Front Cover
 Front Matter
 Title Page
 Front Matter
 Table of Contents
 Back Cover

Title: Panama Canal review
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00097366/00061
 Material Information
Title: Panama Canal review
Physical Description: v. : col. ill. ; 28-34 cm.
Language: English
Creator: United States -- Panama Canal Commission
Panama Canal Company
Publisher: Panama Canal Commission
Place of Publication: Balboa Heights Republic of Panama
Balboa Heights Republic of Panama
Publication Date: October 1981
Copyright Date: 1969
Frequency: semiannual
Subject: PANAMA CANAL ZONE   ( unbist )
Periodicals -- Panama Canal (Panama)   ( lcsh )
Periodicals -- Canal Zone   ( lcsh )
Genre: federal government publication   ( marcgt )
periodical   ( marcgt )
Spatial Coverage: Panama
Additional Physical Form: Also issued online.
Dates or Sequential Designation: Began with v. 1 (May 1950).
Issuing Body: Vols. for 19 -19 issued by Panama Canal Co.; <Oct. 1, 1980-> by Panama Canal Commission.
General Note: Title from cover.
General Note: "Official Panama Canal publication"--19 -19 .
General Note: Description based on: Oct. 1, 1980.
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00097366
Volume ID: VID00061
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: oclc - 01774059
lccn - 67057396
issn - 0031-0646
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Other version: Panama Canal review en espagñol


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Table of Contents
    Front Cover
        Front Cover 1
        Front Cover 2
    Front Matter
        Front Matter 1
        Front Matter 2
    Title Page
        Page 1
        Page 2
        Page 3
        Page 4
    Front Matter
        Page 5
    Table of Contents
        Page 6
        Page 7
        Page 8
        Page 9
        Page 10
        Page 11
        Page 12
        Page 13
        Page 14
        Page 15
        Page 16
        Page 17
        Page 18
        Page 19
        Page 20
        Page 21
        Page 22
        Page 23
        Page 24
        Page 25
        Page 26
        Page 27
        Page 28
        Page 29
        Page 30
        Page 31
        Page 32
        Page 33
        Page 34
        Page 35
        Page 36
        Page 37
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        Page 40
        Page 41
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        Page 44
        Page 45
        Page 46
        Page 47
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        Page 49
        Page 50
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        Page 54
        Page 55
        Page 56
        Page 57
        Page 58
        Page 59
        Page 60-61
        Page 62
        Page 63
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        Page 65
        Page 66
        Page 67
        Page 68
    Back Cover
        Page 69
        Page 70
Full Text

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Digitized by the Internet Archive
in 2010 with funding from
University of Florida, George A. Smathers Libraries









OCTOBER 1, 198'

On the Cover
Dominating the cover is a photo by
Mel Kennedy of two ships from the
Far East completing their transit of
Gatun Locks as maintenance work
proceeds on schedule. Moving clock-
wise: a closeup of the cupola on the
San Francisco Church in the Casco
Viejo, by Arthur Pollock; Panama's
exhibit featuring the Canal at EXPO.
SHIP '80 in Hong Kong, by Willie K.
Friar; the approach to the river
station at Candelarias, by Ed Arm-
bruster; the SS "Cristobal" leaves
Cristobal pier, by T. G. Kaye Richey;
a walk on the Great Wallof China, by
Willie K. Friar.
Inside frant cover: As the cruise
ship "Island Princess" moves north-
bound through Pedro Miguel Locks,
passengers crowd along the upper
railing for a spectacular shipboard
view: by Mel Kennedy. Inside back
cover: After 42 years of government
service, it's the end of the line far the
SS "Cristobal," seen at her familiar
berth at Cristobal's pier 8; by Kevin
Jenkins. Cover design: MelKennedy.

At right, a southbound vessel
moves through Pedro Miguel
Locks as work on the locomotive
tow track system is in progress.
Renovation of the tow track
systems at all three locks is a
multimillion dollar Canal improve-
ment project.

OCTOBER 1, 198


the Administrator

of the

Panama Canal


C celebrating its second
anniversary and nearing the end
of the transition period defined in
the Panama Canal Treaty, the
Panama Canal Commission has
forged ahead in meeting its
commitments while maintaining a
continuity of efficient service to
Canal users.
Although the challenge of
change continues to be a part of
life at the Panama Canal, it is a
challenge that is being
successfully met. A "can do"
attitude prevails and Commission
employees continue to respond
effectively to the demands placed
upon the waterway as the
tonnage of shipping moving
through the Canal reaches
record levels.
While the current outlook is
promising, the Canal must
continue to offer efficient service
at a competitive price if it is to
-wrt remain an economical means for
shipping an important share of
world trade. With this in mind, a
number of steps have been

taken during the past year to
increase Canal transit capacity
and to improve the service
provided to Canal users.
These extensive Canal
modernization and capacity
improvement programs, financed
by revenues, are beginning to
show results. They are evidence
of our commitment that the
Canal will remain a vital link in
the world transportation chain. It
is a commitment that is
dependent to a great extent
upon the availability of skilled
employees who are dedicated to
the enduring mission of the
Canal. To that end, the
Commission has set in motion
extensive training programs that
will insure future personnel
needs will be met within the
context of the new relationship
between the United States and
Noteworthy for the
administration of the waterway
was the confirmation in June of
this year of the Honorable
William R. Gianelli as the
Assistant Secretary of the Army
for Civil Works. In this capacity
Mr. Gianelli is responsible for
monitoring the operation of the
Panama Canal Commission and
serves as chairman of its
binational Board of Directors.
Since the Canal Commission
operates as a business that must
pay all costs and conduct a
break-even financial operation, it
is subject to the pressures of
inflation and other economic and
business fluctuations. I am
optimistic that, through
continued management emphasis
on keeping costs to a minimum
and retaining a dedicated and
well-trained work force, the
Panama Canal will remain a
viable artery for world




D. P. McAuliffe

In This Issue

Fernando Manfredo Jr.

Willie K. Friar

Vicki M. Boatwright

Fannie P. Hernandez

Mel Kennedy

Carlos Mendez

Panama Canal Commission
photographers who contributed
to this edition of the REVIEW are
Alberto Acevedo, Don Goode,
Kevin Jenkins, Arthur Pollack
and T. G. Kaye Richey. Other
photographers whose works ap-
pear in these pages are Edwin
Armbruster, who supplied nearly
all of the photographs for the
"Canal Water Watchers" story;
James E. Ferrara; Willie K. Friar;
Mel Kennedy; Angelo J. Mariano
Sr., staff photographer for the
Port of New Orleans, who sup-
plied photographs of the SS
"Cristobal" and the Water Trans-
portation Division staff in New
Orleans; and Susan K. Stabler.

Official Panama Canal Publication

The Parfitt and the
Alianza will help push
Canal transit capacity
Page 8

Canal Water Watchers
by Jan Meriwether
Utilizing every mode of
travel from horses to
helicopters, the men and
womenof the Commission's
Meteorological and
Hydrographic Branch
'manage the Canal's
watershed. Their
work takes them into the
jungles, up the rivers and
on the lakes of Panama as
they monitor the Canal's
water supply.
Page 10

Beauty in Two Sizes
The Resplendent
Quetzal and
the Harpy Eagle
One of the most beautiful
birds in the world and
the most powerful
eagle on earth
can be found in
Panama today.
Page 20

Casco Viejo
A Walk Into
Panama's Past
by Susan Hall Liang
A walking tour of
the Casco Viejo
offers a view of the
bustling present alongside
the silent past. Historic
buildings put to present-
day use and ruins
undergoing restoration
enable the visitor
to trace three centuries
of Panama's history.
Page 24

Two New Tugs
A Capital Idea


From the Panama Canal
to the Great Wall
by Willie K. Friar
A new U.S.-China trade
agreement has increased
the amount of cargo
moving through the Canal
bound for China.
Page 34
China shipping was the
focus of both
and the Far East Trade
and Shipping Conference
held in Hong Kong.
Page 40

Kites are fun . .
and work . but
mostly fun!
by Susan K. Stabler
Kite flying is a 2,000-year-
old tradition that
originated in China and
found its way to the
Page 44

Industrious Immigrants:
The Chinese in Panama
by Janet Len-Rios
Helping to run the Panama
Canal is part of the
contribution to the growth
and development of their
adopted country.
Page 47

The statistics speak
for themselves
Page 54

SS "Cristobal"
The End of the Line
by Fannie P. Hernandez
Canal residents hold
fond memories of
voyages aboard the SS
Cristobal. Her
retirement marks the end
-- of the Panama Line.
Page 56

From the Editor
If you've been wondering where
been since last October, let me
assure you, it's been around-to
shipping and trade exhibitions in
Hong Kong and China with its
former editor Willie Friar, to remote
river stations in Panama's jungles
with Jan Meriwether and members
of the Meteorological and Hydro-
graphic Branch team, to New
Orleans aboard the SS Cristobal
with Fannie Hernandez and to the
Casco Viejo in the heart of Panama
City with Susan Liang.
It is my hope that these stories and
the others contained in this issue of
the REVIEW are successful in con-
veying to you, the reader, the
continuing importance of the Pan-
ama Canal to world commerce; the
essential role being played by the
Canal employee in the safe and
efficient operation of the waterway;
the richness of the culture and the
beauty of the country in which we
live; and the wealth of memories
being stored up by those of us
fortunate enough to be a part of it all.
The preparation of the REVIEW has
always been an effort of love on the
part of many people. Chief among
them are the staff members, who put
in long hours of hard work during
trying times to make story ideas and
photo possibilities a reality. Thanks
go also to Nan Chong, Pat Booth and
Beverly Williams of the Commis-
sion's Library/Museum and Eco-
nomist Richard Wainio for their
assistance in researching vital in-
formation. A special debt of grati-
tude is owed to the Commission
Printing Office's Jose S. Alegria,
whose knowledge of typography and
advice on layout were invaluable in
the production of this magazine.

All articles and illustrations in the PANAMA CANAL
REVIEW may be reprinted In full or in part without further
permission by crediting the PANAMA CANAL REVIEW as
the source The REVIEW is normally published twice a year.
Yearly subscnption is S3 50 for third class mail and $6 50 for
first class mail. The pnce for back issues is $1.75for third class
and $3.25 when sent by first class. For subscriptions, send
money order made payable to the Panama Canal
Commission to PANAMA CANAL REVIEW, Panama Canal
Commission Office of Public Affairs, A PO Miami,
Fla 34011 The editorial office is located in Room 100
Administration Building. Balboa Heights. Republic of



Panama Canal Commission
added two new tugboats to its fleet,
the H. R. Parfitt, named for the
last governor of the Canal Zone,
and the Alianza. The Progreso,
sister ship to the Alianza,
is scheduled to arrive in November.
The tugs are the first of four

currently being procured as part of
a Commission capital improvement
program to increase the Canal's
daily transit capacity.
The Parfitt, built by Thunderbolt
Marine Industries of Savannah,
Georgia, at a cost of $4.9 million, is
one of the most versatile tugboats in
the world and the largest of its kind

Two New Tugs

A Capital Idea

OCTOBER 1. 1981

in the Western Hemisphere its
outstanding feature is a unique
cycloidal propeller system that
enables the tug to direct its thrust in
any direction without changing its
heading. In place of the standard
screw propeller blade, the Parlitt is
equipped with two 40-ton, five blade
Voith-Schneider propulsion units.
The Parfitt's high degree of
maneuverability makes the tug
particularly well-suited for operating
in the confines of the locks and
With its 4,000 horsepower, the
Parfitt has a capacity for pulling
80,000 pounds ahead or astern and
60,000 pounds sideways.
Six Canal tug masters were
specially trained to operate the new
tug by Capt. Arthur Robert
Naismith, an expert on loan from
the Harbor Board of New Zealand
Naismith accompanied the Parlitt to
the Isthmus from Georgia, following
its christening in Savannah.
The $3.9 million Alianza was
christened at the Dredging Division
in Gamboa shortly after its arrival
The Alianza's conventional
propulsion system with twin
propellers in Kort Nozzles is more
efficient than an open propeller
system. Although the Alianza
cannot direct its thrust sideways, its
3,000-horsepower engines are able
to pull in excess of 90,000 pounds
ahead and 70,000 pounds astern
The Alianza is the first tug
purchased by the Commission to
have flanking rudders, which allow
the tug to be steered while backing
Built by Bollinger Machine Shop
and Shipyard, Incorporated of
Lockport, Louisiana, the Aiaorzo is
the seventeenth member of the
Commission's tugboat fleet.
The Parfitt and the Alianza are
both on duty with the Canal
Support Division assisting ships in
Gaillard Cut, at the north end ol
Pedro Miguel Locks and in
Miraflores Lake. The Alianza is also
working at the south end o:
Miraflores Locks.
In addition to the new tugs, other
Canal improvements either com-
pleted or planned by the Commis.
sion include the purchase ol
additional towing locomotives, the
improvement of lighting at the locks
and a ship tie-up station to be lo
cated north of Pedro Miguel Locks.

