Nevada Appeal at 150: Nov. 14, 1912: Panama Canal: Greatest problem of the age
The greatest engineering undertaking ever attempted is all but completed by the United States.
The canal is set for completion a year ahead of scheduled time due to American engineering skill and American enterprise. This feat at one time was proclaimed to be an impossibility and authorities of the United States said to be crazy in even suggesting it.
The entire length of the canal from deep water to deep water is 50 miles. From shore line to shore line its length is about 40 miles.
In passing from the Atlantic to the Pacific, a vessel will steam through seven miles of channel with a bottom width of 500 feet to Gatun, where it will enter a series of three blocks to be lifted 85 feet to the level of Gatun Lake. It may steam at full speed through this lake on a channel varying from 500 to 1,000 feet in width, for a distance of about 24 miles, where it will enter Culebra Cut. This cut is nine miles long and 450 feet high at the highest point and has a bottom width of 300 feet.
The depth of canal, including its course through the lake, varies from 45 to 85 feet. The bottom width varies from 300 in Culebra Cut to 500 to 1,000 feet in the lake.
The Gatun Dam, which will form Gatun Lake by impounding the waters of the Charles River and its tributaries, will be nearly 112 miles long, half a mile wide at its base, about 400 feet thick at normal water level and its crest will be 115 feet above sea level.
This lake will furnish the water for lockage, the locks being filled by gravity flow through conduits in the concrete walls of the locks and percolating through holes in the bottom of the locks.
It is estimated the lake will furnish enough water to make 41 passages daily through the locks, using them at full length, or about 58 lockages a day.
There will be two breakwaters protecting the entrance to the canal. The one on the Atlantic side will be 10,500 feet long, 15 feet wide on top and 10 feet high above mean sea level. The breakwater at the Pacific entrance will be three miles long, and will vary from 20 to 40 feet in height above mean sea level and will be from 50 to 300 feet wide on top. This breakwater is being built with earth and rock brought from Culebra Cut.
It is estimated the total cost of the canal to the government will be $375,000,000, involving an annual interest charge of $11,250,000. The very roughly estimate cost of operation is $750,000 a year. This will mean an expense of $1,000,000 a month for interest and operation.
It is believed the canal will be opened to commerce Jan. 1, 1914.
This continues the Appeal’s review of news stories and headlines during its Sesquicentennial year.