few yards so the next mouth-
ful may have room. Thus it goes on, with clang and
clamour, till the train is loaded.
Away it rolls. The dirt is wanted for a dam
in a declivity between the hills.
It is not necessary to have hundreds of men to
unload. At one end of the cars is a steel shield
standing at an angle. To it is attached a steel
rope, and the other end of the rope is attached to an
engine. The engine pulls, and as the shield travels
over cars and protecting plates the debris is sliced
to one side overboard. There it lies in a long heap.
The cars grunt and groan on to other work. Up
snorts a spreader," an engine with an arm stuck
on one side. The arm, as it passes along, knocks
all the debris flat.
That is one of the features of the Canal making,
the thousands of men employed, and yet only a few
men engaged in one place on one particular job.
When the shovel has eaten away its section, and
it has then to start over again eating further into
the hill, but its neck is not long enough to reach
the cars on the former track, along comes a track-
lifting machine, and with its long, steel hands it
raises the track up and places it near the shovel,
just as though it had intelligence and were straighten-
ing a rope.
Like the song of tropical crickets, the hydraulic
p r- ; Z ** *-, A
S- .- -. -
.* .* .. ... J *
_,- ', -
A TRACK-SHIFTING MACHINE.
* b5 1
bb __ I
A BIRD'S-EYE VIEW
drills are champing into the rocky face. You are
down near the bottom of the ditch," and you look
up the hillside where the French started cutting
thirty years ago. There has been a slide," and a
stream has got into the cut, and there is the pant
of the pumps as it is sucked up and carried away.
Here comes a train of cement, another of broken
rock ripped from the cheek of Ancon Hill, near
Panama, another of white sand from the Pacific
coast. All are put near where the 1,000 feet long
double locks are being constructed. A skinny, steel
skeleton is standing in the middle of the Canal,
and it has a long steel lever which stretches to the
Canal side. Beneath that lever you see what is like
a cab, and, sitting in it you may discern a man,
pulling and pushing levers. The little cab runs out
to the end of the arm, drops a big gobble spoon
amongst the cement or the broken stone or the
sand, and pulls it up and carries it to where the
mixing is going on and the concrete slabs are being
made to provide the casing for the lock walls, or
the mush of concrete rubble with which the middle
is filled. The steel lock gates are being adjusted,
and the air is rent with the fury of riveting.
Nothing is finished. Everything seems confu-
sion. The air is hot and clammy, and sickly odours
come from the jungle. Men are all in their muck,
pushing on, working to schedule, knowing what
io PANAMA AND WHAT IT MEANS
they have to do and how long it will take them to
There are the lithe, chewing Americans, clean-
skinned, clean-eyed, really feeling joy in what they
are helping to do. There are the sluggish Spaniards,
the more sluggish mixture of Spaniard and native, but
kept at it under the stimulating tongue of the gang
boss. There are the niggers, easygoing, and all of
them from the British island of Barbados. There
are Italians and Scandinavians; there are Chinese;
there are even slim-limbed, gentle-featured East
Indians with heads voluminously swathed in dirty
turbans. The labour of the world has been placed
under contribution to build the Panama Canal.
Yet not of all the world. I found no French-
men. It would be too sad for a Frenchman to
work here. What ruin came to thousands of French
families in the Lesseps Panama fiasco I But only a
fiasco financially. The French did splendid work, and
much of the present excavation is a continuation of
what the French began.
--i ... ,g .
A "SPREADER" AT WORK.
MANAGEMENT AND MEN
IN its way the administration of the strip of land
ten miles wide and running from the Atlantic to the
Pacific, with the Canal threading the centre, is as
remarkable as the engineering feat which is being
Remember, the region is unhealthy jungle. The
population, a breed of Spanish-Indian, is sparse, and
with none of the strenuousness necessary to remove
mountains. The Panamanians of the capital city
are lazy and conceited.
When the Americans, some nine years ago, took
the construction of the Canal in hand, they had to
bring government, people, food, clothing, mechanical
equipment. True, some of the machinery abandoned
by the French was found efficient, and a few of the
houses, though neglected for years, were habitable.
Good use was made of the old hospital buildings
which the French had left at Ancon, a slight eleva-
tion just outside Panama.
To-day there is a long straggling camp of 65,000
persons in the Isthmus, 2,000 miles from the base
12 PANAMA AND WHAT IT MEANS
of supply. There are 10,000 white workers, 25,000
coloured workers, and the rest are their women and
Houses had to be erected for these folk, provision
made for feeding and clothing them, sanitary con-
ditions attended to, arrangements made for their
succour when sick or maimed, arrangements for
policing them, educating them, seeing to their
Everything is now working as efficiently as though
the inhabited trail across the jungle were a model
town in the middle of civilisation.
But when the Canal is finished the United States
is going to clear out all these people, and most of
the houses will be destroyed. Except that for actual
employees on the Canal, the Government land will
return to jungle. Settlers are not wanted. The
climate is not good enough, and the soil is too poor
to attract United States farmers. No doubt West
Indian negroes would be willing to squat and scratch
a living. The United States Government has already
quite sufficient coloured people to look after, and
wants no more. Therefore, when the work is finished
the Canal Zone will be rigorously depopulated.
Of course, the Americans are a democratic people,
but they are having no democratic nonsense in
Panama. Government is autocratic; generous, but
autocratic, and even despotic nevertheless. The Czar
MANAGEMENT AND MEN
of the Isthmus is Colonel G. W. Goethals, and there
is no court of appeal. He is chairman of the Canal
Commission and chief engineer.
At first the chairman was a civilian, and the
executive of seven, appointed by the President of
the United States, were strong men who got in each
other's way. There were too many ideas for pro-
gress. Contrary orders caused trouble. Discon-
tented employees appealed from one member of the
executive to another.
All that was stopped by the appointment of a
military man as chairman. Colonel Goethals was
recognized as the foremost engineer in the United
States Army. He was an organiser, and he had dis-
cipline. Since he set foot in the Isthmus five years
ago he has been careful never to wear military garb.
Ostensibly the Zone is under civil administration.
Actually it is under military rule. The Americans
like it. It has stopped bickerings between the higher
officials. The Colonel is supreme. He gives his
orders, and they have got to be obeyed. He never
argues. He will listen to a criticism quietly, almost
deferentially. Then he will say, Now go and do
the work as I ordered. That is what you have to
do. I take the responsibility."
He is a big man, straight-shouldered, inclined to
put on flesh, has grey hair parted in the middle, is
grey moustached, is fresh complexioned for a man
14 PANAMA AND WHAT IT MEANS
who lives so much in the open, and he has grey eyes
curiously like Kitchener's.
There is nothing of the American snap about
him. He never hurries. He does not blow"
about the Canal. Notoriety is obnoxious to him.
I was lunching with him one day, and a hustling,
aggressive New York photographer turned up and
wanted to take two studies of the Colonel standing
on the porch." No; Colonel Goethals would not
have his photograph taken. In that respect he is
as elusive as Miss Corelli.
Confidence, decision, inflexibility-those are the
characteristics behind the calm demeanour of the
man who is making the Panama Canal.
Constructing the Canal, therefore, was not just a
case of bringing shiploads of labourers and setting
them to work. A colony had to be established in
what was one of the unhealthiest regions in the world.
The necessities of communities evolve with the
years; here the necessities had to be provided first.
The Americans have been in the Isthmus for
eight years; but most of the first three years were
spent in bickering, quarrelling, and in making
preparations for the work which has been done in
the last five years.
First the Zone, infamous for its yellow fever and
malaria, had to be made habitable. That work was
done by Colonel Gorgas, "the man who cleaned up
MANAGEMENT AND MEN :5
Havana," a gentle-mannered American, but rough
toward disease. He cleaned up Panama. He pro-
vided for wire-encased houses wherever settlements
of workers were to be. He sent forth men to douse
rank, swampy regions with kerosene and stay the
peregrinations of the malaria-carrying mosquito.
Sanitary inspectors were amongst the first officials
In the meantime, while the route was being
surveyed and the Americans could not make up
their minds whether to have a sea level canal or a
lock canal, steamers were coming from the United
States and the West Indies with labourers, white
and coloured. Other steamers were bringing frame
houses, to be erected by the thousand, and all the
furniture. Other steamers were bringing railway
metal. The great engineering works in the States
were constructing engines, and special trucks, and all
the mammoth machinery requisite for cutting through
hills. Everything was brought in bits and adjusted
on the Isthmus. For instance, there are 100 steam
shovels, including fourteen of 105 tons, thirty-two
of 95 tons, thirty-five of 70 tons, and so on. There
are 158 American locomotives all over 100 tons.