Above, the tug
"H. R. Parfitt"
gives a push to
assist an Israeli
container ship
into the locks
chamber, while
the "Alianza," at
f left, demonstrates
i its firefighting
Opposite page,
the blue and gold
house flag of the
company that
built the "Alianza"
is removed and
the Panama
Canal flag raised
in its place
following the tug's


I I I -9



I -

OCTOBER 1, 1981

ama Canal is its water supply,
and the responsibility for managing
this vital resource is shouldered by the
men and women of the Panama Canal
Commission's Meteorological and Hy-
drographic Branch. Utilizing com-
puters and helicopters, as well as
machetes and horses, the branch's
mission is to meet the water manage-
ment objectives of the Commission:
assuring that enough water is available
for navigation in the Canal, while
simultaneously carrying out an effec-
tive flood control program.
The 41 employees of the Mete-
orological and Hydrographic Branch
cover more territory than any other
Commission group as they monitor
the 1,289 square-mile Gatun-Madden
Lake watershed. Runoff from the
watershed nourishes the rivers, prin-
cipally the Chagres, that fill man-made
Madden and Gatun lakes. These lakes
supply the water essential to the
operation of the Canal and the
generation of hydroelectric power.
Billions of gallons of water are
required daily since, for transit opera-
tions alone, every ship that moves
through the waterway uses 52 million
gallons of fresh water, which flow
through the locks and into the ocean.
One of the basic duties of branch
personnel is to collect and record
hydrologic and meteorological data,
or data relating to water on and below
the earth's surface and in the
atmosphere. Early records indicate
that the United States' decision to
build a canal across Panama rather
than Nicaragua was greatly influenced
by hydrologic studies of area rainfall,
river flows, flooding and lake levels.
The earliest known attempt to
systematically collect such data in
Panama was a rainfall recording

At left, the early morning
stillness is broken as the drum
gates at Madden Dam are
lowered, releasing a thundering
cascade of water which will help
clear the Chagres River of
aquatic weeds and lower the
level of Madden Lake. At right,
one of the earliest stilling wells,
which still houses a water-stage
register to measure the level of
Gatun Lake, is situated in

station set up on Taboga Island in
1861. The Panama Railroad and the
original French canal company, Com-
pagnie Uniuerselle du Canal In-
teroceanique, kept hydraulic, or river
flow, and climatological records, al-
though these records were often
fragmentary and inaccurate.
French engineers wisely recognized
the importance of this data to any
construction project in a country
where deluges can deposit inches of
water in a matter of hours and gentle
streams can be quickly transformed
into dangerous, raging rivers. Rainfall
stations were established by the
French at Balboa, Gamboa and Naos
Island, as were stream gauging

stations on the Chagres River at
Gamboa and Bohio. Records of water
temperatures, tidal variations and
barometric pressure were also kept by
the French, who used the finest
instruments available. One of their
original barometers is still functioning
perfectly in the Meteorological and
Hydrographic Branch office in the
Administration Building, a testimony
to the quality of the French instru-
When the second French company,
the Compagnie Nouvelle du Canal de
Panama, was begun in 1894 for the
purpose of constructing a lock-type
canal, efforts to collect accurate
hydrologic data were increased, and


This aerial view shows two of
the major rivers in the
watershed, the Pequeni and the
Baqueron, whose flow into
Madden Lake has been greatly
reduced by lack of rainfall
during the dry season.

self-recording instruments were used
for the first time. The collected data
provided a valuable foundation to U.S.
planners when the task of building the
Panama Canal changed hands in 1904.
Brig. Gen. Henry Abbot, a con-
suiting engineer for the second French

company and a member of the U.S.
Board of Consulting Engineers to the
Isthmian Canal Commission and the
U.S. Senate, had begun basic studies
of river and water storage hydraulics
for a lock-type canal as early as 1894.
General Abbot was a firm believer in
the importance of gathering such data
so that accurate forecasts could be
made about the canal's water supply.
He also believed that the key to
building a canal across Panama was
understanding the hydraulics, or flow,
of the Chagres River. General Abbot
was of the opinion that the failure of

the French to appreciate the im
portance of controlling the waters of
this powerful river was largely respon-
sible for their lack of success.
Gathering data on the mighty Chagres
River and its tributaries and makinS
forecasts about the water supply tc
operate a canal were the primary,
responsibilities of the Isthmian Cana
Commission's Bureau of Meteorology
and River Hydraulics, which was
created in 1905 and was the fore.
runner of today's Meteorological and
Hydrographic Branch.
While the "Met and Hyd" unit has

OCTOBER 1, 198

been moved around on the organiza-
tional chart many times since 1905, its
mandate to report on "all natural
phenomena which may affect the
water supply and the consequent
navigation of the Panama Canal" has
remained in effect.
Over the years, new rainfall and
river gauging stations have been set
up throughout the watershed to
provide a more precise picture of the
water situation in the Canal area. The
instruments installed at the stations
are self-recording, and the data is
periodically gathered by employees


who in the early days spent days
traveling by boat on the rivers and by
foot through the beautiful but often
inhospitable jungle to reach the
remote locations.
A river or lake station consists of a
small building to house data-collecting
instruments and provide living quar-
ters for crews when they have to work
in the field for an extended period of
time. Although today these stations
are still isolated in the jungles, modern
means of transportation, such as
helicopters, have made them more
easily accessible and improvements,
such as screens on the windows and
gas stoves, have made the stations
more comfortable.
The backbone of the Meteorol-
ogical and Hydrographic Branch's
data collection system has tradi-
tionally been the digital recorder,
which is hooked up to a system of
floats and weights to measure water
levels or rainfall amounts. The 35
digital recorders now in use in the
watershed take measurements and
mark readings on paper tapes every
15 minutes. Another water-level rec-

ording instrument, the analog rec-
order, is similar to the digital recorder
except that it provides a continuous
trace on a paper tape of the river or
lake elevation much like an electro-
cardiograph machine traces the con-
tinuous beat of a person's heart.
Together these instruments provide
the hydrologist with an accurate
picture of the rise and fall of water
levels in the watershed.
The transmittal of that data to the
office in Balboa Heights was dras-
tically altered by the installation of a
telemetering system in 1966 that
thrust the branch into the computer
age. With telemetry, the water level of
the river or lake elevation and rainfall
amounts measured by the digital
recorders are translated by an elec-
tronic encoder into audio signals that
are transmitted by radio to the
terminal. Currently, all of the river,
lake and rainfall stations throughout
the watershed automatically tele-
meter every 15 minutes reports of
hydrology data taken by the digital
recorders to the terminal in Balboa

During the 30 years prior to 1966,
employees known as "observers"
actually lived at the remote stations to
monitor instruments and report in-
formation to the main office. They
kept in touch by telephone and later
by radio after it was discovered that
phone lines were practically im-
possible to keep up in the jungles.
With telemetry, observers went the
way of pith helmets and white
starched suits, but stories about these
hardy individuals, who lived isolated in
the jungle with only the bare essentials
and the company of the Indians and
sometimes family members, still cir-
Meteorological and Hydrographic
Branch Chief William Shaw likes to tell
a story about one colorful character
named Noon who was known for his
dry humor. It seems that a chief of the
branch was in a boat upriver from
Noon's station when the boat tipped
over, spilling the chief and his gear into
the swiftly flowing stream. At the same
moment, Noon received a call from
the main office inquiring into the
whereabouts of the chief. Looking
upriver and quickly assessing the
situation, Noon calmly replied, "He'll
be along any minute now. His chair
and cushion just floated past the
While digital recorders and the
telemetering system have greatly
facilitated today's data collection,
many aspects of the hydrologist's and
technician's jobs have not changed
over the century. Personnel must still
trek into the jungles to check and
maintain the instruments at the
stations. In addition, they collect data
tapes from river, lake and rainfall
recording instruments on a monthly
basis, and, as the saying goes, getting
there is half the fun.
Because of the remoteness of the
stations, travel accounts for about 20
percent of the branch's field activity.
Four-wheel-drive vehicles, horses,
cayucos, piraguas (a widened cayuco)
and even helicopters are all used to
venture out into the field. The most
frequently used mode of transporta-
tion besides one's own two feet, is the
cayuco, a long narrow boat carved
from a tree trunk and used by the
Indians for centuries. No craft has
been found better suited for navi-
gating jungle rivers.
The Choco Indians provide the Met
and Hyd Branch with unfinished

14 OCTOBER 1, 1981

Just getting to the remote jungle
stations such as the one at
Candelaria, at left, is a challenge
which can involve, opposite page
from bottom, pushing a cayuco
up a rock strewn riverbed or
traveling in four-wheel-drive
vehicles and in helicopters. At
top, river travel is routine for
palanqueros Jose Durango, in
foreground, and Amadeo
Riquelme and for maintenance
leader Doroteo Guerrero, at
rear, who go prepared for
whatever lies ahead.

rough cayucos which branch per-
sonnel then complete. The longest
cayuco used by the branch is 47 feet.
"Palancamen," or pole men, stand in
the bow of the cayuco and guide it with
long poles, though motors are used for
speed and for maneuvering up rapids.
The nature of the work of the Met
and Hyd Branch requires its em-
ployees to spend a great deal of time
out in the watershed. The field office,
located at the north end of Pedro
Miguel Locks, coordinates all field
work and is constantly buzzing with
activity as crews prepare to go out into
or return from the jungles, rivers and
lakes. Crews usually visit each station
twice a month during the dry season,
and the work is often dirty, exhausting
and hazardous. But for every flooding
river, poisonous snake, biting insect
and muddy trail encountered, there
are also the beauties of crystalline
rivers washed in sunshine, unspoiled
tracts of jungle and peaceful solitude.
Members of the Met and Hyd Branch
family seem to thrive on this type of
outdoor activity.
Field crews take along their sup-
plies, since very few provisions are
stocked at the stations and there is no
electricity for refrigeration. The crew
member who is randomly appointed
"cook" must prepare meals over a
small propane-gas stove, and the
concoctions devised range from di-
sastrous to delicious. Sancocho, a
hearty soup made out of whatever is
available, is the traditional fare for
lunch. One group, however, found a
little something extra in their bowls


athr rhe cook unknowingly boiled
n urnlrtunate lizard who fell into
ih-, uncovered pot. As one man said,
"Ih t .eren't for the claws and tail
dished out with the meat and
vegetables, cooky might have gotten
away with it."
Because Panama's climate is di-
vided into a dry and rainy season, the
branch's work is seasonal. Most
repairs and painting of stations and
equipment and the clearing of trails
into the jungle are scheduled for the
dry months. As the rainy season, or
flood season, approaches, the branch
gears up for the added responsibilities,
tasks and worries which the torrential
rains and swollen rivers bring.
The heavy rains that normally occur
from October until late December or
early January are vital to the operation
of the Canal because they help to fill
Gatun and Madden lakes. While these
lake levels must be kept as high as
possible during the rainy season in
anticipation of the dry season, there is
always a very real danger of flooding.
A flood hydrologist is on duty at all
times during the flood season to
forecast runoff and river and lake
levels. During this period, appear-
ances can be deceiving; the sun may
be shining over Balboa while deluges
over the watershed are creating flood
conditions. In the flood season, field
crews spend a week at each river
station every month to physically
measure the flow of water past the
station. River gauging cannot be done
by self-recording instruments. The
task requires a person to go out in a
gauging car suspended over the river
on a cable. When this is done at night
over a rapidly rising river, the job takes

Although the design of the
gouging cor, ot right and top
center, has improved over the
century, its function remains the
some. Polanquero Emilio
Valencio, opposite page,
balances himself in a gouging
car while preparing to lower o
current meter into the swollen
river to measure the flow of
water. Above left, hydrological
technician Ed Armbruster mokes
o delicate adjustment to a digital
recorder, workhorse of the doto
collection system.

on an added dimension of danger.
When lake elevations reach a
critical level, Met and Hyd personnel
direct the spilling operations at Gatun
and Miraflores spillways and at
Madden Dam to safely discharge any
flood waters which could damage
locks machinery and Canal facilities.
Each year the Meteorological and
Hydrographic Branch holds a flood
control exercise within the Com-
mission to assure that the appropriate
personnel are informed and prepared
in the event of a real flood that could
necessitate closing the Canal.
The mighty Chagres River, which
presented such a formidable challenge
to the builders of the Panama Canal,
provides most of the huge volume of

water necessary to operate the locks.
The course of the Canal through
Gatun Lake follows the Chagres
riverbed. The Chagres, however, is
also the greatest source of flooding.
Hydrologists never underestimate the
awesome potential of this powerful
river, which can rise as much as 15 feet
per hour during heavy rains.
In 1966, the Chagres was running
high enough to wash out the gauging
car cable hanging 43 feet above
normal river level at the Chico River
station. A hydrologist who was at the
station described a sound like roaring
thunder as the river rushed by with a
force strong enough to shake the
station and frightening enough to send
him scurrying for higher ground.



* .1J-


18 OCTOBER 1, 1981

Data collection in the field
involves a wide range of
activities and personalities;
opposite page, supervisory
hydrologist Frank Robinson
visits the Agua Salud study area;
above left, hydrologist Luis
Alvarado immerses himself in
the survey of riverbed levels
while, above right, a gaily
bedecked Gloria Bazcorizo, a
Choco Indian, signs her monthly
pay slip from the branch for
collecting sediment samples in
the river.

In addition to its regular duties, the
Met and Hyd Branch conducts special
projects such as the Agua Salud study
area, a five-square-mile area in the
middle of the Madden-Gatun water-
shed with physical characteristics that
make it representative of the entire
area. Instruments set up on this tract
of land collect data such as rainfall,
streamflow, soil moisture and eva-
poration that will be used to establish

the parameters for a special computer
model. Once the computer model has
been adjusted to accurately represent
conditions in the Madden-Gatun
watershed, the branch hopes to use it
as a tool to forecast stream flows and
resulting lake levels faster, more
reliably and less subjectively.
Another project that will reap future
benefits for the Canal operation is a
sedimentation study currently under-
way to collect data on the nature and
amount of sediment in the river
channels. Much of this sediment is
washed downstream and deposited in
Madden Lake, thus affecting the lake's
water storage capacity.
In addition to their own sampling,
Met and Hyd personnel have enlisted
the aid of Indians and village school
teachers to periodically collect sedi-
ment samples from the rivers and turn
them over to field crews passing by on
their way to river stations. With the
data gathered from the project, the
branch can better predict the future
availability of water.

While the Meteorological and Hy-
drographic Branch's mission to man-
age the water supply of the Panama
Canal is unique, it does cooperate
with and exchange information, pro-
fessional opinions and technical as-
sistance with its counterparts in the
United States and Panama, including
the U.S. Geological Survey, the U.S.
Weather Service and Panama's Re-
newable Natural Resources Bureau
(RENARE), the Institute of Hydraulic
Resources and Electrification (IRHE)
and the National Institute of Water
and Sewerage Systems (IDAAN).
The Met and Hyd Branch seems
blessed with high morale and a special
camaraderie among its members.
Some branch personnel attribute this
to the sheer enjoyment derived from
their work, with its wide variety of
duties and working environments. But
more than just the pleasure of the
work is the recognition of the vital role
which the branch plays in the
successful operation of the Panama


Beauty in Two Sizes

The Resplendent


and the

Harpy Eagle

1 1
Quetzal watercolor "
by Lois Morgan

Sforests of western Chiriqui Pro-
vince, one can catch a rare glimpse of
a fabled creature once deified by
ancient civilizations. Magnificent in its
glittering plumage of green and
crimson, the resplendent quetzal has
been linked to human history for
Also known locally as the "guaco,"
the resplendent quetzal belongs to the
trogon family, brilliantly colored, so-
litary birds that inhabit the tropical
forests of the Americas, Asia and
Africa. While members of this family
are not often spotted by backyard
bird-watchers, since trogons avoid
establishing habitats near townsites
and people, they are, nevertheless,
quite numerous in Panama. However,
the resplendent quetzal, thought by
many to be one of the most beautiful
birds in the world, is becoming
increasingly scarce.
Although most trogons are devoid
of ornamental plumes, the male
quetzal is an outstanding exception.
This bird owes much of its fame to the
elongated plumes which extend over
and beyond the tip of its tail. The two
central plumes of this "tail covert" are
much longer than the bird's body. An
iridescent golden-green, they measure
from 15 to 30 inches long and take
about three years to grow to their full
The feathers of the resplendent
quetzal are loosely attached to the
bird's body and come out easily. It has
been reported that a male quetzal will
take flight from a branch by lifting off
of it backwards rather than forwards
to avoid pulling the delicate tail
coverts over the rough wood. The
female quetzal, like the females of
most other bird species, is not nearly
as striking as her dazzling mate. She
lacks the long, graceful tail coverts,
and her coloration is much duller.
Quetzals, like woodpeckers, nest in
holes in decaying tree trunks. This
arrangement does not seem to
present a problem to the male quetzal,
who enters the nest and apparently
sits so that its tail is held upright
against the rear wall with the long tail
coverts continuing upward and over
its head so that the tips extend out the
entrance. Quetzals have been ob-
served, however, with broken and
damaged tail coverts, perhaps as a
result of this nesting position.
(Continued on page 22)

OCTOBER 1, 1981

is the habitat for one of the
most beautiful birds in the world, the
tropical lowlands and mountains of
the Darien represent one of the last
refuges for the largest and most
powerful eagle on earth, the harpy
This magnificent bird of prey was
reported to be fairly common in
Panama over 100 years ago, and
sightings of harpies were once rec-
orded on Barro Colorado Island and in
Pacora. La Campana, Fort Sherman
and Puerto Obaldia in the San Blas.
Today, it takes the determination of
an ardent bird-watcher to get a
glimpse of a harpy. Hunting and
extensive habitat destruction have
driven them to the most inaccessible
areas, where they make their nests in
the tallest trees, usually well over 100
feet high.
For Dr. Nathan Gale, a veterinarian
and past president of the Panama
Audubon Society, getting a look at a
harpy eagle in the wild meant flying to
the isolated Darien town of El Real,
traveling upriver from there by cayuco
for two days, then scaling the rugged
Tacarcuna Mountains, where per-
sistence finally paid off.
Although the jungles of Panama are
alive with brilliantly colored birds, the
harpy eagle is an exception, sedately
clothed in gray, black and white. The
back, wings, tail, neck and head are
varying shades of gray, while the
breast feathers are white and the
undersides of the wings are white with
horizontal gray bars. Toward the back
of its head an adult harpy boasts a
double crest of dark feathers which,
when raised, gives the eagle a

particularly fierce appearance. What
the harpy lacks in coloration, it more
than makes up for in brute strength.
The word harpy comes from the
Greek "harpyiai," which means
"snatchers." In classical mythology,
harpies were fearsome creatures,
usually represented by vulture-like
birds with female faces. A harpy eagle
sweeping through the branches at 40
to 50 miles per hour to snatch a
monkey or sloth from a tree with its
razor-sharp talons is worthy of its
Like most birds of prey, the female
is larger than her mate, in this case,
about one third larger. An adult female
weighs up to twenty pounds and is
approximately three feet long. A wing
span of from 51/2 to 7 feet makes the
harpy a powerful and agile flyer, but it
rarely navigates in the open sky.
Instead, the eagle deftly maneuvers in
and above the jungle canopy while
looking for prey in the treetops.
Besides sloths and monkeys, the
harpy's quarry includes opossums,
coatimundis, porcupines, snakes and,
at times, large birds such as macaws.
The eagle's huge and powerful feet

Its distinctive double crest
raised, the male harpy at the
Panama City racetrack zoo
patiently sits for a portrait. The
harpy photos which accompany
this story were shot by T. G.
Kaye Richey, seen below
finishing up his assignment as
the eagle's trainer keeps a sharp

with their three-inch talons usually
mean instant death to unwary prey.
Dr. Gale has had a wealth of
experience with this awesome bird.
He once kept an injured female harpy
in his backyard while trying to locate a
suitable residence for it. A part of one
wing had been shot away by a hunter
in Santa Fe in the Darien Province,
and the hunter was subsequently
trying to sell the bird. Hearing about
the harpy's plight, Dr. Gale chartered
a plane and flew to Santa Fe with plans
to buy the eagle, repair its wing, and
then get the bird into a captive-
breeding program. During the trip
(Continued on page 23)


Resplendent Quetzal

(Continued from page 20)
To the ancient Toltec and Mayan
tribes in Mexico and Central America,
the quetzal was revered as Quet-
zalcoatl, the god of creation and
fertility. With the Aztecs, reverence
for the quetzal reached its peak.
Quetzalcoatl comes from the Aztec
word "quetzalli," meaning "precious
feather" and "coatl" meaning
"snake," thus, the god was also known
as the plumed serpent. Over the
years, Quetzalcoatl emerged into a
god with human form who adorned
himself with the beautiful plumes of
the quetzal. To the Indians, these
plumes became coveted objects
whose use was limited by law to
royalty and nobility. Aztec law also
made it illegal to kill a quetzal, and the
Indians were supposed to capture the
bird alive, remove the tail coverts and
then release the bird so that it could
grow another set.
Some historians think that the myth
of Quetzalcoatl was largely respon-
sible for the defeat of the Aztecs by the
Spanish explorer HernAn Cortes, who
conquered Mexico in the early 1500s.
Montezuma, the Aztec emperor,
believed that Cortes was the god
Quetzalcoatl incarnate returning to
his people as had been prophesied in a
legend. Cortes, who placed quetzal
plumes on his helmet, was received
with honors; and by the time the
Aztecs realized their mistake, he and
his men had captured the city.
Indian legend also offers an ex-
planation for the intensity and con-
trast of coloration of the male quetzal,
with its crested head, upper plumage
and chest of iridescent green, and
lower breast and belly of deep
The Mayans believed that after the
Spanish conquistador Pedro de Al-
varado and his mercenaries had slain
over 20,000 Mayas on the battlefield of
Quetzaltenango (an area of Gua-
temala with a Mayan name meaning
"place of Quetzals"), the quetzals flew
to the earth and covered the dead
Indians with their green feathers. The
birds soaked up the blood of the dead
and have been crimson on the
underside ever since.
After the Spanish conquest, the
quetzal was hunted relentlessly and

became so rare that some Europeans
considered it a legendary bird that
never really existed. The quetzal was
rediscovered by Europeans in the
nineteenth century and its skins were
sent to Europe to collectors and to be
used in fashions. Although today the
quetzal is protected by law in some
countries, such as Panama, its num-
bers are still decreasing due to the
continued hunting of the bird for its
plumes and the destruction of the
bird's natural habitat as forests are cut
down for farming and pastureland.
It is ironic that the quetzal, the
national bird of Guatemala and the
name of that country's monetary unit,
is far more numerous in Panama than
in Guatemala, since the destruction of
the original forest over Guatemala's
central highlands has resulted in the
quetzal's near total disappearance
from that area.
Most sightings of the quetzal in
Panama have been in western Chi-
riqui, but the bird has also been
spotted in Bocas del Toro, eastern
Chiriqui and Veraguas. Scientists and
amateur bird-watchers alike travel to
these areas to observe this rare bird,
since, with a little hiking and perhaps
the help of a local guide, the quetzal's
habitat is usually accessible.

One of the better-known areas for
seeing the quetzal is on the Fernandez
farm in Cerro Punta near El VolcAn in
Chiriqui. The family has reserved a
part of their farm for the birds and for a
small fee will take people to the area.
The government of Panama has also
set aside the Volcan Bari area, a
favorite habitat of the quetzal, as a
national park.
The quetzal, once thought to guide
the destiny of an entire civilization,
today must allow its own destiny to be
determined by human kind.

Above, even though few quetzals
remain in Guatemala today, the
quetzal motif continues to be
popular in fabric and jewelry
designs, as well as appearing on
Guatemalan money, which is
named for this lovely bird.
Opposite, the gentle
inquisitiveness of the harpy's
face can be deceiving, but there
is no mistaking the deadly
potential of the powerful talons.

OCTOBER 1, 1981

Harpy Eagle

(Continued from page 21)
home, he placed a sack over the
struggling bird to keep its head and
wings immobile and held the eagle on
his lap, grasping its legs to keep the
deadly feet motionless. "The worst
thing I could imagine was that I would
be cooped up in a small airplane with a
harpy eagle loose," Dr. Gale re-
It isn't easy to have an extra mouth
or beak to feed, especially when it
consumes two to three pounds of
meat a day. Dr. Gale relates that
sympathetic Panama Canal police
officers often left bags on his doorstep
containing wild animals which had
been killed on the road. When
roadkills were not available, he fed the
voracious bird two pounds of beef
kidneys daily. Although the harpy
eagle learned to recognize Dr. Gale,
like all wild birds of prey it never
became tame.
The female harpy now resides at the
zoo located on the grounds of Panama
City's racetrack, Hip6dromo Pre-
sidente Rem6n. Along with a male
harpy obtained from a man in the
VolcAn area, it is housed in a special
20- by 40-foot cage. There are plans to
move both birds into a larger cage at
Parque Nacional Soberania (Summit
Gardens), where they will be cared for
by Panama's Renewable Natural
Resources Conservation Agency.
Dr. Gale's experience with the
harpy eagle actually began prior to his
coming to Panama. While serving as
the assistant director of the Los
Angeles Zoo, he and some colleagues
collaborated with the movie industry
in the production of a film entitled
"Harpy." The zoo sponsored the
movie company's purchase of two
harpy eagles, a male and a female, to
star in the film. The plot centers
around a man, played by actor Hugh
O'Brian, who wants to do away with
his wife. He comes up with the
ingenious and sinister scheme of using
a great harpy eagle to do the job. The
bird is trained to attack a wig, which he
later presents to his wife as a gift.
Unfortunately for her, a harpy eagle
rarely misses its prey.
The two harpy eagles were trained
for the movie in the arid Mojave
Desert of eastern California. The birds

became the zoo's property after the
filming was completed, but there was
one problem: the harpies had learned
to attack so well that they became
unapproachable. Frank Todd, a friend
of Dr. Gale and the former curator of
birds at the Los Angeles Zoo, made
the mistake of climbing on top of the
eagles' chain link cage to get a look at a
newborn chick, the first ever born in
captivity. He was attacked through
the fence by the male harpy, and
extensive surgery was required on his
face where the talons had struck him.
The harpy's regal if not fearsome

appearance, as well as its tremendous
power, make it a very impressive
creature. According to research by
Julian Chan, a historian with Pan-
ama's Government Tourist Bureau,
the harpy eagle is recognized un-
officially as the national bird of
The power and beauty personified
by the harpy eagle and the quetzal
make them two of Panama's more
remarkable birds. For as long as the
Isthmian forests and jungles remain
intact, these birds also will survive to
awe and inspire future generations.


de ca cittdad 4AL 19P011UMU

OCTOBER 1, 1981

4 Palacio Pr.-ler ci jl
Presidential It'.a :e

6. Teatro \nlii.rlc j
National Thejarre

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8. Palacio de Justicia
Palace of Justice

9 Plaza de Francia
French Plaza


7. Iglesia de Santo D.,rr ,riLi
Church of Santo 1.ni.iis ..



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sightseeing in Panama City and
venture off the beaten path into that
part of Central Avenue beyond Santa
Ana Plaza, you'll find yourself in the
San Felipe section, also known as the
"Casco Viejo." Here, if you know
where to look, you can step three
centuries into Panama's past. Unlike
the historic ruins of Old Panama and
Fort San Lorenzo, life has gone on in
the Casco Viejo, and history lives
alongside hanging laundry, laughing
children, and noisy neighbors.
For the Casco Viejo, which trans-
lates into "Old Shell," is the site upon
which the present city had its
beginnings. Situated on the tip of a
peninsula that juts out into the Bay of
Panama, the Casco Viejo was the
central setting for the second period of
Panamanian history, which began
with the moving of the city from Old
Panama after it was reduced to ashes
during the attack of the pirate Henry
Morgan in 1671.
Located a short drive or walk
farther down Central Avenue from the
downtown commercial section of
Panama City, the area includes
Cathedral Plaza, the National Theatre
and the French Plaza. If you want to
walk there from Central Avenue, you
can recognize Santa Ana Plaza by its
thousand shoeshine boys and the men
discussing politics. Central Avenue
exits Santa Ana to the left of the
"Coca Cola" cafe, passes the head-
quarters of Citibank, narrows at La
Merced Church and opens again as it
enters the heart of the Casco Viejo:
Cathedral Plaza, dominated by the
cathedral's twin towers encrusted
with mother of pearl.
Narrow streets lined with pastel-
painted houses; balconies bearing
occasional cascades of flowers; tree-
shaded plazas; thick stone arches;
weathered stone ruins; a carved
wooden altar totally overlaid in gold

gn the Casco Viejo,
flower-bedecked balconies offer
shade from the tropical sun.

leaf-all these and more survive in the
Casco Viejo to tell the story of the
tumultuous history of Panama as it
grew from a small walled city into the
crossroads of the world.
Currently, renovation work is un-
derway on many of the historical
buildings in the Casco Viejo and the
neighborhood is taking on a new
brightness. However, much of the
area is yet in disrepair, and the streets
are never as clean as we would like
them to be. But the people of the
Casco Viejo, many of whose one room
combination living-dining-bedrooms
are fully visible to the passerby, keep a
lookout over what goes on in the
street and are always ready to offer
directions and a friendly smile.
On a quick tour of the area the
careless glance will note only that this

is an old section, and not much more.
But given an hour or two for a leisurely
stroll, you can trace the path of
Panama's growth from a province of
Spain's viceroyalty of Nueva Gra-
nada, to a state and later a department
of the Republic of Colombia, and
finally, following its separation from
Colombia in 1903, to the independent
republic we know today.
The move to a new site had become
necessary when Morgan's attack on
Old Panama convinced the city
fathers that the 150-year-old site was
The original Spanish settlements on
the Isthmus were on the Atlantic
coast, called the "Castilla de Oro," at
Nombre de Dios and Porto Bello.
Vasco Nfiiez de Balboa crossed the
Isthmus in 1513 and there, standing
"silent, upon a peak in Darien," first
saw the Pacific, which lay to the south,
and called it the "South Sea." Walking
into its waters, he claimed all that
bordered the sea for the monarchs of
Shortly thereafter Pedro Arias de
Avila, also known as Pedrarias Davila,
another Spanish explorer and Bal-
boa's rival for power on the Isthmus,
had Balboa beheaded and became the
undisputed leader of Castilla de Oro.
Pedrarias then decided that he needed
a city on the Pacific coast with a
suitable harbor that would serve as a
base for transisthmian traffic from the
lands he hoped to discover further
Thus on August 15, 1519, the feast
day of Our Lady of the Assumption,
the first City of Panama was founded.
In the next century and a half it
became one of the principal cities of
the New World, growing to a
population of 10,000. Pedrarias' fore-
sight was confirmed as the Isthmus
became the chief route for travel and
shipment of treasure from all of Latin
America south of Mexico, and Pan-


Commission employees Alida de
Obaldia Emerick, great-grand-
daughter of the second president of
Panama, and her husband, Robert,
begin a walking tour through the
Casco Viejo at the French Plaza, at
right. Below, while there they
examine one of the plaques
honoring the French canal
construction effort. Later, at far
right, they view the Golden Altar,
carved four centuries ago and
embellished with dazzling gold leaf.

ama became one of Spain's leading
trade centers. But finally, the very
wealth of the city, symbolized by its
reputation as the "City of Gold,"
became a temptation to Morgan and
brought on its destruction.
Authority to rebuild a new city at
another site was quickly given by the
reigning queen of Spain, Mariana of
Austria. Construction was begun near
the base of Ancon Hill, with plans for a
great wall surrounding the city, a moat
across the peninsula and cannon
guarding both the sea and land
approaches. The official transfer of
the city to its new site was made on
January 21, 1673.
One good place to begin a walking
tour of the Casco Viejo is the French
Plaza, at the southern tip of the
peninsula. This plaza, dedicated to the
French effort to build a sea-level canal,
is bounded by part of the original
seawall. Vaults, or "b6vedas," in the
seawall give this section of the wall its
old name, "Las B6vedas." Up until the
early 1900s, this area was a fort and
the vaults were used as jails, primarily
for prisoners sentenced for minor
crimes. The legend that there is a
deeper set of vaults into which
prisoners were put to be drowned by
the rising tide lacks any basis in fact.
Placed within a colonnade in the
seawall are twelve marble plaques
inscribed with a history of the French
Canal construction years and the
names of distinguished individuals
who served in that effort.