There are 560 drills, over 4,000 cars, 10 track shifters,
80 unloaders, 26 speeders, 20 dredgers, 57 cranes,
12 tugs, 70 barges, 14 launches. All that was
wanted, or likely to be wanted, was brought.
16 PANAMA AND WHAT IT MEANS
The army of workers is divided into two sections,
" gold employees and silver employees." All
through the Isthmus you see these two legends on
adjoining doors in official buildings. They make a
sharp division in the supply stores. There is a gold
and silver currency in the Isthmus-gold is United
States and silver is Panamanian-and the stranger
is much confused in finding out whether he is paying
50 cents gold (2s. Id.) or 50 cents silver (Is. Ojd.).
The gold employees are the officials, clerical force,
construction men, and skilled artizans, and are
practically all Americans. The silver employees"
are others-Spaniards, Italians, West Indians.
The Panamanian silver dollar is the same size
as the United States silver dollar, but just half its
value. Spaniards and their fellow-workers know the
Panamanian dollar. If they were paid in United
States currency, though the purchasing power would
be the same, it would amount to just half. So they
prefer 50 cents silver to 25 cents gold. Uncle Sam,
cute business man, is willing to oblige. He mints
fat, weighty Panamanian dollars, which make the
coloured gentlemen think they are earning a lot of
The American employee gets better pay than he
would in the States. He has house-rent free for his
family-a heavy charge at home-and he is able to
get food at practically cost price, whilst doctoring
- *d -
L a .~dd~
STEAM SHOVELS AT WORK. SEPTEMBER 9. 1912.
MANAGEMENT AND MEN
costs him nothing. The highest paid silver em-
ployees" are the Spaniards, most of whom earn
10d. an hour. The minimum pay to the West
Indian negro is 5d. an hour. Though sleeping
quarters are provided, the nigger does not care
for barrack life. Thousands have taken to the
Amidst the wild tropical vegetation are clusters
of huts, sometimes made of planks, but more often
of old boards and old sheets of corrugated iron.
They are crude and insanitary, but the nigger likes
to have a home." Several years ago the authorities
endeavoured to stop this bush life. It was con-
cluded that the men who lived at "home were
not so strong physically as those who fed in the
Commission kitchens and messes. Then the attend-
ances of men at mess meals fell below the number
of workers, and it was felt that niggers were saving
money by missing meals and not working with the
strength expected. An order that no West Indian
should be provided with sleeping accommodation till
he showed his meal check only sent thousands into
the bush." Most of the coloured workers now live
in the bush and fend for themselves. Any attempt
to drive them into Commission quarters would lead
to labour trouble. So things are left alone.
Twice a month an armoured train, laden with
bullion for wages, crosses the Isthmus.
18 PANAMA AND WHAT IT MEANS
The commissariat department is in the hands of
the Government. With the exception of a few
vegetables and some fruits, Panama produces nothing.
All foodstuffs have to be brought 2,000 miles. It
means the arrival of one steamer each day to feed
the population. The Commission spends 2,500,000
on supplies in a year. It has established over twenty
general stores in the villages and camps in the
Canal Zone, and eighteen hotels for white "gold
employees." At Cristobel, adjoining Colon, the
"Commissary" has enormous plant for cold stor-
age, ice-making, bakery, coffee-roasting, and laundry.
I will write of that later on.
Each morning, at four o'clock, a supply train of
twenty-one cars leaves Cristobel; ten of them are refri-
gerator cars with meats, ice, and perishable articles.
These are delivered at Gatun, Gorgona, Empire,
Culebra, Pedro Miguel, Balboa, Panama, and all the
little camps on the way.
No endeavour is made by the Commission to
make a profit out of the stores. Everything is cold
storage." The people feed well, and the Government
takes special pains to see that its workers are well
nourished. The average daily meat ration of the
American engaged in making the Canal is 1i lb.,
vegetables 1 lb., and bread 12 oz. I doubt if there
are any working men anywhere who eat so much
meat a day as do the American workers in the tro-
MANAGEMENT AND MEN
pies. At the hotels three meals can be got for Is. 8d.
a day. There are kitchens where the coloured men
can get three meals for Is. 1ld. a day. Thousands
of the niggers, however-those who are unmarried-
do not use the kitchens, but buy something at the
stores and eat in the bush." More money is spent
on the Isthmus in ice than in bread.
A law court and a criminal court have, by order
of the President of the United States, been set up
in the Zone. There is a police force. Schools have
been established, twelve for white children and
seventeen for coloured children, and the youngsters
in the bush," or living away from camps, are picked
up by trains and taken free to the nearest school-
house, and afterwards brought back again. Water-
works and sewage plants have been installed, and
fair roads have been constructed, mainly by prison
labour. Post offices are numerous. Two banks
have offices in the Zone. At Ancon is the great
hospital with sixteen hundred beds. All employees
have free treatment.
I have purposely dwelt in this chapter on the
appurtenances to the Canal. The outer world knows
of the Canal, but has paid small heed to what has
had to be done to make the cutting of the way
In Panama the United States is the most paternal
Government in the world. The community is the
2o PANAMA AND WHAT IT MEANS
result of organisation. And when ships begin to use
the Canal, the Americans, by deliberate intent, will
destroy most of the Zone buildings, send the people
away, and let the jungle triumph where now are
THE RAW MATERIAL
THE authorities would not employ cheap white
labour from the States. They had an idea that the
prestige of America would suffer if low-paid white
citizens had to work alongside the mixed breeds on
the Isthmus or amongst the blacks.
-Nor did they ship any of the black population
from the Southern States. Probably the owners
of the cotton fields objected to the withdrawal of
workers. What is more likely is that the coloured
folk, full of suspicion about the unhealthiness of the
climate, would only have been attracted by very
high pay, with the consequence that when they
were sent back from Panama to the States they
would have been dissatisfied.
The Americans turned to the West Indies for the
supply of unskilled labour. The healthiest of the
islands is Barbados. It has a packed black popu-
lation, stalwart and healthy, which finds difficulty
in advancing much in prosperity above starvation
Here was an almost illimitable well, where wages
22 PANAMA AND WHAT IT MEANS
were lower than those paid in the cotton fields of
the Southern States, and where plenty of workers
could be obtained at a remuneration which would
not satisfy the American nigger. When they were
no longer wanted they could be shipped back to
Barbados; if then there was dissatisfaction about
the wages, that would not be the business of the
The boat by which I journeyed to Colon put in
at Barbados. We took on board several hundred
labourers, their wives and their offspring. Agents
had been busy putting forward the usual blandish-
ments about the wealth that was to be obtained by
working on the Canal.
The emigrants were picked fellows-big, mus-
cular, and good-natured-and they made camp on
the lower deck and alongside the middle deck. They
and their families brought their worldly possessions
with them-beds, cooking utensils, gaudy boxes-
and they jammed every corner of those parts of
the ship allotted to them. I never saw such a
squeeze; but they were perfectly happy. Families
squatted together, and the hatchways were crowded.
There was no room to stretch themselves; they
slept higgledy-piggledy in the most cramped of
postures. The men were in their workaday clothes,
picturesque but frequently ragged. Grinning faces
showed beneath tattered straw hats. "Mamas,"
THE RAW MATERIAL
bulky, loose-fleshed women many of them, with
features black as night, but with teeth so bright
and regular that they would make many popular
music-hall ladies jaundiced with envy, were in the
gaudiest of print garments-yellows and reds and
blues-and every one had her head swathed in a
bright-coloured handkerchief. The piccaninnies, dark
as ebony, toddled about as lacking in attire as when
first they came into the world.
The shipowners did not provide plates or cups.
These the dusky passengers had to bring along with
them; mostly they were of tin. And it was an
amusing sight when feeding time came along. The
ship's servants brought up cauldrons of soup or tea.
The passengers, presenting their meal tickets, had
food poured into their pans and slabs of bread
pushed into their fists, and then, sheering off, they
huddled together and gulped the meal as though
they were ravenous. There was plenty of chatter
and laughter, and what the white folks would have
considered the discomforts of travel they regarded
as a joke.