OCTOBER 1, 1981


J- ---- ---n




In the plaza stands Ihe while, neo
classical Palace of Justice. with the
words "IVSTITIA" and "LEX," Latin
for justice and "law," chiseled inio
the upper front .vall Part ol the palace
once housed Panama's Congress and
today I is the home of the Supreme
Court of Panama and other lesser
Above the vaulls is the seawall
promenade At one time the wall
streiched its arms along the shore.
then joined and closed off the city at
10th Street. where there ,.as, a gale
called the "pueria de sierra" I he land
gate through which the city com-
municaied ,'ith the outside.
The "pueria de tierra" gave access
io a drawbridge that spanned the
moat The city became an island ever.'
night when. at the 9 o'clock curfew,
the bridge was drawn up and no more
:railic was allowed through
The wall around the city stood 20 to
30 leet high and was 10 to 13 feel thick
Along the wall were 15 sentry boxes.
Part of one of the Iwo bastions that
defended the "pueria de tierra" sll
remains Known as the "baluarle de
Jesuis" IThe Baslion ol Jesus), it can
be seen at 10th Street near A Avenue

About three blocks west of the
French Plaza at the corner of Fourth
Street and A Avenue. are the ruins of
one ol the first churches built in the
new cil', the Church of Santo
Domingo In this church the first
Bishop of Panama and Diocesan
Prelate Lucas Fernandez Piedrahiia
celebrated the first pontilical mass for

the young city of Panama. Over the
sears, the church was destroyed by
fire several times and subsequent.
rebuilt After the Colombian govern
ment divested the Church of its
belongings, Santo Domingo was put
up for auction in 1857. sold, and
eventually' ell into disrepair
Inside the ruins of Santo Domingo is

.....I ....

. . .

* -.. --. -*:-.-- j

OCTOBER 1, 1981

.i**ii~i;~ii;iii;.;.........;;;;;;;; ...

the famous flat arch. Built without a
keystone and with the slightest of
curves, the arch has held for over two
centuries and was instrumental in the
decision to make Panama the location
for a canal to unite the Atlantic and
Pacific oceans. Engineers accepted
the arch as proof that Panama, unlike
other Central American nations, was
free from the threat of earthquakes.
Next to the Church of Santo
Domingo is a small side chapel, built
many years later, that now serves as
the Museum of Religious Colonial Art.
Worth noting in the museum is the
hand-carved, polichrome, wooden
statue of Our Lady of the Rosary.
Considered miraculous by many of
the faithful, the statue is a relic of the
first city of Panama. Every October on
the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary a
mass in her honor is said in the
Farther west of Santo Domingo, on
the corner of Ninth Street, is the San
Jose Church, also known as the
Church of the Golden Altar. It is a
favorite tourist attraction.
The altar came from an earlier
church built by the Augustinian
Recollect Fathers in the first city of
Panama. Legend has it that it was
saved from Morgan by a certain
Brother Joseph, who covered the
altar with tar and then had the
temerity to ask Morgan for a chari-
table donation to help finish its
construction. Morgan is said to have
exclaimed, "This brother is more of a
pirate than I!" and then to have given
the amount requested.
The church was later used as a
school and finally abandoned until
priests of the Augustinian order,
which had been banned from the
country along with other religious
orders by the Colombian government
in 1833, were allowed to return to take
over the church in 1898.
They began work on restoring the
church and in particular the ornately
carved altar, which they covered in
gold leaf. Considered an especially
lovely work of art, the altar is totally
creole in construction, i.e., made by
Central American artisans using local
motifs such as vines and flowers.
As is customary with Spanish cities,
at the center of the Casco Viejo is a
plaza where the cathedral and govern-
ment buildings were constructed. It is

Sculptures of angels grace the Justice, Bob and Alida stroll along
cupola of the beautiful San the seawall promenade in the
Francisco Church in the Sim6n French Plaza, where 17th century
Bolivar Plaza, above. Opposite page: soldiers once made their rounds,
Above, in mute testimony to the skill ever vigilant for pirate attacks.
of artisans of yesteryear, the flat
arch, once the support for a choir
loft in the Santo Domingo Church,
still holds after two centuries.
Below, not far from the Palace of


known alternatively as Independence for over a century before it was
Plaza, because it was the site of completed. The cathedral has one
Panama's declaration of indepen- center nave, four lateral naves and
dence from Colombia in 1903, and as two towers encrusted with mother.of-
Cathedral Plaza. pearl from the Perlas Islands. The bells
The first stone of the cathedral was in the towers are considered to have a
laid in 1688, and work on its particularly beautiful tone and still ring
construction continued sporadically out today calling the faithful to mass.

Next to the cathedral are the ruins
of the Jesuit convent and college.
Completed in 1751, the University of
San Javier was short lived, however,
as the Jesuits were expelled from
Panama less than 20 years later. The
building was burned in a fire in 1781,
and the ruins that can now be seen on
A Avenue are all that is left of one of
the oldest universities in the Amer-
Also in the plaza, on the south side,
stands what was originally the Grand
Hotel. It was built in 1875 with a
mansard roof, a sign of the French
influence of the times. Bought by the
French Canal Company, the building
served as their canal-construction
administration building until the
United States acquired it along with all
the other assets of the French Canal
Company for forty million dollars. The
Isthmian Canal Commission, the U.S.
Government agency responsible for
construction of the Panama Canal,
used the building as its first head-
quarters. It now serves as the Zone
One post office building of Panama.
Next to the post office is the
Municipal Palace. On this very spot
stood the old "cabildo" (town hall),
where Panama's independence from
Spain was declared in 1821 and from
Colombia in 1903. The original struc-
ture was demolished and replaced by
the present neo-classical building in
1910. It not only serves as the
assembly hall of the Panama City
Municipal Council, but also houses
the offices of the Panamanian Acad-
emy of History and the Museum of
History, which has many exhibits,
including a 1596 map of the city of
Portobelo, in addition to other maps
and documents of historical interest.
Directly across from the cathedral
stands the Hotel Central. Built in the
1880s, its first owners were the
Erhman brothers, members of a
prominent Panamanian family of
French origin. The wooden hotel has
seen better days. Once its guests were
gold prospectors traveling to and from
California; agents of the French Canal
Construction Company; and in later
years, employees of the Isthmian
Canal Commission. In the cafe of the
hotel, political and social leaders of
Panama often met to discuss issues of
the day. Today it hosts occasional
tourists of modest means, and all that
is left to remind one of the hotel's
former charm and gaiety is the original


gn the picturesque Sim6n Bolivar
Plaza, at top left, stands a
monument to the famous South
American liberator. At top right, the
wooden staircase is the only
reminder of the Hotel Central's
former splendor. Above, once the
Union Club, this building is now a
club for the National Guard.
Opposite page: Above, the cathedral

towers, encrusted with mother-of-
pearl, glisten in the sunlight. Below
(left), shade trees and benches offer
a place to sit and rest in the
Cathedral Plaza. Below (right), this
post office once served as the
administration building for the
French canal company.

-he Emericks pause at one of the
refurbished private residences in the
Casco Viejo, at right. Then it's on to
the Presidential Palace, below,
where graceful herons give an
elegant air to the palace courtyard,
at far right. Opposite page: The tour
ends with a stop at the National
Theatre, where the magnificent
doors at the entrance only hint at
the opulence of the interior.

staircase in the main lobby.
Two blocks north ol the plaza, on
5th Street, is the Presidential Palace.
The palace was built by Judge Luis de
Lozada Quifiones, one of the two
members of the "Real Audiencia"
(Royal Court) present in Panama
when the governor unexpectedly died
in 1673. The judge did not hesitate in
taking over the reins of government.
Lozada decided to build a com-
bination home and office at the best
point in the city. He commandeered
materials sent from Spain for the
construction of the new city, diverted
funds sent from Peru for the same
purpose, seized slaves who had been
assigned to the construction of the
defense moats and used them all to
build his own home.
Constructed of hewn stone, the
house was larger than any other of the
time. It had sufficient space to store

the gold brought from southern ports,
as well as goods on their way from
Spain to the merchants of the
southern colonies, and its location
enabled the judge to keep a sharp eye
on ships trading with Peru.
The City Council complained to the
king of this abuse of public funds and
labor, adding that Lozada was too
busy building his own house to take
care of public matters.
Charles II, in response to the
complaints, placed the Bishop of
Panama in charge of the government;
but it was not until Lozada's death that
the building passed out of his control
and became the Pacific Customs
Later, the building was used as a
storehouse and for a few years it was a
school. Finally, in 1875, it was set aside
as the residence for the Colombian
governors of the Department of

Panama, and from 1903 on, for the
president of the newly independent
republic. In 1922, President Belisario
Porras ordered the refurbishing that
gave it the Moorish characteristics
that it now has.
In the palace today are a number of
beautiful staterooms decorated with
murals by the Panamanian artist
Roberto Lewis, and on the third floor
is a penthouse, occupied by the
president and his family. But most
impressive is the patio just inside the
entrance to the palace, with its small
fountain and its pillars encrusted with
mother-of-pearl. Since 1922, live her-
ons have moved gracefully about the
fountain in the patio, giving the edifice
a second name, the Palace of the
Southeast of the palace, on a small
plaza on 3rd Street, stands the Bolivar
Institute, a coeducational high school.

32 OCTOBER 1, 1981

In this building, originally the San
Francisco Convent, is the room where
the "Sociedad Bolivariana meets.
This room, recently restored, was the
seat of the Panama Congress or-
ganized by Sim6n Bolivar in 1826. A
ceremony here in 1956, attended by
President Eisenhower and the heads
ol government of all the Latin
American nations, commemorated
that congress.
Bolivar, considered the father of the
independence of South America from
Spain, called the congress to discuss
the formation of a union of Hispanic-
American states. Although Bolivar
S himself did not attend and the
congress was unsuccessful, his ideals
are still alive today and considered the
hope of the future by many Latin
American nations. In the small,
charming park in front of the institute
is a statue of Bolivar, notable not only


for its beauty but also because it is said
to be the only such monument in Latin
America that depicts Bolivar in civilian
One block over from the Bolivar
Institute is the National Theatre. Built
in 1907, the theatre was recently
completely restored and has an
elegant beauty. The structure is neo-
baroque and the interior is decorated
in gilt and red velvet, with ceiling
murals painted by Roberto Lewis. The
theatre has excellent acoustics and
five levels that seat 995 people.
The National Theatre faces the sea.
Two blocks to the south is the French
Plaza, where we began. The entire
Casco Viejo is not much more than
ten blocks by five blocks square.
The current renovation program
being carried out by Panama's Insti-
tute of Tourism includes reinforcing
foundations and restoring decorative

and structural elements of buildings
and ruins. Where needed, walls are
being injected with epoxy cement for
strength, while others are being
covered with a special sealing material
for protection against the elements.
Plans call for jasmine and lemon trees
to be planted in renovated parks, in
addition to eventual illumination of
these historical sites.
At an approximate cost of $2.5
million, the project is meant not only
to beautify the Casco Viejo but also,
and primarily, to preserve the his-
torical buildings and plazas that recall
Panama's varied and fascinating past.
For the city's past as a crossroads
for enormous wealth, gold and mer-
chandise of all kinds three hundred
years ago augured the role Panama
plays today as the crossroads of the
world, with the ships and goods of
many nations transiting the Canal.


China Trade and the Panama Canal

Story and photographs

by Willie K. Friar

by tankers that shuttle Alaska
North Slope oil through the Panama
Canal, and her cargo was small
compared to the payloads aboard the
giant containerships that tower over
the locks.
Still, the Wumen, a 475-foot-long,
66-foot-beam general cargo ship,
attracted attention at the Canal. She
flies the flag of the People's Republic of
China (PRC) and transits by vessels
under this flag were rare occurrences
prior to last year, with the number
ranging from zero in the early 1970's to
a maximum of one per year in fiscal
year 1977. In fiscal year 1980,
however, Chinese-flag transits in-
creased to 29, nearly 300 percent over
the prior year, and in 1981 that
number is expected to more than
double to approximately 65 transits.
Even more important has been the
increase in Canal trade moving to and
from China in all vessels, regardless of
flag. That trade rose from less than 1
million long tons annually in fiscal
years 1976 and 1977 to 3.2 million long
tons in fiscal year 1979, jumping to 8
million tons in fiscal year 1980. This
year cargo originating in or destined
for China will likely exceed 11 million
long tons, accounting for nearly 6.5
percent of all Canal trade.
Two events have been instrumental
in causing the increase in China's use
of the Panama Canal. One has been
the tremendous growth in the size of
the Chinese merchant fleet and the
other was the implementing of United
States-China trade agreements in
The Chinese-flag merchant marine
has grown from some 250 vessels,
totalling about 1.2 million deadweight
tons in 1970, to over 850 vessels and
nearly 7 million deadweight tons
today. Additionally, ships controlled
by the People's Republic of China, but
registered in Hong Kong and else-
where, are believed to total 2 million-
plus deadweight tons and, last year,

OCTOBER 1, 1981


Carrying cargo
to China

In centerfold, two People's Republic
of China vessels pass through Pedro
Miguel Locks July 28, transporting
U.S. wheat from New Orleans to
China. The Yunghai, which carried
31,966 long tons, paid $26,898 in tolls;
and the Huoyong, shown entering the
left chamber with a cargo of 24,388
long tons, paid $22,718. At left
(above), after passing through the
Canal, the Wumen lies at anchor in
the Huangpu River, having completed
a voyage halfway around the world.
She transited October 23, carrying
general cargo from Houston, Tex.
and Jacksonville and Panama City,
Fla. Agent at the Canal for the
Wumen and all COSCO ships is
Pacific Ford, S.A. Aided by a tug, the
U.S. flag ship, Pride of Texas, at left,
moves through the Canal en route to
China with 34,430 long tons of wheat.
Owned by the Connecticut Bank and
Trust Company, the vessel is repre-
sented at the Canal by Boyd Bros.
Steamship Agencies, Ltd.


the country had a further 1-1.5 million
deadweight tons on charter.
A significant part of that tonnage is
being utilized in China's trade through
the Panama Canal, primarily to and
from the United States. Trade be-
tween the United States and China
has increased sharply since the
implementation of bilateral trade
agreements between the two coun-
tries in 1980. Among the most
publicized features of the arrange-
ments were the extension of most
favored nation (MFN) status to China
and the grain trade agreement.
Together these agreements have
resulted in China becoming the fourth
largest market in the world for U.S.
agricultural products.
The United States-China grain
agreement committed China to pur-
chase and the United States to supply
from 6 million to 9 million metric tons
of wheat and corn annually, over the
four years beginning January 1, 1981.
China can purchase more than 9
million metric tons, but must notify the
U.S. Government before doing so.
U.S. grain has been shipped to
China since the resumption of trade
between those countries in 1972, but
the annual volume has fluctuated



(long tons)

W heat .......................................... 2,730,653
Corn .................. ......................... 1,264,508
Soybeans ........................................ 846,302
Sugar ........................................... 435,957
C otton .......................................... 360,010
Phosphates ...................................... 284,759
Manufactures of iron and steel .................. .. 227,224
Paper and products ................................ 210,901
A ll other ........................................ 646,569
Total cargo to China ............................ 7,006,883
O res ............................................ 596,195
G gasoline ........................................ 315,614
All other ................... ................ . 91,511
Total cargo from China .................. ...... 1,003,320
Total cargo to and from China ...................... 8,010,203
Total Canal commercial cargo ......................... 167,214,955
Percent of total Canal commercial cargo ................ 4.8%

widely from no grain in some years to
approximately 4 million tons in fiscal
year 1974 and 4.8 million in 1980.
Through nine months of fiscal year
1981, grain trade to China through the
Panama Canal has totalled some 5.2
million long tons and is expected to
reach approximately 6.5 million tons
by year-end.
The grain agreement regulates
trade between the two countries, thus
assuring a sustained high level of
movement through the Canal. Fur-
thermore, increases beyond the
amounts guaranteed by the agree-
ment could occur. Under the terms of
the agreement, 80-85 percent of the
grain is wheat, while only 15-20
percent is corn. Since corn is used
primarily as a feed grain for animals,
this low proportion of corn to wheat
suggests no major increase in imports
for feed purposes is planned for the
next several years; but if the Chinese
diet changes to include more meat (as
has the Japanese diet in the last few
decades), corn purchases from the
United States could rise sharply in the
years ahead.
China's continuing growth in popu-
lation, which is now close to one billion
people, could mean an increased
demand not only for agricultural
commodities but for other United
States exports as well, depending on
future political and economic develop-
ments in China.
The United States Department of
Commerce, recognizing China as a
potential market for U.S. equipment
and technology, sponsored the U.S.
National Exhibition in Peking in
November 1981. This exhibition gave
American firms the first opportunity in
more than 30 years to promote their
products and services at a U.S. trade
fair in China.
The equipment included in the
exhibition was selected to present the
most advanced technology the United
States has to offer in the areas of
China's most urgent needs.
Two hundred forty firms took
advantage of this opportunity to
display their products, meet with
officials of various Chinese industries
and get a firsthand look at the country
and its people.
On the following pages are scenes
at the exhibition held in the Peking
Exhibit Hall, which was crowded
with students and business people
throughout the 11 days it was open.

U.S. exhibition
in Peking
Counterclockwise from left: inside
the Peking Exhibit Hall, U.S. and
Chinese flags drape the wall above
displays of U.S. equipment and
services. The soaring white steeple of
the trade fair building makes it a
landmark in the capital. A group of
Chinese men gather around a com-
puter display to listen to the com-
mentary of an American exhibitor.
Officials of the China Ocean Shipping
Company sign a menu in a Peking
restaurant before presenting it to the
writer of this article. COSCO, the
PRC government agency responsible
for Chinese shipping, assisted in the
preparation of this story by making
arrangements for meetings with ship-
ping officials in Peking, Canton, and
Shanghai as well as providing many
opportunities for photographs. Be-
gun in 403 BC, the 3,750-mile long
Great Wall, like the Panama Canal, is
one of the great engineering achieve-
ments of the world. The only
manmade structure that can be seen
from earth's orbit, it is believed to
have once stretched 31,500 miles.

38 O

S ..........................


EXPOSHIP'80: Panama and the Canal on Exhibit

mission joined Panama in par-
ticipating in EXPOSHIP' 80, the
international shipping exhibition held
in Hong Kong, November 17-21,
featuring goods and services from all
segments of the shipping industry.
In addition to contributing a photo-
graphic display of the Canal and a
videotape of a Canal transit to
Panama's impressive exhibit, the
Commission provided brochures in
English, Spanish, Chinese, and Jap-
anese for the more than 500 delegates
from all over the world who came to
the exhibition and to the Far East
Trade and Shipping Conference held
November 19-20.
The exhibition, organized by the
publishers of Seatrade and set up on
the roof of the Ocean Terminal in
Kowloon overlooking the dramatically
beautiful and busy harbor of Hong
Kong, afforded delegates the oppor-
W tunity to see the latest technical
developments in shipping and a
chance to discuss international mari-
Lei 'time problems and the future of the
shipping industry.
The focus of the exhibition was on
China, and the first day of the
Shipping Conference had as its
theme, "The Maritime Development
of the People's Republic of China and
the Hong Kong Connection."
Topics covered included: "China's
Shipbuilding Industry and its Require-
in Hong Kong
At left (above), a U.S. Navy vessel
and a Chinese junk are silhouetted
against the twilight sky in Hong Kong
Harbor as EXPOSHIP '80 delegates
return by ferry to hotels on the island
of Hong Kong. At left, Marcela de la
Espriella de Martin, wife of the Consul
General of Panama in Hong Kong,
cuts the ribbon opening the Panama
exhibit, while her husband, Gary
Martin (at left), their two children and
members of Panama's official delega-
tion look on. At right, wearing
Panama's colorful national dress, the
"pollera," the Martins' daughter Lill
Judith poses for photographers with
one of the exhibition's guides in front
of the Panama exhibit.

OCTOBER 1, 1981







I "-Rs N





OCTOBER 1, 1981

Seatrade international
shipping exhibition
Clockwise from right: Scenes at
Seatrade's EXPOSHIP '80 include
Hong Kong's exhibit, which had
tourism as its theme; the flags of the
world's maritime nations flying from
the roof of the Ocean Terminal in
Kowloon, where the exhibition was
held, one of Hong Kong's famous
floating restaurants; the People's
Republic of China exhibit, which
featured China's shipbuilding in-
dustry; former secretary of the
Panama Canal Commission Tom
Constant and his wife, Clarine, with
George Fisher, deputy director of the
Panama Port Authority, and Gilberto
Harris, of Panama's Directorate of
Maritime Affairs in New York, visiting
Panama's pavilion; and a section of
Panama's exhibit, one of the largest,
which featured the Canal, the Colon
Free Zone, maritime activities, fishing
and tourism.




By Susan K. Stabler

December and May, when Isth-
mian breezes can whip a newspaper
off the front stairs or unwind a wrap-
around skirt in less time than it takes
to say "Dry season!" local residents
are given to flights of fancy.
The sighing of palm trees and the
clacking of bamboo are all it takes to
alert Panama's kiting enthusiasts that
there's a good tail wind blowing and
it's time to tie one on.
Since 1976 high-spirited Atlantic
siders have held a Charlie Brown Kite-
flying Contest each year to coincide
with the annual Christmas tree burn in
Coco Solo. The contest's founder, Dr.
Mel Boreham, says that kite fliers of all
ages turn out for the event, from great
grandparents down to, in one in-
stance, a year-and-a-half-old toddler.
While it is a day of fun for everyone
and the competition is friendly,
preparations for the kite contest are
not, shall we say, taken lightly by the
participants. Weeks before the event,
books on kite building and flying are
put on reserve in the Cristobal High
School Library. There, would-be
contestants sketch plans and take
notes on various flying techniques in

hopes of outdoing the competition on
the big day.
Prizes are awarded mostly along
traditional lines-most colorful kite,
longest tail, highest flier, best home-
made kite and so on-but recognition
has been given spontaneously in new
categories as the situation required.
A "Greatest Tangle of Twine
Award" seemed appropriate, for
example, when five kites tangled into
one line, creating a knotty airborne
problem. And "The Flight of the
Phoenix Award," named after the bird
in Egyptian mythology that became a
symbol of resurrection after it self-
destructed and then rose alive again,

Kites are


was fittingly bestowed upon one
youngster for his homemade entry.
The kite, made with a frame of dry,
brittle tree branches, flew for only a
few moments before crashing to the
ground, whereupon its young de-
signer/builder patiently repaired it and
flew it again.
Some contestants, like David and
Scot Hudson, go so far as to order
elaborate aerial toys from the United
States for the contest. Their dual-line,
acrobatic kite known as a "Sky-ro-
Gyro" trails a majestic, 70-foot red tail,
and cost, according to Scot, "sixteen
dollars and fifty cents, plus postage."
Kite competitions such as the one
held locally are tame in comparison to
the Nagasaki fighting-kite contests
developed hundreds of years ago in
Japan and still held today. The object
of the game could aptly be termed
"divide and conquer." Each par-
ticipant has a small paper kite, usually
less than a yard long, that will fly in any
direction at great speed, with or
without a tail. The handheld line of the
fighting kite is glazed with powdered
glass or porcelain, using egg white or

some other viscous substance as an
adhesive. The line becomes a high-
altitude razor which, when guided by
the hand of a skilled competitor, can
saw through an opponent's line and
set his kite adrift.
Some adept kite fighters are able to
encircle and snare a severed kite and
bring it back to earth to claim as spoils.
Kite fighting has spread to other
countries, and India, in particular, lays
claim to excellence in this sport. But it
must be said that kite fighting is no
child's game: competition is bitter,
often ending in violence, and the sport
has long been banned in Malaysia for
that very reason.
The invention of kites is usually
credited to the Chinese, but kites have
had a sky-hold in nearly every corner
of the world for more than 2,000 years.
Early Malaysian fishermen lightly
suspended their baited lines from leaf-
shaped kites to avoid frightening away
the fish. In Polynesia, kites have for
years been thought of as a means of
making contact with the heavens
Polynesian kites are most often made
with native bark cloth called "tapa" i'
combination with wood, rushes, feath
ers and shells, which produces a rattle
in flight.
Kites appeared in Europe arour I
the fifteenth century. By tl
eighteenth century inventive wester
minds saw no end to the possibilities
for their use. Kites became tools (
scientific inquiry, such as in the case c
Ben Franklin's famous kite exper
ment during a lightening storm. Witi
thermometers attached, kites were i
means of determining temperatures at
different altitudes. Kite flying also
played an important role in the
development of the first airplane by

44 OCTOBER 1, 1981

the Wright brothers. They experi-
mented with changes in the posi-
tioning of lifting surfaces on a specially
developed kite to determine the effect
of different configurations upon flight.
Records of the earliest uses of kites
in the Orient reveal that they occupied
an important place in religious and
social life. Kites were used to
determine fates and make prophesies,
to announce births and other happy
events, and to fight wars and celebrate
Chinese folklore abounds with tales
about kites. In fact, the most widely


work ...

army of the Han Dynasty frightened
its enemy into retreating by flying kites
attached with bamboo hummers over
the enemy camp in the dead of night.
Kites large enough to bear a man
were used by the Chinese as ob-
servation posts. Later, when their
tendency to dive to earth and splinter
into a thousand pieces became
apparent, man-bearing kites became a
form of punishment.
So interwoven are kites in Chinese
folklore and history that even today
the ninth day of the ninth month is set
aside as Kite Day or the "Festival of
Ascending on High." By tradition,
Chinese people of all ages fill the skies
with colorful kites of myriad shapes
and sizes on this day to float away bad
luck for the entire year.
In contrast to the Chinese, the
appeal of kites to the early Japanese
was religious and ceremonial rather
than technological and functional.
While the original Chinese kites were
basically rectangular, Japanese kites

Two boys and two lines,
below left, connect to only
one kite in the case of David
and Scot Hudson's "Sky-ro-
Gyro," at left. Below, Leslie
Griffin loves kite flying, but
tangled twine is one thing the
author's daughter could do

were fashioned in the shapes of
butterflies, fish, turtles, birds, drag-
ons, bats and deities. The symbolic
meaning of kites was very important, a
turtle representing long life and a
dragon, known for its ability to soar
above the heavens, represented pros-
In the nineteenth century, the
Japanese became taken with the
notion that bigger is better where kites
are concerned. The result was the
creation of the "wan-wan," an im-
mense kite 90 feet in diameter, made
with 3,000 sheets of Japanese paper
and weighing a ton, with a 430-foot-
long tail. Needless to say, it took the
planning and effort of a whole
community to launch the kite.
Today, Hamamatsu, Japan, holds a
yearly festival built around the con-
struction and flying of giant kites,
although the proportions are not quite
so ambitious as the original wan-wans,
nor the efforts to fly them quite so

accepted theory of their origin is
contained in a legend about a Chinese
general named Han Hsin (196 B.C.).
'he general is said to have flown a kite
,ver the walls of a palace he had under
ege in order to gauge the distance
between his men and the fortress so
)at a tunnel of the correct length
would be dug to allow his troops to
Kites were used to military ad-
intage again two hundred years
.ter, according to legend, when the


but mostly


Kites are an essential part of the
celebration of se'.'eral special days in
Japan each year. including the May 5
"Boys' Festival On this day. lish
shaped kites are flown on a bamboo
pole in front ol each Japanese home. a
separate kite for father, mother and
each boy in the family The lish
represented is the carp, the Japanese
symbol ior courage
While no other part of the world can
top the Orient in the creation oi exotic
and unusual kites, the United States is
still the front runner in kite production
and sales. Kite flying is enjoying a
comeback in popularity in the West-
ern world, along with a general
resurgence in interest in the out-of-
Although the world has changed
dramatically in the thousands of years
since the first kite winged its way
heavenward, kite flying has changed
hardly at all. Nylon line may have
replaced fiber twine, but flying a kite is
still one of life's simple pleasures.
Whether you are an Atlantic-side
community member participating in
the Charlie Brown kite contest or a
Japanese community member helping
to launch a wan-wan, the truth
remains that kites are fun. For when
a kite soars, the human spirit soars
with it.