Many of them brought musical instruments with
them, chiefly banjos. Outside my cabin window
were half a dozen men and women; they gossiped
with shrill tongues, not only throughout the day,
but throughout most of the night. Two of the
men, armed with banjos, but by no means profi-
24 PANAMA AND WHAT IT MEANS
cient, twanged the same three chords by the hour.
When I suggested they should go to sleep and
let me have some sleep also, they replied, "All
right, massa I" lay still for ten minutes, whis-
pered for five minutes, gradually got back to their
former key, and in half an hour were as noisy as
Inthe evening, when we were steaming through
the calm, quiet waters, and the air was balmy,
and the only light was that of the moon, some
coloured man or woman would start humming a
hymn of the Moody and Sankey type. It would
be taken up by neighbours, and before long a hun-
dred voices were singing, in the quaint accents of
the islands, Hold the fort, for I am coming!"
Then suddenly from the recumbent throng would
spring up a fervid Christian, who considered the
moment opportune to .dwell upon the wickednesses
of life, and to point out that unless his hearers
turned from sin the punishment awaiting them
would be terrible. The black people lay about,
whilst he told of the golden crowns which they
would wear if they went to Heaven, and the fiery
torments which would be their lot if they went to
Hell. He would start praying in a passionate,
almost shrieking voice. I confess that I could not
restrain a smile, remembering we were in warm
tropical waters, when he beseeched the Almighty
-c -: -. a
a ia." ,
^J3^'^-"--^' -*-*a' : ""
k- ..^. .
*- --t -t r -
-r:-."- .^a-1 ._5r: -7- -*^-'B
S ti." a
-- a^'^^ -E
*Jte"' ~ ~ ~ ct r.?.^''?s1
-^^ h*"- **i,-_ ^t ^"~f *~IL-,_ :Ita?'^-
^^k' 1i5^^3^^o^&_ ^"-lrt'--^^_ ^"^^^ilimiL *fc-^*
T'-t_ P. "a
BUILDING THE BREAKWATER
TO PROTECT THE ATLANTIC ENTRANCE TO THE CANAL.
JULY 21. 1911.
THE RAW MATERIAL 25
not to let the ship run into an iceberg as did the
The morning we reached Colon, with the low-
lying, swampy land on the horizon, there was a
transformation. All the old patched garments, which
had been good enough for the voyage, disappeared.
The crowd were arrayed in the most gorgeous of
attire. As there was no privacy, how the coloured
ladies and gentlemen managed to deck themselves in
their finery will be an abiding mystery to me. Any-
way, they were tricked out in the most gorgeous of
their feathers. No half-tones for them. Flaming
reds, blues, greens and yellows were what the ladies
liked. There was a made-at-home look about their
clothes, though the amateur dressmakers had prob-
ably coloured prints as a guide. There was an
easiness of fit which would probably have caused
tears to trail down the cheeks of fashionable cos-
tumiers. The hats were enormous, and decorated
with birds of a kind and plumage which must have
been conceived in the absinthe-loaded brain of a
mad artist. The dusky features and the gleaming
teeth were partially curtained with the most volum-
inous and decorated veils. None of your dainty
little hands were to be seen amongst these pas-
sengers, but big, broad, useful fists; and they were
all pressed into white cotton gloves, and in some
cases even white kid.
26 PANAMA AND WHAT IT MEANS
As for the men, constantly grinning, they had
cut-away coats, grey trousers-all of them rather
too long-socks as bright as their shirts, and patent
leather shoes. Where these people got the money
to make themselves so glorious and so happy I did
not venture to inquire; but there never was a jollier
crowd in the world.
Away to our left was the streak of coast line.
As we ploughed through the burnished copper sea
we could discern a few palm trees showing above the
quivering haze. Colon, our landing-place, revealed
itself like a stack of white houses apparently resting
on the water. Away to the right was a long streak,
as though an inky pen had been drawn across part
of the sea. This was the breakwater which the
Americans have constructed to provide shelter when
the furious "Northers "-and they can be furious
indeed-blow this way.
We slowed to a crawl. The heat was terrific.
The atmosphere was humid. Even when sitting
still in the shade one perspired. The more one
absorbed iced drinks, which the Jamaica boy
supplied, the more did one's thirst grow.
There was a dot on the water, travelling quickly
towards us; really an electric launch. We knew
that the doctor, appointed by the Americans to
see that no one likely to bring sickness into the
Isthmus, was coming. When the launch drew nearer
THE RAW MATERIAL
we could see the Stars and Stripes at the prow.
With a dash and a swing the launch was alongside,
and up the ladder came the doctor, black-bearded,
and his two assistants, clean-shaven, the three of
them sun-baked, khaki-clad, pith-helmeted. Those
of us who were saloon passengers were first chivvied
together in the dining-room and slowly paraded
past the doctor, who asked questions. Folk like
myself who were on a visit had no trouble. Pana-
manians, including about a dozen schoolgirls return-
ing from being educated in Europe, had to stand on
one side. They had to bare their arms. With a
little grimace, and sometimes a little squeal, they
were pricked and inoculated against small-pox.
Every one of the coloured passengers had to be
inoculated. They were driven to the rear of the
ship. Then, one by one, they came up the com-
panion way. The doctor's assistants put out their
hands and dexterously jerked up the eyelids, on the
look-out for ophthalmia. Having passed this stage,
each person had to bare an arm. In the twinkling
of an eye the little instrument made the injection,
and the coloured folk, pulling down their sleeves,
passed on with a grin. It was with true American
alacrity that the inoculation proceeded. I think
the crowd must have been dealt with at the rate of
about twenty a minute.
Meanwhile we had crawled toward the piers and
28 PANAMA AND WHAT IT MEANS
wooden sheds in the harbour of Colon. Panamanians,
of weak coffee-coloured complexions, were there to
meet friends. Wharf labourers were in throngs to
assist in the berthing of the ship. There was no
breeze. The heat was like the breath of an oven.
I personally felt as though I was dribbling away.
But we had reached a port which, though little
known to the outer world, is going to play a great
r6le in the history of the future.
THE GATUN DAM
THE construction of the Canal is costing the United
States 80,000,000, which is just the sum it cost
Russia to build her trans-Siberian railway.
Some miles of the Canal track are navigable,
and the great Gatun Lake, with an area of 164 miles,
has come into existence. Lock building is proceed-
ing apace. By September of this year (1913) Colonel
Goethals hopes to take a boat through from the
Atlantic to the Pacific.
That does not mean the Canal will be finished
before the appointed time. Much remains to be
done, including dredging to a considerable extent,
before the world's commerce will be invited to pay
its money and take the short cut. It will not be
till January 1st, 1915, that the American eagle will
have its great scream and the President of the
United States will be expected to deliver a noble
oration. You will scarcely be able to see the Canal
for star-spangled banners. A procession of war-
ships will steam from Colon to Balboa, and every-
body who has had a two years' hand in the slicing of
30 PANAMA AND WHAT IT MEANS
the American continent will be entitled to receive
People, comfortably seated in deck chairs on fine
ships, sailing over the smooth waters of the lakes
and between the rock-breasted cuts, and being
lifted by three locks to a stretch of over thirty miles,
and lowered again through three locks, will be
But most of the hard work, the result of twentieth
century engineering, the triumph of puny man over
Nature-and many a time Nature has deliberately
resented this carving through the spine of the hills,
and has smashed the work of months-will be hidden
beneath placid water.
One difference of this Canal from other canals of
less importance, or rivers where the drop is all in
one direction, is that the vessels will be lifted into a
hilly country, where there are no navigable streams,
and then lowered on the other side of the range.
This will be, and is being accomplished by impound-
ing the waters of the Chagres River and its tribu-
taries. The Chagres is a turbulent river, born in
the unexplored region of south-east Panama, and
drains an area of some thirteen hundred square
In the dry season hitherto the Chagres has run
more or less smoothly through the hills across the
Gatun valley, and escaped into the Atlantic. In the
~ ~ ~ ..-- '. ".*. 'p.r..
* "5I W FP W A
THE GATUN DAM, WITH THE WATER OF THE LAKE BEGINNING TO RISE, JUNE 7. 1912.