The hoisting aloft of fish kites
is part of the traditional
"Boys' Festival" celebration at
the Japanese school in
Panama City. Each kite
represents a family member.

OCTOBER 1, 1981






** If.


( I~~iJ
L~ .~

"Chino" not only refers to Chinese persons, but also
to the corner grocery store, a remnant of the early decades
of this century when more likely than not the corner grocery
was run by a Chinese. Since that time, the role of the
Chinese in Panama has extended far beyond the corner,
into every facet of Panamanian life.
No one is quite sure when the first Chinese arrived in
Panama. Indeed, in a book entitled "Columbus was
Chinese," author Hans Breuer postulates that in prehistoric
times both the North and South American continents were
for centuries the recipients of Asian immigrants, both by
way of the then-existing land bridge across Alaska's Bering
Strait and as a result of fishing expeditions which were
blown off course, then carried by wind and current across
the ocean. There is considerable evidence in support of
both of these theories.
In any case, modern Chinese have been in Panama since
the late 1800s.
What brought them to the Isthmus in the first place? As
nearly as can be ascertained, they did not so much leave
China headed for Panama as they left home in hopes of a
better life elsewhere.
War with Britain, followed by a humiliating defeat by the
tiny island nation of Japan, as well as internal problems, had
left China in chaos and confusion. The Chinese left China in
fairly large numbers around the late 1800's and early 1900's
for the same reasons that people have left their homelands
for centuries-to seek relief and new hope when things
became unbearable at home. It is estimated that as many as
100,000 Chinese may have passed through Panama during
this period on their way to other destinations in Latin
As a race, the Chinese have been one of the most
stereotyped. Interestingly, however, the stereotype has
changed over the years. While the early Chinese residents
of Panama were thought of as being mysterious, aloof and
lawless, they are now viewed as being industrious,
intelligent, courteous and patient, with great respect for
their elders and for the family.
It is not difficult to surmise how the original stereotype
developed, for the Chinese came from a culture where
everything-language, both written and spoken, dress,
religion, and customs-was totally different from anything
known in this hemisphere. These differences made them
both unapproachable to others and clannish among
themselves, further isolating them and making them objects
of distrust and suspicion.
The history of the Chinese people in Panama, as in other
parts of the world, has had its ups and downs. Chinese
labor, which contributed so greatly to the construction of
the railroads in the United States, was also contracted to
help build the Panama Railroad. Sources differ on the exact ,,

Janet Len-Rios, the Commission's SPILLWAY editor, is married
to Felipe A Len-Rios, a Chinese.Ponomanion employed os o
civil engineer in the Engineering ond Construction Bureou.
Felipe's father, the late Antonio Len, emmigroted from
Conton, China to Chiriqui, Republic of Panoma in the mid-
1920s. There he met his wife, Filomeno Rios de Len, who now
resides in Colon. The Len.Rioses have two Chinese-
Ponomonion.Americon children, Antonio and Mario.

number of Chinese that came, but it was probably around a
The Chinese workers gained immediate favor with their
employers because of their industriousness. Despite their
small stature, they equalled or bettered the work output of
any other nationality group working on the railroad.
The participation of the Chinese on the railroad was
short-lived, it turned out, as were many of the Chinese
themselves. What happened is an oft-told tale.
According to the story, after only a short time on the
Isthmus, the Chinese were suddenly possessed with a
"melancholy" that caused them to commit suicide by the
hundreds, hanging themselves by their long braided hair
from trees or impaling themselves on sharp instruments.
The fact of the suicides is apparently true, although no
one is entirely sure of how or why they happened. Some say
that the depression was the aftermath of malaria; others
insist that it was caused by the withdrawal of a daily ration of
opium promised the Chinese workers in their contract.
There is no absolutely verifiable explanation for what
happened, and it is likely that a combination of events led to
the suicides. Life was not easy on the Isthmus for anyone,
but it may have been particularly hard for the Chinese
because of the immense cultural gap that existed between
them and the native population, as well as between the
Chinese and other groups hired to work on the railroad.
Combined with this were the heat and rain, sickness and
death that plagued all of the construction workers.
To avoid further incidents, the railroad company quickly
gathered as many as it could of the remaining Chinese and
sent them to the Chinese colony in Jamaica, hoping that
there they would find the combination of cultural and
environmental factors that would enable them to survive.
Apparently some Chinese worked on the French canal
effort, but Chinese workers were not used by the United
States in the building of the waterway. Chief Engineer John
Stevens was very enthusiastic about the Chinese and
invited bids on contracts to hire up to fifteen thousand
Chinese laborers. However, a great hue and cry arose over
having the laborers imported into the Canal Zone to work
for a government that since 1882 had excluded the
importation of Chinese labor into its own country.
Of the Chinese that came to Panama during the French

in Panamanian

On page 47, a traditional method of
watering is used at the Chinese garden
in Margarita. Clockwise from top left, a
carnival dragon donated to the Museum
of Panamanian Man forms part of its
Chinese exhibit; Sybil Harley Lam
receives acupuncture treatment from
Dr. Julio Cesar Wong; architectural
embellishments add to the Oriental
flavor of a local restaurant; Jose Chan
shows his sister-in-law Margarita and
niece Cristi an ancient way of doing
mathematics; Virginia Tam Le6n-
Guerrero views a display at a recent
People's Republic of China exhibit in
Panama; and beautiful imported
porcelain ware is available in many local

48 OCTOBER 1, 1981


i:a-.l construction era, it is believed that very few actually
worked on the construction. Most opened small
shops-groceries, laundries, barber shops and liquor
Chinese business success is somewhat legendary in
Panama. The Chinese, like anyone else, like to make
money, but their business philosophy is conservative, and
they have always been willing to work long hours and be
satisfied with a small but steady profit margin.
Long before there were any roads, the Chinese were
among the first to bring produce out from the interior of
Panama for sale in the cities. Traveling by cart, the Chinese
traders would carry staple items such as hardware and
cloth into the interior and exchange them for the products
of the countryside. ,,
Besides shopkeeping, the Chinese were also involved in
agriculture and operated truck gardens, referred to locally.
as "Chinese gardens," supplying fresh fruits and vegetables
to the construction workers. During the time of the
American canal construction the Chinese were issued
special licenses to operate in the Canal Zone, where they
grew produce for the commissaries and also delivered fresh
vegetables from door to door in baskets hanging from yokes
that they carried across their shoulders.
Perhaps it is the Chinese' great liking for a wide variety of
fresh vegetables that led them to become gardeners. In
Panama, they have introduced a number of vegetables not -
commonly used in Panamanian cookery, among them the
different types of mustard greens, spinach, bean sprouts
and the delightfully crunchy "Chinese yam." The vegetables
are cooked perfectly to retain a flavor, color and texture
that would please even the most Western palate.
Laboring with the same diligence that earned them their
reputation as good workers in railroad days, the Chinese i
gained a reputation for being superior gardeners, producing
crops with their old-fashioned methods on plots of poor, "' .
clay soil when more sophisticated instruments, employed
on better soil, failed.
Mention the word "Chinese" and the first thing that many
people think of is food, for the memory of eating good
Chinese cuisine tends to linger, even if, as the joke goes,
that "full" feeling doesn't. The Chinese are recognized as
being masters of the art of cooking, and Chinese food has a
reputation not only for being delicious, but also for being
easy on the budget. Here in Panama, the classified section
of the telephone directory contains listings for some two
dozen Chinese restaurants, and Chinese eating establish-
ments tend to "mushroom" wherever the Chinese settle.
The Chinese are by tradition family centered. An old
Chinese saying states that the best worker you can employ
is a family member, and most Chinese enterprises have
been family run. While the Chinese have always revered

Denise Manfredo, (standing at left in top
Tea photo), wife of Commission Deputy
and Administrator Fernando Manfredo Jr.,
entertains visiting family members at her
COmpany home in Balboa Heights. Mrs. Manfredo
is a fourth.generation Chinese


in the

Clockwise from bottom left, Alicia Chen
is a position classification specialist in
the Personnel Operations Division;
Ricardo B. Chen is chief of the
Industrial Division's Engineering Branch;
Jorge Fong, a surveying technician,
works out of the Surveys Branch in
Pedro Miguel; Victoria Lee is a
secretary-stenographer in the
Admeasurement office; power systems
dispatcher Santiago Chang works at the
Balboa Substation; and Alberto Wong is
a sanitary engineer at the Mount Hope
filtration plant.

-' FP-r-p.-. C-ri R. IEW 51

O.:T:.6ER I 19i1

their scholars, they did not always believe in a great deal of
education for the ordinary individual, feeling that an
educated child might seek employment away from the
family.Children, therefore, were educated to the level
where they could serve well in the family enterprise, and
that was all.
One reason why early Chinese immigrants kept to
themselves was a fear that in associating with others their
children would lose their traditional Chinese values and
forget old ways. Until the late 1930s, the Chinese living in
Panama tried, whenever possible, to send their children
back to China for at least part of their education in hopes
that the experience would reinforce and enrich their
Chinese identity.
This initial reluctance to meld into the culture may have
been a factor contributing to the aura of mystery and fear
that surrounded early Chinese immigrants in Panama and
was perhaps an ancestral memory of centuries when China
was literally closed off from the outside world.
A measure of that mystery and fear was the name given to
the central street in the section of Panama City where most
Chinese lived, Salsipuedes, which translates "get out if you
can." The Chinese community in Panama has changed
considerably since the days when Salsipuedes was a narrow
lane lined with Chinese shops. Today only vestiges of the
old Chinatown remain near the public market area around
Salsipuedes and Calle Carlos A. Mendoza. Here one finds
various Chinese stores, including barber shops, res-
taurants, drygoods stores, laundries and retail groceries
that carry a wide selection of Chinese food items, such as
huge bags of dried mushrooms, seaweed, all kinds of teas,
various Chinese sauces and spices, almond cakes, pickled
mustard greens, chirimoyas and a favorite treat of Isthmian
children, Chinese plums.
While more Chinese shops are located in this area than in
other places about the city, Panama in reality has no
Chinatown. The Chinese population has melded into the
community and lifestyle of Panama, and the average
S Chinese household looks no different from ahy other

Fi True, if one looks closely, the porcelain figure of a
laughing Buddha or the three traditional figures repre-
senting longevity, fame and fortune may be found among
the household treasures in a Chinese-Panamanian home,
but in most households where these objects appear they are
,- regarded as symbols of tradition and decoration rather than

having an-, religious significance The majority ,ol Chinese in
Panama are practicing Catholics
National societies e\ist among some members ol Ihe
Chinese population in Panama, with membership in mosi
based upon ihe area in China where the member or the
member's ancestors originated Some societies have tried
to mainland a spec Is ot Chinese culture and Iradition among
the young b.'. promoting the Chinese language and from
time to timne sponsoring programs of a cultural nature
featuring local Chinese arts' and perlormeris but mois ol
these clubs are now mainl-, social in nature.
The Chinese Association ol Panama is an organization of
Chinese businessme n Panama Cii', that sponsors,
among other activities, a Chinese Iloat in the -,earl ', carnival
parade; makes donatnonr to local charitable organizations
in the name ot the associaiion, and provides for elderl..'
Chinese who have no families or other means ol support
The children of Chinese in Panama no longer return to
China :o be educated, and while a generation or so ago
most Chinese grew up trilingual. speaking fluent Spanish.
English and Chinese, this is no longer the case. As often
happens with the children of immigrants, they~ learn Ihe
language ol the counter where the,' live. not the counlnr' of
their origin Few ot the new generation speak Chinese.
although marn,, still do learn English. the language o
business and technology..
Chinese now reside in ever-y, area ol the country, '. ever.'
sector ot ever', citl' and span all socio economic levels ol
Panamanian socieI-, No longer can the-', be thought ot only
as cooks gardeners or shopkeepers The Chinese are als
doctors, scientists, computer technicians, lawyers, en
gineers and entrepreneurs.
While the Chinese were not involved in the construction
of the Panama Canal, they are now involved in its operation.
The Panama Canal organization currently employs a
number of Chinese-Panamanian men and women in a wide
spectrum of jobs, including employment in all phases of the
financial management operation, as well as in technical and
engineering positions. They are also among the trained
workers entering the Commission's ranks through the
apprentice program. The Canal, however, has yet to see its
first Chinese-Panamanian ship pilot.
Past contributions by the Chinese to the development of
the Panamanian way of life have been considerable. The
Chinese are now contributing with their learning as
professionals to the technical advancement and economic
growth of the country and to the well-being of its
inhabitants. By working hard to better themselves, they
have become valuable citizens able to contribute to a
country they have adopted as their own.

Right (top), looking regal in a dress
Chinese encrusted with pearls, the Chinese
community's 1926 carnival queen, Emma
traditions Chan, poses for an official portrait.
Right (bottom), the Chinese community
in Panama participates with a float in the 1981
carnival parade. At far right, the wife of
a local businessman enacts the ritual of
lighting incense sticks in a Chinese
temple in Panama City.