~i~ ~ "
THE GATUN DAM
rainy season it becomes a reckless monster scouring
all before it. When it rains in these parts it really
rains. It is so dense you cannot see through it for
twenty yards. The average rainfall at Colon is
130 inches. Two and a half inches of rain have been
known to fall in three minutes. When there is a
heavy downpour, and the Chagres is in flood, the
water rises amazingly-31 feet in twenty-four
hours. At one point, Gamboa, the Chagres in its
tumultuous moments discharges per second about
two-thirds the amount of water which goes over
Niagara Falls in the same period.
This river has been captured. Its way to the
Atlantic is stopped by the Gatun Dam; the water
has filled the Gatun valley.
It would have been impossible to have let loose
a torrent like the Chagres direct upon the Canal.
But its discharge into the lake, at a distance from
the zigzag track of vessels across the lake, will be
imperceptible, except at the escape over the Spill-
way" at the lower end of the lake.
Gatun Dam-with three descending locks toward
the Atlantic, together with the Spillway into the
tail end of the Chagres-is built right across the
valley, a mile and a half, and is buttressed at either
end by the hills. The immensity of the dam, half
a mile wide at its base and 100 feet wide at its crest,
does not strike one at first; the slope of the bank,
32 PANAMA AND WHAT IT MEANS
away from the lake, is so gradual. Rock, sand, and
clay, steam-shovelled from excavations and dredged
from pits, form the bank. I was informed that the
entire dam contains 21,000,000 cubic yards of
material, which sounds a good deal.
This dam has completely changed the topo-
graphy of a wide stretch of country. The valley
has gone. The old village of Gatun is buried
beneath the waters of the lake. It was a quaint
native village on a loop of the Chagres. Long ago
the bongo-boats of men going to California seeking
gold would stop at Gatun, where one traveller records
"eggs were sold four for a dollar, and the rent for a
hammock was two dollars a night." The French,
when they were excavating their canal, had big
works here, and quarters for five hundred men. Up
to five years ago it was one of the centres of the river
banana trade. Stores, houses, church, however,
have all disappeared. The natives have been quietly,
but effectively, chivvied out of Gatun and the whole
valley. The new Gatun is built up the hillside. The
old railroad track between Colon and Panama is
submerged. The new track keeps to the east of
All the country is matted, tangled, impenetrable
jungle. As the water creeps into the dips and
climbs the hills all vegetation seems to give up the
struggle. It just rots and dies. The thick-leaved
* u- 'V^
* ** ^fh ^
*k u ^
* -*4B.-- *
- s i. ; "
GATUN SPILLWAY: GENERAL VIEW LOOKING WEST AUGUST 4, 1912.
THE GATUN DAM
trees go bare; they stand grim in the water like
skeletons of themselves. The trees about the edge
of the lake are as sad and forlorn as the trees often
are in an Australian landscape. The bed of the
Chagres is hidden for near twenty-four miles. So is a
diversion of the river which is blocked by the dam.
So is a section of the old French canal.
The Spillway is, of course, a weir, so that the
lake does not rise to a height that would flood the
locks. It is a curve of concrete construction 1,200
feet long, and the water will spill over a slope 300
feet wide, to a channel 10 feet above sea level, which
will take it to the Chagres bed about a mile away.
Thus it will run to the sea. As the land between
the Chagres and the sea level section of the Canal
is low, the bank on one side has been reinforced to
prevent overflow into the Canal.
By the side of the Spillway a culvert is being
Built. Down on the level ground at the back of
the dam a huge electrical power-house will be
erected. Water power will be used in generating
electricity which will work the Spillway" gates,
supply the power for operating the lock gates, and
hauling the ships through the locks, lighting Gatun,
and providing illumination for the lighthouses which
will mark the channel through the lake-and very odd
some of these lighthouses look to-day, standing amid
jungle which has not yet been reached by the water.
34 PANAMA AND WHAT IT MEANS
Now, to arrive at Gatun Lake from the Atlantic,
or to descend from it to the Atlantic, there are three
flights of double locks, each 1,000 feet long, so that
vessels can be lowered whilst others are being raised;
indeed, to economise water, a full lock can transfer
much of its supply into the basin of its neighbour.
The width of each lock is 110 feet. Beyond the
gates of the lower lock and the upper lock are long
walls to which ships can moor whilst waiting their
turn to pass through the locks.
All the locks, which are in the wall of the dam,
are of concrete, and all the manufacture has been
carried on in one of the basins of the locks. A
tremendous excavation had to be made to reach
a foundation of rock. Each lock will, at the lowest
point, have a draught of 40 feet sea water. The
steel gates are colossal: you could drive a motor-
car on the top. They are 7 feet thick, 65 feet long,
and from 47 to 82 feet high. In weight they vary
from 300 to 600 tons. The ninety-two leaves needed
for the entire Canal will weigh 57,000 tons. At the
upper end of each lock the gates are double, as a
guard against accident. They are built of girders,
stoutly framed and sheathed in steel plates. The
lower half of each gate is composed of airtight com-
partments, so that in swinging it will partly float
and relieve some of the pressure on the machinery
working it. In the middle of each lock are supple-
THE SPILLWAY AT GATUN, SHOWING THE RISING SURFACE OF GATUN LAKE IN
THE DISTANCE, SEPTEMBER 7, 1912.
THE GATUN DAM
mentary lock gates. Generally it will be vessels of
600 feet or less which will pass through, and it
would be waste to fill a thousand feet length of
lock. Water will be admitted or extracted by
means of culverts 18 feet in diameter in the side
and middle walls, and also by means of pipes in
the bottom, and thus there will be secured an even
rush of water. The side walls are 50 feet through
at the base, rise perpendicular on the water face,
and are 8 feet wide at the top.
Once a vessel approaches a lock it will cease to
use its own steam. It will be towed through by
electric locomotives running on cog rails at the top
of the lock walls. Four engines will take charge of
each ship. It is reckoned it will take about fifteen
minutes to fill a lock and about three hours will be
occupied to pass through the six locks-the three
at Gatun I am describing and the three locks on the
Pacific side. To go from ocean to ocean will probably
take from ten to twelve hours.
I have mentioned the double gates at the top
and lower end of each flight of locks as a protection
should a ship prove obstreperous and ram, which,
in the case of a single gate, would be disastrous.
Not only is there this protection, but before the
vessel can charge the first gate it will be checked by
a chain with links of steel 3 inches in diameter.
The chain will be attached to hydraulic cylinders
36 PANAMA AND WHAT IT MEANS
in shafts in the lock walls. As the chain is hit and
runs out the resisting pressure will be so great
that the cylinders will, in 70 feet, stop a 10,000
ton vessel travelling at four miles an hour. If an
approaching ship shows no signs of recklessness, the
middle of the chain is sunk to the bottom of the
canal, and the vessel passes over.
There is almost an excess of precaution. Sup-
pose tragedy happened by the chain breaking, and
both gates were smashed, and the Gatun Lake began
seething through the damaged lock ? To fix another
gate, hoisted before such a turmoil of water, would
be impossible; so there will be two emergency dams
at the upper end of each flight of locks. An emer-
gency dam begins by being a network of open framed
steel which can be let down slides in the concrete
on each side the lock. This in itself will in no way
stem the rush; the water will continue to seethe
through the lattice. But in the frame are big
slots, and down these steel plates can be slipped.
When a row of steel plates has dropped along the
bottom of the canal-another row is let down on
top of them, and then another row till the top is
reached. Though there will still be a tremendous
flow between the plate joints the torrent will be
Now by the side of each upper dock will be float-
ing a huge hollow steel caisson. The rush having
GATUN UPPER LOCK, SHOWING GUARD GATES, OPERATING GATES, INTERMEDIATE GATES,
AND SAFETY GATES IN PROCESS OF CONSTRUCTION, JUNE, 1912.
- 0 di
THE GATUN DAM
been broken, this caisson can be swung across the
canal, exactly the width of the canal, and in front
of the emergency dam each end presses against a sill.
The caisson will be filled with water. It will sink
and provide an effective barrier against the torrent.
The lock at the back will then be empty, and
steps can be taken to repair the smashed gates.
This emergency dam is one of the most ingenious
inventions in modern engineering.
In my ears still sounds the roar of the work. As
for the spectacle, it is not a dainty sight. The coun-
try has been ripped to pieces, and there is no tidying
up yet. Engines are barking over the torn, dis-
hevelled earth, and cars are disgorging dirt" to
strengthen embankments. Dredgers are hoarsely
clawing their way along the lower channel of the
Canal. There is the snort and the thud of pile-
driving. Dozens of swing cranes are carrying mate-
rial. An engine on the lock side is grunting whilst
heaving a piece of machinery. Down in the hollow
of the lock walls men are busy fixing the electrical
appliances. The grey plates of the lock gates,
daubed red, are being lifted into position, and there
is the rattle of the electric hammers.
I crawl over the debris and dodge a running
crane and clamber on the top of a gate. Away
below, in the pit of the lock, engines are scurrying
over temporary tracks. The workmen are like flies.
38 PANAMA AND WHAT IT MEANS
The dust of the concrete gets into one's throat this
steamy tropical September day.
White men, brown men, black men, thousands
of them, are toiling in an apparent welter of con-
fusion. Then my eye travels south. There is peace,
the calm leaden waters of Gatun Lake are rising
slowly, steadily, the first proof that all this striving
counts for victory.
THE CULEBRA CUT
THE popular, spectacudr thing is the Culebra Cut.
From the engineering point of view more worthy
achievements are being won in the making of "the
The Culebra Cut, however, is within the range
of the comprehension of the ordinary person. To
delve through hills for nine miles; cut a channel
with an average depth of 120 feet, with a minimum
width of 800 feet; to slice through the continental
divide, Gold Hill and Contractors' Hill separating
the watersheds toward the Pacific and the Atlantic;
remove a clear depth of 875 feet of hill; haul away
about 100 million cubic yards of rock and earth-
nearly half the total excavations in the Canal con-
struction-have the work constantly checked by
thousands of tons of the hill-sides sliding into the
Canal, bringing into the Cut streams which had
been diverted, and threatening to flood the workers
out: there is something dramatic, majestic, and
occasionally terrible in it all.
This channel-not straight, but gently serpentin-
40 PANAMA AND WHAT IT MEANS
ing through the valley of the Rio Obispo to the
" divide," and beyond this point through the valley
of the Rio Grande to Pedro Miguel, where the first
lock descending to the Pacific is placed-will be at
the same elevation as Gatun Lake, 85 feet above
sea level. It will get water from the same source,
mainly the Chagres River. At the north end of the
Cut is a temporary dam to keep the accumulating
water on the other side from entering.
Water does get into the Cut; rivulets occasion-
ally break into it from the hills, and there are the
frequent torrential rains in the fall of the year. A
big drain has had to be made along the bottom
way, and a pumping engine is constantly belching
this drainage over the dam.
I stood on the lip of Contractors' Hill and looked
down and along the great black trough. A dull roar
constantly sounded. To-day there are seventy-five
miles of shaky railway track in the Cut, with engines
screeching impatiently-their long dirt" wagons
trailing-waiting to be loaded with debris and to
climb with their loads up the slanting terraced ways
and carry the stuff long distances and dump it where
banks are being made, or down to the swampy shores
near Balboa. There, one of these days, will be
wharves and piers and sheds to hold merchandise;
also a great railway yard.
The monster locomotives look like toys from the
A BEND IN THE CUIEBRA CUT, JUNE, 1912.
The steam shovel in the foreground is standing on the final bottom of the Canal, 40 feet above sea level.
THE CULEBRA CUT
elevation. On the Cut sides are clusters of men,
busy like ants, white men and coloured men, working
in separate gangs. There is the constant screech of
the drills. There are the thunderous blasting explo-
sions, reverberating like cannon. Behind brown
clouds, billowing half across the Cut, hundreds of
tons are dislodged. The steam shovels jerk forward
and start loading adjoining cars. To keep pace with
the excavations, and alongside them, a mile of track
has to be shifted each day.
Every facility was given me to inspect the work.
Either in an open coach attached to the front of an
engine, or in one of the automobiles, adapted to the
rails, which the officials use in hurrying from point
to point, I made half a dozen excursions up and
down the bed of the Canal, along the shelves where
excavating is still in progress, and along the upper
To be down in the Canal, with raw-sided Gold
Hill towering above one, to be amid the fury of the
ugly, serviceable engines and the deafening clatter
of the drills and the multi-thousand toilers, sweating
and grimy and mud-smeared and shouting, but all
strenuous, provided sensations which it was worth
travelling far to experience.
If the Cut had been of solid rock the engineers
would not have had to combat with such troubles
as "slides." Then they would have drilled and
42 PANAMA AND WHAT IT MEANS
blasted their way through, and once the passage was
cut it would have stood firm. But this region is all
volcanic, a confusion of earths and rocks, and rock
which is hard when first cut but disintegrated after
a short exposure to the atmosphere. It is not only
that the sides tumble in, but that the lower stratum
often is unable to bear the weight of the ground
above and behind; it begins to bulge toward the
bottom whilst the bank gradually sinks.
It is not to be forgotten that a considerable section
of the Culebra Cut was cleared away by the French
during their attempts to make a canal, and that the
troubles they had then are still existent. The
Americans, however, are optimistic, and talk about
the slides having exhausted themselves-until
another slide comes along. They have hopes that
once water fills the Cut it will be a kind of buttress,
and hinder any more slipping.
Over twenty slides have interfered with the
work. The Culebra Cut would have been finished
by now if it had not been for these disasters. The
largest slide" is the Cucaracha, which began in
French times, covers 47 acres, and has broken
back nearly 2,000 feet from the Cut. At other
places fissures appear in the upper earth; they
spread and join until there is one great "slide"
threatening to pile into the Cut. The town of
Culebra, perched high above the Canal, is in danger.
THE NOTORIOUS CUCARACHA "SLIDE," OCTOBER 23, 1911.
-...i.-, -i7 s
THE CULEBRA CUT
Already houses on breaking ground have had to be
Nearly 17,000,000 cubic yards of extra material
have had to be removed from the Cut because of
"slides." It is recognized that between 3,000,000
and 4,000,000 cubic yards of slides are still in
motion, and will have to be dealt with besides
the ordinary excavation. Only in August, 1912,
there was a tremendous break near Empire, and it
stretched half across the Cut, burying an enormous
quantity of machinery and, what was worse, causing
consternation to the engineers by allowing the diverted
River Obispo to rush into the Cut and flood part of
it. It was a mighty labour getting the river again
diverted, and the water pumped out of the Cut,
before a start could be made to remove this unwel-
come incursion of the canal bank.
These slides are enough to break the hearts
of men. But the dogged determination of Colonel
Goethals and his fellows, sick to silence when they
have to face another break, is one of the finest
episodes in the whole business.
For two years steam shovels have been working
on the top of banks which were likely to slide ;
this with the object of decreasing the pressure. In
some places there is a tier of nine terraces-by no
means wholly successful in checking the moving of
the banks and the upheavals at the bottom of the
44 PANAMA AND WHAT IT MEANS
Cut; still the engineers are sternly persevering. I
have met men who shake their heads over the fate
of the Culebra Cut. But the engineers absolutely
shut out from thought that there will be any danger
after the ground now sliding has been dealt with
and the Canal is open to traffic.
Spend a morning in the Cut, in the hot, humid,
sickening air of the rainy season in the tropics.
Downpours drench you; but that is preferable to
the thick, steamy, enervating atmosphere when the
Here is a gang of men, clambered upon rubble
of a broken bank, with their drills working into the
rock like giant needles on a sewing machine. The
drills are all operated by compressed air, of which
a long main pipe runs the length of the Cut. The
drills drive 24 feet into the rock. With jaunty strides
coloured men come along, balancing boxes on their
heads-dynamite. A small charge of dynamite is
pushed to the bottom of the drill-hole and fired by
a magneto battery to make the hole larger. Then
from 75 lb. to 200 lb. weight of dynamite is plugged
into the hole, and the explosion is brought about
by ordinary electric light current. It is like a thunder-
clap. A torrent of rock and earth is flung forth.
Every month, in the Cut alone, 500,000 lb. of dyna-
mite are used.
The steam shovels, cumbrous, ugly, but grim
.-. r. '- -; A
r*F ;* ,
HAND DRILL GANG BORING HOLES FOR DYNAMITE TO BLAST
MOVING FACE OF A "SLIDE" IN THE CULEBRA CUT,
D d. ,
THE CULEBRA CUT
with strength, fascinate one. There are dozens of
them at work in the Cut. By lever the huge scuttle
is pressed amongst the blasted debris, lifts it, and
throws the stuff on a dirt train. The monster
appears to quiver with restrained energy.