OCTOBER 1, 1981


9 Months FY 1981 9 Months FY 1980
Long Long
No of Tons No ol Tons
Tronsrrs Cargo Tronsrts Cargo

Belgian ..................... 75 1.182,341
Bnllsh .................. .. ........... 649 7.596.779
Chilean ............................. 143 849,705
Colombian .......... ......... ........ 105 964,462
Cuban ............................... 90 396,939
Cypriot ............................. 80 311,729
Chinese, Nationalist ................... 103 1,328,615
Danish .............................. 202 2,224,305
Ecuadorlan ........................... 208 853,531
French .............................. 66 831,014
German, West .................. ..... 190 2,664,734
Greek .............................. 1,175 18,327.219
Honduran ............................ 72 119.960
Italian ............................... 107 1,034,637
Japanese ............................ 879 7.389,990
Liberlan ............................. 1,328 22,581,841
Netherlands .......................... 150 1,139,779
Norwegian ........................... 296 4,330,696
Panamanian .......................... 1.087 10,018,149
Peruvian ............................. 181 1,879.508
Philippine ............................ 118 1,570.661
Polish ............................... 72 319,677
Singaporean .......................... 126 1.318,624
South Korean ........................ 126 2,026,236
Spanish .............................. 95 514,873
Swedish ............................. 114 897,940
United States ......................... 1.584 26.262,876
U.S.S R ............................. 405 1,365,026
Yugoslavian .......................... 97 1.108,058
All other ............................. 489 5,465,652
Total .......................... 10.412 126,875.556

72 1,538,179
662 7.816.184
142 841,380
119 735,600
59 269,736
67 362,048
85 950,086
254 2,609,125
206 960.212
74 905,261
259 2,430,633
1,128 17.732.588
57 105,896
137 1,437.958
834 7.688,206
1,363 25,171,916
170 1,322,035
351 4.999.106
880 7.564,325
166 1,625.014
87 1,007,573
70 209,957
123 1,258,217
120 1,803,905
85 289,243
147 1,181,272
1,370 21,793,857
410 1,553.855
71 739,313
417 5 164,081
9,985 122,066,761


Months Months
Trade route 1981 1980
East Coast United States-Asia.......................... 2,445 2,313
East Coast United States-West Coast South America ........... 1,357 1,159
East Coast United States-West Coast Central America.......... 1,224 1,033
Europe-West Coast South America ........................... 923 985
Europe-West Coast United States/Canada..................... 597 708
United States Intercoastal (including Alaska and Hawaii) .......... 379 275
West Indies-West Coast South America ....................... 285 333
West Indies-West Coast Central America ...................... 280 266
East Coast Canada Asia ................... ................. 249 227
East Coast United States/Canada-Oceania ..................... 240 283
East Coast South America-Asia .............................. 238 212
South America Intercoastal.................................. 235 232
All other ............................................... 1960 1,959
Total ............................................ 10,412 9,985


Tolls (In thousands
Tronsls f dollars)
Months FY 198 FY1980 FY 1981 FY 1980
October ................. 1.158 1,122 $24,418 $23,817
November .............. .. 1,175 1,036 25,149 22,031
December ................... ........ ,167 1,079 25,628 23,246
January ................................ 1,132 1,120 24.491 23,732
February ............................... 1,008 1,048 21.690 22,681
March ............................... 1,234 1,164 26,705 24,792
April ........................... .......... 1,155 1,135 24,369 24,632
May .................................... 1,245 1,179 27,408 25,632
June ........................... .... 1,138 1,102 24.402 24,164
Total .............................. 10,412 9,985 $224.260 $214.727

Bore deduction ol any operating expenses
Statistcs compiled by Office of E-ecutiwP Planning

Is Our

illg Business

9 Months
1981 1980
TRANSITS (Oceangoing)
Commercial 10.412 9.985
US Governmen 64 65
Free 8 5
Total 10,484 10.055
Commercial $224.31.111 5214786,255
US Governmen 842.717 1.055.018
Total $225.1S3.828 $215.841.273
CARGO (Ocean-
Commercial 126.875,556 122.066.761
US Government 213.350 298.546
Free ..
Total 127.088.906 122.365.307
iIncludes lolls on all vessels, oceangong and small
'Cargo figures are in long tons
Statistics compiled by the Office of Eecutive

54 OCTOBER 1, 1981

Maiden Transit

The unusual Super Servant I, seen
here on its first transit through the
Panama Canal, lifts a lot more than
eyebrows. The vessel's unique
design enables it to partially
submerge itself horizontally so that
heavy floating equipment, such as
barges and oil derricks, can be
moved onto the cargo deck, after
which the vessel resurfaces. Built in
Japan, the Super Servant / is owned
by the Dutch company Wijsmuller.
The agent at the Canal is C. B.
Fenton and Co., Inc.


(in long tons)

Atlantic to Pacific
9 Months 9 Months
Commodity FY 1981 FY 1980
Coal/coke ................... ........ ............ 12,706,104 10,350,669
Petroleum and products ................................ 8,481,889 8,510,873
Corn............... .....................7,976,535 9,437,695
Wheat ....................................... 5,934,816 1,857,044
Soybeans ................................ .. 5,404,085 5,344,906
Phosphates ........................................ 4,227,943 4,346,031
Chemicals and petroleum chemicals .................... 2170,604 2,067,836
Manufactures of iron and steel ......................... 1,678,361 1,253,562
Sorghum ...................................... 1,283,182 2,379,274
Fertilizers, unclassified ................................ 1,201,173 1,024,059
M etal, scrap ........................................ 1,099,248 1,725,152
Sugar .............................................. 955,547 803,231
Paper and products ............... ................ 922,089 528,931
Ores, various ........................................ 757,052 686,724
Caustic soda ....................................... 615,064 754,645
All other ......................................... 9.853.422 9,594,178
Total.......................................65,267,114 60,664,810

Pacific to Atlantic

9 Months 9 Months
Commodity FY 1981 FY 1980
Petroleum and products .............................. 28,292.891 25,775,964
Lumber and products ................................. 3,458.474 3,781,218
Manufactures of iron and steel ......................... 3,458,249 4,403,071
Ores, various ....................................... 3,232.562 4,642,994
W heat ... ...................................... 2.253.213 1,104,786
Sulfur ................... ........................... 1,783,540 1,549,749
Food in refrigeration (excluding bananas) ................ 1,539,087 1.567.772
Sugar .... ...................................... 1.406,797 1,333,166
Coal and coke ....................................... 1,365,241 1.637,003
Pulpwood ........................................... 1,185,003 1,299,425
Metals, various ....................................... 1,078.169 1,185,083
Autos, trucks and accessories ......................... 1,060,661 989,324
Barley ......................................... .... 999,398 550,750
Bananas ............................................ 915,429 890,333
Paper and paper products ............................. 513,540 457.100
All other ............................................ 9066 188 10 234 213
Total ....................................... 61,608,442 61,401,951


9 Months FY 1981
Atlantic Pocirc Months
to to FY
Commercial: Pociic AIlantc Totol 1980
Oceangoing ..................... ....... .... 5,462 4,950 10,412 9,985
Sm all' ................................... 423 221 644 637
Total .................................. 5,885 5,171 11.056 10,622

U.S Government
Oceangoing .............................. 31 33 64 65
Sm all ................................... 112 52 164 209
Total .................................. 143 85 228 274
Grand Total............................ 6,028 5256 11 84 10,896

'Vessels under 300 net tons. Panama Canal measurement, or under 500 displacement tons Staistics compiled by
Oftice ol Executive Planning


Story by
Fannie P. Hernandez

SS Cristobal

The End of the Line

acclaimed as one
of the safest,
most modern and
beautiful ships in
the world when put
into service in 1939,
over the years
the SS "Cristobal"
carried thousands
of passengers and
countless tons of
cargo to and from
the Isthmus. Her
retirement in
September at age
42 signified the
end of the historic
Panama Line.

At right, bearing silent
witness to the ship's final
transformation from
passenger liner to cargo
carrier, containerized cargo
sits on the decks of the
"Cristobal," seen here on
the Mississippi as she
departs New Orleans far


SS Cristobal

eased away from the Cristobal
piers for the last time on September
19, 1981, she left behind a wealth of
memories for thousands of Canal
employees, many of whom began and
ended their Isthmian careers aboard
her. No longer the vital supply link
between the Isthmus and the United
States, no longer the most efficient
(and most festive) way to transport
employees, the last of the "Three First
Ladies of the U.S. Merchant Marine"
sailed off for New Orleans to be turned
over to the U.S. Maritime Adminis-
tration. Her sister ships, the Panama
and the Ancon, had been retired in
1956 and 1961, respectively, and at 42,
the Cristobal was the oldest vessel in
the U.S. Merchant Marine still active
in blue waters.
Although in her later years the
passenger capacity was reduced to 12
and her principal function was to carry
cargo, in the first 10 years she spent
plying the waters between Cristobal
and New Orleans the Cristobol was
first and foremost a passenger ship,
often carrying a full load of 216, with
cars, household goods and com-
missary supplies a necessary sideline.
In one year she would make 27 round-
trip voyages, carrying some 5,000
passengers, 1,500 vehicles, 5,000 tons
of household goods and 154,000 tons
of other freight.
She is remembered by most as a
family ship, friendly, homey, some-
times a little bouncy, but sym-
pathetically so. She was famous for
her food, and passengers on diets
would deprive themselves for a week
in advance so they could guiltlessly
give way to the terrible temptation of
her menu.

Happy days gone by are
reflected in these photos
taken aboard the
"Cristobal" during the
1960s: outstanding cuisine
served in the softly-lit
dining room was a major
attraction of the voyages,
but the swimming pool and
shuffleboard were the real

In h'.:,, dai.. .-e ;hip carried a
d.-'ior. -rnd .'r.te e3 iri.,.:.-.prei.'ld .th
surnburn arnd aeaickre: the rrn-,,;t
c.-.rnTIn.r ailmer ,l Eult m,-l .of hi.
burines cairre d]urin the Ir;i 2.1
h.,ur Ailer Ihat p.e'.le .31l their ea
leg .3*...e up ir.irig T' ai e.eryThir.ng
rr, he nmernu. %ird :illled do, r, I,
hullieb:.oard 4p:lahing.. in rh p-col.
and 3eflir.3 1' -.",r,' he people ihe.. d
beer. c a uaill3. a.. ir., h nll, o ,n he itb
arnd irn Ihe c-mirmi: r'' r, r Ih he pFa-n c.
..ear-.s Mar.n.v a lilelrr,.3 rrierd hipdaie
Irm a .. a.e lee her arnd he Canal
or.i'a i .-an rI 'Ai be llr lor Tih. e
irfrmal Tie:. tha[ ri:cr-,:r ed the
._rr. Ti i.n al chart
During ih'e umrrrer rn-jrlthr ira
orderr i.' acco.-rnrm dale lairrilie: ..,Ih
ch i-,,,I age childier,. :ailirng daile ere
adiluied ,.,ilh ar. e.e -r n ihe :ch.,.l
c.alerndar Lnr. .lme lihmr ari re idenr
,Jerneth Ba. er. > h-, al.-, ailed or one

of the ship's last voyages, described
with nostalgia her first voyage on the
Cristobol as a child one summer
nearly 30 years ago. In those days the
ship went to New York instead of New
Orleans, with a stop at Port-au-Prince,
Haiti. More than half of the passengers
boarding at Cristobal were children,
recalls Mrs. Baker, all spiffed up in
their best clothes, but it didn't take
them long to find the pool and get
changed into their bathing suits. The
voyage was a festive one, with children
running all over the ship, making
friends, playing games in and out of
the pool, and getting into mischief. In
the evenings, while fheir parents
partied or rendezvoused in the bar,
the children, in pajamas, ate popcorn
and watched movies in the lounge.
The beautiful, tiled pool was the
most popular spot on the vessel.
When the mid -morning snack was

SS Cristobal

Canal; the Grace Line's Santa Paula
and the Brazil of the Moore Mc-
Cormack Line.
With her philosophy "to do good to
every human being who comes my
way," Mary took a personal interest in
each and every passenger on the ship.
To assure the happiest and safest
voyage possible, she took it upon

herself to offer lifeboat drills. Pas-
sengers who sailed with Mary will
remember her sincerity as she lined
them up in the upper lounge, checked
each life jacket, and went through the
motions of how to jump into the water
or into a lifeboat safely and how to
survive in the water. She was so
convincing and protective that Com-
mission employee Dorothy Man-
thorne, who sailed with Mary on
several occasions, remarked, "I would
not be afraid to go down with Mary on

board. I feel sure that she would see to
it that we were all saved."
When the Cristobol became a
freighter, the scope of Mary's duties
was reduced, but the enthusiasm with
which she continued to serve the
ship's twelve passengers and its
officers never diminished.
The responsibility for piloting the
Cristobol the 1,403 nautical miles
between Cristobal and New Orleans
over the last 15 years rested with her
master Capt. Joseph P. Krieg. Re-
lieving him as captain was Robert
Jensen, who joined the Cristobars
crew in 1967. Between the two of them
they experienced a fair share of
excitement aboard what Jensen liked
to call "the Queen of the Caribbean."
One unforgettable experience took
place on an evening in August of 1969,
when the gale winds of Hurricane
Camille, one of the most devastating
storms to ever hit the United States,
carried the Cristobol on a wild, three-
mile ride away from her anchorage in
the Mississippi. With more than 200
Isthmus-bound passengers aboard, 96
of them children, the Cristobalveered
past other vessels, her anchor chains
dragging, and eventually went
aground on the river bank.
What ensued was quite literally a
nightmare, as life-jacketed passengers
gathered in the pitch-black darkness
of the lounge, badly frightened but
remaining calm. Red, muddy water
blew in through the promenade
windows, and the lounge and all the
decks were awash with seawater and
rain. Clothes, bed linen and mat-
tresses were soaked as the state-
rooms flooded, and water sloshed

trical equipment. The Cristobofs
position on the river bank shifted
several times during the course of the
night; but despite overturned tables
and chairs, broken china and slippery
floors, miraculously, no one was
By morning, the storm had passed
and two tugs arrived to pull the
Cristobal off the bank of the Mis-
sissippi. Captain Krieg took her into
port for assessment of the damage,
and most of the passengers were
flown to the Isthmus.
The following week the Panama
Canal Spillway carried a story on the
hurricane that included a verbatim
transcript of a letter written from on
board the Cristobol during the storm
by 13-year-old Gary Tochterman, the
son of a Canal couple. "Don't ever get
in a hurricane," he wrote to a friend.
"I'm not exaggerating either. It is
worse than I can describe."
Not all of the noteworthy hap-
penings on the Cristobol were trau-
matic, as in the case of the hurricane.
Some were merely exasperating,
others poignant and a few, downright
Once, for example, the Cristobol
was northbound off the coast of