Some of these shovels can lift 5 cubic yards, and
that means over eight tons of rock or over six tons
of earth. A seventy-ton shovel has shifted 4,823
cubic yards in a day. The shifting in a full working
hour is 289 cubic yards. Much more could be shifted;
the difficulty is getting the stuff away. Even the
thousands of dump cars and the seventy-five miles
of railway track are hedged by limitations. As it is,
175 trains haul out of the Cut every day, or a train
every two and a half minutes.
Statistics like these indicate the ferociousness with
which the excavating goes on. In the veins of the
workers is a throbbing joy over big results. Go
day by day, and you see little change. Let a month
elapse, and then you mark the difference. And there
is the Cut-a long black passage through the hills
which tells of work done. Why, the record clear-
ance in one day is 127,742 tons, removed on 333
At the southern end of the Cut you come to the
massive Pedro Miguel lock-locally known as the
"Peter Magill." All the hot scurrying and clanging
and convulsive movements of big machinery, which
46 PANAMA AND WHAT IT MEANS
distinguished the Gatun locks, are repeated. This is
the lock by which vessels moving Pacificwards will
be lowered 30A feet to the Miraflores Lake, artificial,
a mile and a half long, partly created by water
allowed through from the Cut and partly by the
capture of small rivers. Then two locks, which will
lower the vessel to sea level, and the ocean is met
eight miles off at Balboa. As on the Atlantic side,
here are tremendous breakwaters. Several little
islands are being joined so that the entrance to the
Canal is practically a land-locked harbour. The
Americans are building fortifications.
From sea to sea small gangs and great gangs of
workers are encountered. At the locks there are
fifty gangs doing fifty different jobs. Each gang is
doing its bit independently of anybody else. Behind
the apparent confusion you know there must be
a system, and that every piece of work has to be
fitted into its place.
Somewhere are brains directing the complicated
scheme. You will find them in the chief engineer's
office at Culebra. Every night there come in detailed
reports of what has been done. Every morning
Colonel Goethals and his staff review and arrange as
though a siege were in progress. Every detail is
attended to. There is a "field hospital "; special
trains carry all that is necessary to do repairs on the
spot. Every night, under the flame of electric lights,
CULEBRA CUT, LOOKING NORTH FROM CONTRACTORS' HILL AND SHOWING TERRACES
LEFT AFTER REMOVING SUPERIMPOSED WEIGHT TO AVOID "SLIDES."
The highest shovel on left is 280 feet above sea level, and that on the right is 65 feet.
THE CULEBRA CUT
gangs of repairers are out attending to machines
reported to be defective. At Gorgona is a repair
shop where 1,200 men are employed.
In and out, dodging about, you often see auto-
mobiles hastening over the jolting railway tracks.
The workers call these "brain cars." For by them
travel the men who think and decide. They are
United States Army engineers. They are khaki-
clad men, tall, lithe, bronzed, clear-eyed; but there
is a lot of grey in their hair. They nervously eat the
ends of cigars, and chat with you gaily as though
cutting a continent in two was not a matter of much
They know, right enough, they are doing a great
work, and therefore can afford to be modest. Modesty
is not counted an American characteristic. These
American Army officers, however, who are supplying
the brains, are quiet and dignified, competent and
WAGES AND LIVING
IT is an interesting fact that about half the labour
employed in the Canal Zone is made up of British
subjects. The male population consists of 22,000
subjects of Great Britain; the United States make
an indifferent second with 8,000; Panama and
Spain run about level with 3,900 and 8,800 re-
spectively; other countries tail off, completing
the 45,000 which is the male population.
The British subjects are practically all West
Indians, from Jamaica and Barbados. The Ameri-
cans, when they started to build the Canal, made
a point of not bringing any negroes or cheaper class
white labour from their own States. The reason
given was that they did not want to disturb the
home labour market. The chiefs of the Canal,
the directors, the superintendents, the clerical and
medical staffs, the skilled artisans, everyone in
fact above an unskilled labourer, must be American.
Now and then I came across a stray Englishman,
Scotsman, or Canadian holding an important post.
Persistent though quiet pressure is brought to bear
A LANDSLIDE OF 300,000 CUBIC YARDS IN THE CULEBRA CUT, NEAR EMPIRE,
AUGUST 21, 1912.
WAGES AND LIVING
upon them that they become citizens of the United
At first it looked as though the importation of
coloured British labour from the West Indies was
destined to be a failure. The Americans did not
get as much work out of the immigrants as they
expected; the Jamaicans and Barbadians did not
show the same energy as at home. There was a
time when it was seriously contemplated to ship
the lot of them back and import special labour from
Italy and Spain. Then the secret of the slackness
of the West Indians was discovered. Their American
bosses were treating them contemptuously, as they
were used to treat the niggers in their own States.
The West Indian has self-respect, is proud of being
British, and he sulked under the frank, crude speeches
of his white masters. Colonel Goethals, when he
realized the source of the trouble, had notices posted
all over the works that American foremen who used
offensive language toward their gangs would be in-
stantly discharged-and some of them were. There
was chaff from the United States about Colonel
Goethals trying to run the Zone as though it were
a Sunday-school. Anyhow, there is little swearing
in the Zone to-day. I know the American workman
in the Northern States, and the picturesqueness of
his oaths. I never heard any abusive language in
50 PANAMA AND WHAT IT MEANS
The point is that the West Indians, when decently
treated, increased their output of work by a third.
Indeed, one of the things I noticed amongst the
chiefs of the Canal was satisfaction that more work
was being done at proportionately less cost than ever
before. Whilst much of it is due to improved
organisation, they mainly ascribe it to the good
feeling existing amongst all classes and all colours
of workers. Though there is a good deal of petty
larceny within the Zone, chiefly amongst the blacks,
there is a remarkable absence of serious crime. All
the coloured policemen are British subjects, Jamaicans.
Their training as soldiers in Jamaica is of excellent
In a former chapter I described how the coloured
labourer got a minimum of fivepence an hour, and
could purchase cheap meals and be provided with
sleeping accommodation, though he preferred to get
a few planks, knock together a shack, and live in
the bush." The American white workers-the
"gold employees "-have mosquito-proof houses
provided free for themselves and families. The
higher posts are rather worse paid than they would
be in Great Britain if men were engaged in a similar
task. Colonel Goethals, upon whose shoulders rests
the whole responsibility for the making of the Canal,
receives 8,000 a year, absurdly inadequate remuner-
ation for the work he is doing. All his heads of
MEAL-TIME AMONGST THE COLOURED WORKERS.
I'iJII'.* H -H^V1'^
WAGES AND LIVING
departments are badly paid by the United States
Government, judged by British standards.
When, however, we get to skilled artisans the
American employees on the Isthmus are the best
paid workmen in the world. Remember they live
house free; there is no winter clothing to buy;
there are no heavy coal bills so that the house may
be kept warm. Good shipyard artisans, machinists,
iron-workers, earn from 2s. to 3s. an hour. Boiler-
makers get from 2s. 8d. to Is. 10d. an hour, according
as they are graded. Carpenters are paid 2s. 8d. an
hour. Men who work the steam shovels-on duty
eight hours but actual work about six hours a day
-receive 37 a month. All first-class skilled artisans
get from 30 to 85 a month. Plasterers and
plumbers get 2s. 8d. an hour. And so on.
The contrasts in some of the remunerations are
striking. For instance, a physician gets only 30
a month to begin, and for that he has to provide
subsistence. A cook, however, gets 25, including
subsistence. Policemen and school-teachers are paid
about the same. What is curious is that a doctor,
who must have had at least one year of hospital
experience, and can only be appointed subject to
Civil Service examination, gets exactly the same
pay as a veterinary surgeon, 30 a month.
It is natural that the reader at home, noting
the high wages paid to the artisan, should remark
52 PANAMA AND WHAT IT MEANS
" Yes, but what is the cost of living ? It is much
cheaper than in the States. As I have explained,
the 60,000 people in the Zone are fed like an army
in the field two thousand miles from the base of
supply, with the difference that the soldiers of
labour have to purchase what they require. The
" Commissary Department, with head-quarters at
Cristobel, adjoining Colon, is a fine organisation.
One of the most instructive mornings I had was
visiting the stores, inspecting the cold storage section,
and watching the handling of food for a population
stretched along a forty-mile line of country.
The "Commissary" Department does business
with wholesale firms, eliminates the middleman and,
allowing for management expenses, sells at practically
cost price. In perishable goods there is an occasional
fluctuation, but every week an official price list
is issued. The latest issued lies before me. Stewing
beef or mutton can be got at 3d. a lb. You can
buy shoulder of mutton at 4jd. a lb., steak at 61d.
a lb., and sirloin at 91d. a lb. Chickens cost about
4s. 6d. each, and breakfast bacon is Is. a lb. Eggs
are Is. 1ld. a dozen, and fresh salmon and halibut
are 8d. and 5d. a lb. Why, you can get a quarter-
pound jar of Russian caviare for 3s. 9d. If, how-
ever, your taste runs to pigs' feet, you can obtain
them at 4jd. a lb. Ducks are 2s. the pair; butter
varies from Is. 7d. to Is. lid. a lb., and ice cream
WAGES AND LIVING
-they make 850 gallons of it a day at Cristobel-
is Is. Ojd. a quart. Vegetables and fruits are cheap;
potatoes, turnips, cabbages are ld. or 2d. a lb.
Apples are 5d. a lb., but Jamaica oranges are 6d.
the dozen, pineapples 6d. each, and peaches 4d.
Food is, therefore, cheaper than in the States.
Making allowance for rent and other advantages,
and recognizing the increased pay, the American
workman in the Zone, if passably careful, can easily
save half his wages.
After all, good wages, cheap food, free houses,
free doctoring, improved sanitation, are not every-
thing. The temporary towns on the Canal route
are just camps. There are none of the excitements
of town life. Most of the folk round about are
coloured. There are no theatres.
The men look healthy enough, but it is impossible
to miss noticing how pale the women are. There
is plenty of cheerfulness; but behind the smiling
faces one soon learns there is sad weariness, the
gnawing consequence of living in this humid, ener-
vating, jungle-girthed region.
To help to make things easy the Government
has established fine club-houses in the settlements,
with plenty of newspapers, games and teetotal
drinks. The Y.M.C.A. manage these club-houses,
which are open house to any white person who
54 PANAMA AND WHAT IT MEANS
cares to enter. Also the Government maintains a
brass band. It would not take a prize at a brass
band contest, but when it plays on Sundays at one
or other of the towns it provides a lot of pleasure.
There are clubs innumerable. The women folk
have lots of societies. Of this side of the life I
will deal later on.
Trade union leaders have attempted to start
organizations, and once or twice the ripple of
industrial trouble has disturbed the waters. When
a strike has been threatened Colonel Goethals has
broken it with the order All men who fail to come
to work because they are dissatisfied will be pro-
vided with free transportation to the United States."
The pay is too good and the management too ex-
cellent for the agitator to sow discontent.
There is no Saturday afternoon half-holiday.
The Sabbath is the one day when the scream of
the drills and the thunder of blasting are not heard.
In the afternoon baseball matches are played-
and the American is as mad over baseball as the
Briton is over football. Several religious societies
raised loud protests against the countenancing of
games on the Sunday. But they were overruled.
As the Canal workings are fenced in by jungle, there
is little scope for walking, and it is thought better
to let the workmen have the distraction of a stirring
game than sitting round criticising their bosses.
SLEEPING QUARTERS FOR THE LABOURERS.
WAGES AND LIVING
Each Sunday morning, at Culebra, Colonel
Goethals holds a court. It is not a court for
investigating crime, but for the chief of the Canal
to investigate complaints. Anybody who has a
grievance, white man, black man, yellow man,
nondescript, is free to see Colonel Goethals, and
tell of his trouble.
As, frequently, more than one family live in a
mosquito-proof house, there occasionally flame dis-
putes as to rights. Colonel Goethals acts Solomon
to the disputants. Personal quarrels are often
referred to the arbitration of Colonel Goethals.
He sits in his office on blazing Sunday mornings,
and round about hang those who seek his advice
or decision. He is the quietest mannered of big
men; he produces confidence and his judgment is
accepted. This friendly Sunday morning court in
the tropics, to which men go voluntarily for the
settlement of their differences, contributes much
to the efficiency of work during the other six days
of the week.
COLON belongs to the Panamanians, but Cristobel
is within the Canal Zone. They make one town,
and when 'you have passed from one to the other
you do not know it unless you are told. Colon has
been since early days; Cristobel is a kind of. annex,
but will become the more important of the two.
The land is but a straggling stretch of sea-tossed
sand, and at the back are dark salt marshes, which
under the tropical heat fume and steam. The
climate is humid and you are in a constant state
of perspiring enervation. Malaria is everywhere.
Colon used to be known as the white man's grave."
More whites have gone to their death on that fetid,
reeking coast than the Gold Coast of Africa can
It is an odd mixture of a repulsively fascinating
town. It is partly American, partly Spanish, partly
negro, partly rapscallion drawn from the ends of
the earth. It is built on the American plan--long
dusty streets, mostly single-story houses made of
planks and tin-roofed. The sidewalks are of planks,
and in the main, single-sided street of shops is a
balcony which does something to provide shade.
The place swelters. The shops, which are mostly
shadowy inside, and where the prices are high, are
kept by many races, from French to Japanese, from
Chinese to Spanish. Americans on a round trip on
one of the United Fruit Company's boats, and who
drop off for a day, buy faked Eastern curios from
Hindus-brothers of the gentlemen we encounter
at Port Said and Colombo.
The places which are in the undisputed possession
of free-born Americans are the saloons. The entrance
is as gaudy as a barber's pole. Very likely you will
hear the rusty throat of a gramophone screeching
a Sousa march. Inside you find a barn-like hall
with atrocious landscapes and figures on the walls.
Along one side is the bar, and the barman is neat,
spruce, white jacketed. His background is whisky-
laden shelves, with advertisements of famous Scotch
products which you will never hear of if you search
Scotland from Gretna Green to John o'Groat's.
At the tables sit groups of healthy, perspiring,
youngish Americans, with their coats off, with waist-
coats non-existent, and shirts which in decoration
make you blink. Their bashed-in soft felt hats are
stuck at the back of their heads. Their sleeves are
tucked up, and they chew cigars, and they play
cards and they throw dice to decide who shall pay
58 PANAMA AND WHAT IT MEANS
for the drinks. They are drummers (commercial
travellers) and adventurers and men who are looking
out for any job going-a polyglot crowd, but strong-
chinned and clear-skinned, and they treat life as
In the streets you meet folk from fair Saxon to
black Ethiopian. Between these are people who
are tawny, and meerschaum brown, and chocolate
and lemon faced, telling the story of much mixed
breeding. There are Spaniards with a cross of
Indian blood, and half breeds who had an American
as father and a negress as mother. Among these
tinted folk there is a slithering gait and weariness
of eye, indicating that the world has not treated them
generously. The men slouch, but the white-frocked
women-they all wear white-have a kind of sad
refinement about them. All day it is terrifically
hot, and distant objects are seen through a shimmer-
Ships are lying by the wharves; huge ugly sheds
receive and disgorge wares. Hanging round the
wharves are noisy, persistent, ragged and barefooted,
dun-fleshed porters. They fight you to get your
baggage, and then they proceed to fight each other
as to who shall carry it. They are explosive and
good natured. Beyond the wharves are buggies,
drawn by the quaintest caricatures of ponies, and
driven by Jamaica boys. I had a Jamaica "boy" of
^ ;:. 1
THE FRONT STREET IN COLON.
PA,. ,,,r,/i.'i by UndeCrood & Untderwood, High HIolborn, W.C.
i- i< e
about forty years of age. He was always rather
drunk, but merry and a songster, though the lyrics
he warbled whilst lolling back in his seat, and inter-
spersed with comments on the moral character of
the pony's mother, were not the sort of thing we
have in the drawing-room on a Sunday evening.
He was very proud of being a Jamaica boy, for that
meant he was different from other niggers. He
was a British subject, and I was a British subject
-he was sure I was an important person in London,
which he assumed was a bigger place than Colon
or even Panama-and he told me all about his
family life, which was sad and alcoholic.