60 OCTOBER i, 1981

room for meals. He replied that he
didn't have the money to pay for them.
Passengers also provided some
humorous moments aboard ship. One
woman who boarded in Haiti wore a
life jacket and slept in a chair on the
promenade deck the entire trip from
Port-au-Prince to New York City.
Beginning in 1961, when the Pan-
ama Line's terminus was moved from
New York, the Canal's business in
New Orleans was handled by repre-
sentatives of three Panama Canal
divisions; Water Transportation, Pro-
curement and Accounting. For 20
years the careful judgments and
intelligent decisions made in the New
Orleans office were responsible for
the smooth and economical flow of all
goods, from groceries to paper clips,
to the Panama Canal.
Working with their counterparts in
the Water Transportation Division's
Cristobal office, the members of the
New Orleans shore staff also had
responsibility for assisting the Cris-
tobofs passengers in clearing customs
and immigration and getting their
baggage, pets and vehicles off the
vessel without delay.
Sometimes it took more than one
'ry to accomplish that task. Cargo

specialist Jean Piedescalzo, who
numbered among her duties the job of
getting Cristobol passengers and their
belongings from the ship to the
terminal, recalls one particular man
who debarked with six dogs in tow. In
the confusion of getting the dogs off
the ship and into Jean's waiting van,
the man forgot his wife. Jean had to
make another trip back to the ship to
pick her up.
Patience and good humor have
been characteristics of other staff
members who served the Panama
Canal community in such ways as
helping to find lost shipments of
household goods and arranging hotel
reservations and air transportation for
passengers who missed the Cris-
tobaos sailing.
On one occasion the staff went so
far as to track down a bejeweled pet
poodle that had jumped from the arms
of a boarding woman passenger into
the Mississippi River and had swum
upstream against the current until he
was out of sight. The crews aboard
two tugboats went out to search for
the dog, but came back emptyhanded.
It took reassurances from the shore
staff that everything possible would be
done to find the dog to convince the

hysterical woman to board the Cris-
tobol without her beloved pet. Food
was put in various areas of the port,
and on the third day the pooch
appeared, apparently no worse for his
taste of life on the Mississippi. The
poodle was sent by plane to his
mistress on the Isthmus.
Heading up the shore staff was
general agent Joseph Quintas, who
had regular dealings with local em-
ployees of the Storehouse and Water
Transportation divisions in expediting
supplies to the Canal.
With the retirement of the Cris-
tobal, the job of carrying supplies to
the Panama Canal and its employees

People and places are part of
the "Cristobal's" past:
counterclockwise, stewardess
Mary Fawson, a friend to oil
passengers; in the wheelhouse,
Capt. Joseph Krieg and WTD
Acting Chief James Bird, who
was once the "Cristobol's"
purser; the vessel's first home
port; everything from groceries
to locomotives shipped to the
Canal from New Orleans.

SS Cristobal

and transporting their vehicles and
household goods has been taken over
by a vessel under contract with the
Defense Transportation System. The
Water Transportation Division has
been abolished, but the New Orleans
office continues many of its past
functions as part of the Storehouse
While it's the end of the line for the
42-year-old Cristobal, the memories
she left with Canal employees will last
a lifetime.

The staff members of the Water
Transportation Division's New
Orleans office, at right, pose for
a final group portrait, and the
Carlin family, below, waves a
tearful goodbye.

OCTOBER 1, 1981

SS Cristobal this year brings to
an end 133 years of U.S. Government-
sponsored steamship service between
the United States and the Isthmus of
Panama, a service that had its
beginnings in March 1848, a year
before the discovery of gold in
California. Even then, the Congress of
the United States realized the value of
the Isthmus of Panama in providing a
rapid means of communication be-
tween the east and west coasts of the
country (which at that time numbered
29 states) and authorized the Navy to
contract for the carrying of mail by
steamer from New York and New
Orleans to California and Oregon, via
the Isthmus.
The same realization of the value of
the Isthmus as a convenient route to
the west coast led the following year,
in 1849, to the commencement of
work on a railroad across the Isthmus.
The Panama Railroad Company was,
however, a private corporation, es-
tablished under an act of the New
York legislature and incorporated
under the laws of New York. One can
imagine the jubilation of the stock-
holders when the news came later that
year that gold had been discovered in
During the construction of the
railroad, the company chartered more
than 100 vessels to carry supplies and
soon realized that it would be
convenient to have ships of its own.
One of its first maritime ventures was
in 1850, when it began operating two
small steamers on the Chagres River.
One of them was used to tow barges in
connection with the construction
work, but the other was put to work
carrying passengers upriver to a point
below Gorgona, about halfway across
the Isthmus, from which point trav-
elers rode mules or walked the rest of
the way.
The Panama Railroad Company
was a money maker from the start,
and travelers paid $5 just to walk the
right of way before the trains started
running. Soon after the railroad
opened, in 1855, the company saw a
need for its own steamship line to
serve shippers and to promote
business for the railroad. The next
year the company founded the
Central American Line, which in time
operated steamers on a route which
included all of the Pacific coast ports
between Panama and Acapulco.


The End of the Line

In 1881, the French Canal Com-
pany obtained control of the Panama
Railroad Company, but the company
continued to function under prin-
cipally United States management.
The Railroad got out of the steamship
business for a while, content to
depend upon the services of the
Pacific Mail Company, a private,
government-subsidized line; but in
1893 the Railroad started the Colum-
bian Line between New York and
Colon, and in 1896, it was renamed the
Panama Railroad Steamship Line.
Among the ships acquired when the
Columbian Line was founded were the
Alliance, the Advance, and the
Finance, which ten years later were to
transport thousands of workers to the
Isthmus to take part in the construc-
tion of the Canal. In 1904, when the
United States purchased the French
holdings, the railroad and its steam-
ships became the property of the
United States. In 1905, the steamers
Mexico and Havana were purchased
from the Ward Line and renamed
Colon and Panama, and in 1908, the
freighters Shawmut and Tremont
were purchased from the Boston
Steamship Company and renamed
Ancon and Cristobal.
These namesakes of the last three
Panama Canal ships were used in
those early days to carry heavy
cargoes of machinery, cement and
other building materials for the
construction effort. The Ancon made
history when she left Cristobal pier on
the morning of August 15, 1914, to
make the first official transit of the
Panama Canal. Actually, her sister
ship the Cristobal had transited the
Canal some days earlier, on August 3,
in an unpublicized test to make sure
that everything would work. Credit
also goes to the Allianca, which was
the first ship put through a lock. She
was locked through Gatun Locks
from sea level to Gatun Lake and back
on June 8, 1914.
A slump in world trade in the early
1920s, together with the decline in
cargo to the Canal Zone following the
end of the construction of the Canal,
resulted in a reduction in the fleet of
the Panama Railroad Steamship Line.
The Allianca and Advance were taken
out of service. The Finance had sunk


in New York harbor in 1908.
The Ancon and Cristobal, recon-
ditioned for passenger/cargo service
at a cost of $1 million each, continued
to provide service from New York to
the Isthmus until 1939. That year they
were replaced by three first-class,
cargo/passenger ships, the Cristobal,
the Panama and the Ancon. These
sister ships were constructed by the
Shipbuilding Division of Bethlehem
Steel at Quincy, Mass. at an approxi-
mate cost of $4 million each, paid for
out of the earnings of the Panama
The Cristobal, the third and last of
the ships to be constructed, slipped
into the water on March 4, 1939, after
Mrs. Clarence S. Ridley, wife of the
Canal Zone Governor, shattered a
bottle of champagne on her bow. The
Cristobal sailed from New York in late
August, her arrival eagerly awaited by
many an Isthmian ready to make the
return trip to attend the World's Fair.
The new ships were the first to be
built in an American shipyard under
the stringent safety regulations out-
lined by the United States Maritime
Commission. Widely acclaimed as the
safest and most modern of their time,
the vessels were, in the words of the
Panama Railroad Steamship Line's
Vice President T. H. Rossbottom, "a
fleet of ships as beautiful and modern
and advanced in New World comforts
as American skill and ingenuity could
make them."
Completely fireproof from stem to
stern, they marked the beginning of a
new era in shipbuilding in world
standards of safety, efficiency, and
attractiveness and were unique in the
spaciousness and comfort of pas-
senger accommodations. Differing
only in their interior decor, they
featured air-conditioned public
rooms, a bathroom for each state-
room, and furnishings of fireproof
materials. They had eight veranda
suites overlooking the sea, with a
cluster of four large staterooms
around each veranda; unusually wide,
glass-enclosed promenades; spacious
sun decks; a tiled swimming pool; a
children's playroom, and many other
innovations seen only on the trans-
atlantic luxury liners of the day.
The vessels, each with its dove grey

The End of the Line x

The original SS "Ancon," seen at iI
for left (top) and above, helped
carry 1,500 Borbodion laborers
to Cristobol in 1909 and in 1914 *
made the first official transit of
the Canal. The "Cristobal" and
the "Allianco," at left (top and l
bottom) had actually mode prior
test runs. The construction of
three new ships for the Ponama
Line in 1939 was a news-making a
event across the United States.
U.S. Secretary of War and Mrs.
Harry Woodring took port in the
"Ancon's" christening, at far
right. The ship's luxurious
interior, at right (top to bottom),
was typical also of the
"Cristobal" and "Panama." The
"Ancon," seen at for left
(bottom) in Pedro Miguel Locks, .
set a glorious record of wartime


- -

hull, white superstructure and tan
funnel with silver bands, were the
cooperative effort of well-known naval
architect George Sharp and Raymond
Loewy, a famous industrial engineer of
his time.
In the years prior to the acquisition
of the three new vessels, the old
Ancon and old Cristobal had offered
10-day, roundtrip voyages between
Cristobal and New York, with Port-
au-Prince, Haiti as a port of call on
both southbound and northbound
When the new ships were put into
service, the Panama Railroad Steam-
ship Line shortened its name to the
Panama Line and for the first time
advertised its steamship service to
lure the tourist trade. The New York
to Panama cruises featuring sight-
seeing tours of Port-au-Prince became
very popular. In addition to passen-
gers, the ships carried tons of bananas
from Central America and raw cotton,
coffee, sugar, plantains and lumber
that were loaded on at Port-au-Prince.
The vessels were earning their keep.
When the war came, the Panama
and Cristobal were taken over by the
U.S. Army Transport Service and
converted to troop carriers. But
probably no American merchant ship
had a more distinguished war career
than the Ancon. She was the first and
best known of the U.S. Navy
communications ships and for two
years was the only headquarters
communications vessel in the Euro-
pean Theater. She traveled further,
was in more major operations and
carried more famous political and
military leaders than any other ship of
her type. The Ancon had mny close
calls in combat, but, miraculously,
while ships alongside her were tor-
pedoed and sunk, she was never hit.
She participated in the invasions of
North Africa, Sicily, Salerno and
Normandy. When the war ended in
Europe, she was converted for Pacific
duty, miles of wire and tons of
sensitive radio devices installed below
and above deck. She took an active
part in the Okinawa campaign and on
September 2, 1945, it was from the
Ancon that the news of the final
surrender of Japan was flashed to the
world from Tokyo Bay. Aboard were
90 war correspondents, photog-
raphers and newsreelmen repre-
senting the United States, England,
China and Australia. Among them

The End of the Line

were John Mason Brown, who was to
write "To All Hands," a summary of
invasion experiences on the Ancon,
and Quintin Reynolds, who wrote
about the Ancon in "The Curtain
Rises." With a glorious record of
service to her country, the Ancon was
returned to the Panama Line on
February 25, 1946.
The Panama, renamed the James
Parker, called frequently at Cristobal
during the first part of the war. Later,
she was on the Atlantic run as far as
South Africa and then operated
between the United States and the
Atlantic Theater of War. Just before
her return to civilian service, the
vessel was again converted, this time
for carrying brides and babies. On one
voyage, the Panama also brought
back $80 million worth of paintings
that the Germans had looted from
various European capitals. Space was
made for the art works in the air-
conditioned dining room, and later
they were delivered to the National
Art Gallery in Washington D.C.
When the Panama was returned to
the line after the war, passengers and
cargo went aboard for the first post-
war sailing out of New York on
September 20, 1946. Half an hour
before sailing time, a maritime strike
was called and the Panama was held
in port. For 14 days the passengers
lived aboard the ship courtesy of the
Panama Line.
The Cristobal was returned on
June 14, 1946, after four years and five
months of military service. The
vessel's first war duty was to carry
troops to Australia, where she re-
loaded and carried field artillery to
New Caledonia. She transported
troops to Suez and took part in the
invasion of Casablanca and operated
in the Mediterranean area, landing
troops at Utah Beach after the
Normandy Invasion. When the war
ended, the Cristobal transported the
wounded and war brides and children
of 17 different nationalities to the
United States.
On July 1, 1951, following 102 years
of service, the Panama Railroad
Company was abolished by executive
order of President Truman. As the
result of an administrative reorganiza-


tion, the railroad and the steamship
line became separate divisions of ihe
Panama Canal Company.
The Panama Line was affected b., a
general decline in world shipping and
began to lose money. The 16-year-old
Panama was withdrawn in the interest
of economy and sold in 1956 to
American President Lines to become
the President Hoover. The Panama
was later sold to Demetrius Chandris,
a London-based, Greek shipowner of
cruise vessels, and sails under the new
name of Regina Prima.
Through the years, there was
opposition by the steamship industry
to the U.S. Government's operation
of the Panama Line. However, Con-
gress accepted the argument that the
strategic Canal needed its own supply
service that could readily be rerouted
in an emergency and kept under the
Canal company's control at all times.
In 1932, President Hoover recom-
mended that the line be abolished, but
the House voted to retain it. The old
controversy continued, however, and
after months of heated hearings, on
December 24, 1960, President Eisen-
hower ordered the Canal organization
to stop carrying commercial cargoes
and non-government passengers,
effective February 10, 1961.
Ten days later, the Ancon sailed out
of New York for the last time. The
Panama Line's terminus was moved
from Pier 64, North River to facilities
made available by the U.S. Army
Transportation Terminal at Poland
and Dauphine streets in New Orleans.
A new and shorter run between the
Isthmus and New Orleans was inau-
gurated by the Ancon, renewing old
ties that had been established before
the Gold Rush days.
In June 1961, the Ancon was retired
and a year later was turned over to the
Maine Maritime Academy, where she
served as a training ship for 10 years.
In 1973, the once proud "MightyA,"as
she was known during the war, was
dismantled, her machinery and equip-
ment sold and her hull cut up for
The service between Cristohal and
New Orleans that was begun by the
Ancon was taken up by the Cristobal,
and the rest is Canal history.

OCTOBER 1, 1981




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