There were the ever-crashing waves resounding
in one's ears. A wind was blowing, and the rows
of tall palm trees all bowed together as though they
had been trained to do it. Wire-covered bungalows
were shipping offices, and the weak coffee-faced
clerks, white-ducked, seemed to spend most of
their time in smoking cigarettes and drinking iced
There is a railway track which had probably
been laid down before the town was; so the town
had to accommodate itself to the track. There
is a railway station, the most solid railway
station in the world. It must have been built for
all time. It is not very large, but the stone blocks
of which it is made are great, and, given a fair
60 PANAMA AND WHAT IT MEANS
chance, will probably be standing when the Pyramids
have crumbled to dust.
Being a democratic country, there is a sharp
distinction drawn between where the white and the
coloured people sit in the station. You will find the
same you-mustn't-contaminate-each-other arrange-
ment in the seating accommodation at Gatun and
Panama. In the old back-number countries of
Europe there is no such caste distinction; that is
because wp are not so democratic as America, no
doubt. The railway tracks spread like a tangled
piece of twine, and clanging bells tell you to get
out of the way if you do not want to be run over.
I met a dusky coon sitting on a wagon in the middle
of a street, and singing "Everybody's doin' it,
In Cristobel are gaunt, red-brick, iron-balconied
residences for the coloured workers on the line and
their families. The women were in gay chintzes,
and they were all fat, and there were many sans-
culottish children. They did not bother about
wire netting to keep out the mosquitoes. The rooms
would not take many prizes for cleanliness; but
how happy everybody was There were lodgings
for coloured people, with nice names attached to
the houses, just like they are in suburban London.
There was one lodging-house called Buckingham
An interesting place is the Commissary," which
is easier and shorter than Commissariat Department.
It is the real up-to-date example of providing food
for over 50,000 people two thousand miles away from
the base of supply. A monument should be erected
to the man who invented cold storage. It has made
life possible in the tropics, and has brought fortune
to beef, mutton, and butter countries, which other-
wise would have been only semi-prosperous. I
went out of the torrid, panting, eye-aching sunshine
into the Commissary," stuffed with good things
from the States. I had consciousness of the marrow
within my bones freezing. It was the place of the
chill dead, thousands of carcases of bullocks and
sheep, very still, very silent, and the refrigerator
pipes encrusted with ice-and, twenty yards away,
outside, the thermometer was near bubbling point.
The flesh was as hard as wood. In other long cham-
bers were butter and eggs, and vegetables and fruit
and fowls. All these are brought from the States;
the supply is regulated. As I have stated, a train
starts every morning, and each camp on the way
-to Panama gets its share. I went to the big stores
in Cristobel-a sort of Army and Navy Stores for
variety. Of course there was a door for "gold
employees and another for silver employees,"
and there were counters where only gold employees "
were served, and others where only silver employees "
62 PANAMA AND WHAT IT MEANS
were served. The prices were the same, but this
was the subtle plan to carry out the great democratic
principle that white and coloured folk should not
As a piece of elaborate, but smooth working,
organisation machinery the "Commissary," feeding
the multitude in the Isthmus, is one of the best
things to be seen anywhere. There is never any
scarcity. There is no running up of prices because
Panama is so far from New York. The goods are
bought in bulk; there is no middleman's profit to
be made; deducting expenses, the retail price is
about the same as cost price. Not only is food
cheaper than in the United States, but it is cheaper
than in England.
Also, there is a great Commissary laundry.
You put your soiled linen into a bag at Panama
and it is sent over to Cristobel to be washed by the
latest hygienic methods, and you can be sure that
it runs no risk of picking up disease, which it
might do if handed over to a native washerwoman.
Perhaps I was unfortunate, but my personal ex-
perience was that I have never known washing done
quite so badly. And the spiked metal tags attached
to every garment, for identification purposes, were
the cause of innumerable rents.
The great hospital is at Ancon. But there is a
hospital, screen-encased, erected on the sea-front
at Colon, where the fever-stricken and maimed are
cared for-a haven of airy quiet rest to the sick and
wounded. Cool grass and flowers bring gladness to
the heart. There is a little church, which at first
glance looks as though it was an old edifice lifted
out of an English village. But its time-worn appear-
ance is a triumph of imitative art. The residences
of the gold employees are all elevated bungalows,
the whole place completely screened, and on the
stoep behind the screen some American woman,
loosely clad, is usually to be seen in the heat of
the day reclining in a rocking chair. The heat is
too energy-sapping when the sun is up to do any-
thing but lounge about.
I don't know a worse place than Colon, though
I have been in warmer spots-Aden, for instance.
It is just a piece of sand-covered coral about a mile
long and less than half a mile wide; but the rail-
road company has made an embankment through the
swamps at the back to join it with the mainland.
Cristobel is not so bad. The houses are prettier;
there is more foliage; there is a statue of Columbus
-reminiscences of the days when the French tried
to make the dreary place more attractive. Most
of the land is held by the railroad company-that is,
by the United States-and though it is Panamanian
territory the Panamanians have nothing to do
64 PANAMA AND WHAT IT MEANS
At sundown coolness comes. Then the Americans
who have kept within the shade most of the day
come forth. It is the hour of promenade, and the
people, a little pale-faced and washed out, take a
stroll. There are lots of young fellows and their
young wives making a start in the big adventure
in this blighted spot, because the pay in Govern-
ment service is comparatively good and living is
comparatively cheap. They are courageous, and
in the heyday of life; but their gaiety is just a
I have read in many American publications that
so successful is the United States administration, so
splendidly has malaria been wiped off the map, that
the Isthmus is now one of the healthiest places in
the world; statistics are given to show that the
death rate in Colon is lower than in Chicago. All
perfectly true; but the comparison is ingenuous.
Only it is to be remembered that in the Isthmus
you have picked lives; none but the strong and
healthy go there. If you picked your men you
could prove the most fever-soaked swamp in the
world was the healthiest spot on earth.
Then there is a constant ebb and flow of people.
The American, with all his dash and skill and adap-
tiveness, is not, as a rule, made of the sort of stuff
for quiet doggedness under difficulty. In the first
year of the American occupation, before Colonel
^ il j
THE STATUE TO COLUMBUS AT CRISTOBEL.
From Pht'/fioraft by Underwood & Underwood, High Holborn, W.C.
Gorgas did his great work in sanitation, most
Americans suffered from what they themselves call
"cold feet"-that is, they became shy of the
monotonous life, and 90 per cent. of them cleared
out. During the last year or two, improved though
the conditions are, the life is still hard and lonely--
it is a big change to come from a bright American
city to an Isthmian camp, with little social life
and the jungle all around-and 50 per cent. of the
Americans have cleared out each year. Others
come in, but the ebb is constant. Many go because
of cold feet," but I must say that many others
return to the United States because they have
made a little pile. I recall a high-placed official
telling me that amongst the hundreds of young
fellows the time of their departure was generally
when they had saved 400. That was a good sum
to have put by in two or three years, and they could
not hold out any longer, but must return home to
have "a good time."
There is a hotel at Colon-" The Washington,"
of course. It is the usual timber erection, with
the usual long veranda, and the usual tinted
waiters, and with a big, grey-haired, rosy-faced
manager who always looks like Colonel Goethals
will look when the first boat glides through the
CanaL The hotel used to be in private hands;
then it was bought by the Panama Railroad; then
66 PANAMA AND WHAT IT MEANS
the United States bought the Panama Railroad,
which bought the hotel which feeds the human
flotsam cast up on these shores. So the United States
is also hotel proprietor. But this comfortable little
shack of a place will be of little use in the future.
So another hotel is being constructed--still "The
Washington." It is getting on. Seen through the
palms on an exquisite moon-bathed night the
growing hotel looks like a ruin on the banks of the
Nile. It is intended to be a fine hotel. I was told
it will be the finest hotel in the American continent;
but I've been told that about so many hotels in
America. Americans do things well in the matter
of hotels when they set about it, and the luxuries in
apartments and baths and verandas and gardens
by the sea will be astonishing. I think it is to
accommodate 1,200 people.
Now, what on earth do you want a hotel like
that for, in a place like this ? I ventured one night,
when I was with a party of Americans on the stoop
of the old "Washington," and we all had our feet
upon the rail, and were all puffing Jamaica cigars,
and all comfortable after dinner-supper they call
it out there-and we were revelling in the hush
and the cool of that beautiful moonlight.
It was just the question which showed my friends
how Britishers are lacking in foresight, in imagina-
tion. What was such a big hotel for ? Why to put