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CANALS

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INLAND

1887, and one from Costa Rica in August 1888, and sent parties to survey the canal. An Act for the incorporation of an association to be known as the Maritime Canal Company of Nicaragua passed Congress and was approved 20th February 1889, and on 4th May 1889 the company was organized. It took over the concessions and, acting through a construction company, began work upon the canal in June 1889. Operations upon a moderate scale and mainly of a preliminary character were continued until 1893, when the financial disturbances of that period drove the construction company into bankruptcy and compelled a suspension of the work. It has not since been resumed. At that time the canal had been excavated to a depth of 17 feet and a width of 280 feet for a distance of about 3000 feet inland from Greytown; the canal line had been cleared of timber for a distance of about twenty miles; a railroad had been constructed for a distance of about 11 miles inland from Greytown; a pier had been built for the improvement of Greytown harbour; a telegraph line had been placed from Greytown to Castillo ; buildings for offices, quarters, hospitals, storehouses, &c., had been erected, and wharves and landing-places had been constructed; and a considerable dredging plant had been purchased. In all, about $4,500,000 had been expended. Congress continued to take an interest in the enterprise, and in 1895 provided for a Board of Engineers to inquire into the possibility, permanence, and cost of the canal as projected by the Maritime Canal Company. The report of this Board, dated April 1895, severely criticized the plans and estimates of the company, and led to the appointment in 1897 of another Board, to make additional surveys and examinations, and to prepare new plans and estimates. The second Board recommended some radical changes in the plans, and especially in the estimates, but its report was not completed when the revival of the Panama scheme attracted the attention of Congress, and led to the creation in 1899 of the present Isthmian Canal Commission to examine and report upon all practicable routes for a canal across the isthmus. In the meanwhile the property of the Maritime Canal Company has become nearly worthless through decay, and its concession has been declared forfeited by the Nicaraguan Government. The interest of the United States in an isthmian canal was not essentially different from that of other maritime nat ns isthmian i° d°wn to about the middle of the 19th Canaia century, but it assumed great strength when ComCalifornia was acquired, and it has steadily grown mission. as t}10 importance of the Pacific States has developed. In 1848, and again in 1884, treaties were negotiated with Nicaragua authorizing the United States to build the canal, but in neither case was the treaty ratified. The Spanish War of 1898 gave a tremendous impetus to popular interest in the matter. It seems now to be an article of the national faith that the canal must be built, and, furthermore, that it must be under American control. To the American people the canal appears to be not merely a business enterprise from ’which a direct revenue is to be obtained, but rather a means of unifying and strengthening their national political interests, and of developing their industries, particularly in the Pacific States and Territories; in short, a means essential to their national growth. The Isthmian Canal Commission created by Congress in 1899 to examine all practicable routes, and to report which was the most practicable and most feasible for a canal under the control, management, and ownership of the United States, reported that there was no route which did not present greater disadvantages than those of Panama and Nicaragua. It recommended that the canal should have a depth of 3o

NA-VIGAI I O N

[AMERICA

feet and bottom width 150 feet, the locks to be double, the lock chambers to have a length 740 feet, width 83 feet, and depth 35 feet in the clear. The cost of a canal at Panama with these dimensions, built essentially upon the French plans, was estimated at $156,378,258. A plan, however, was recommended in which the height of the Bohio dam is increased about 20 feet, the level of Lake Bohio raised by that amount, the lake made the summitlevel, and the Alajuela dam omitted. The cost upon this plan was estimated at $143,971,127. The plan recommended by the Commission for Nicaragua is shown in the map. Beginning at Greytown on the Caribbean Sea, where an artificial harbour is to be constructed, the line follows the valley of the San Juan for 100 miles to Lake Nicaragua; thence across the lake about 70 miles to the mouth of Las Lajas River; then up the valley of that stream through the watershed, and down the valley of the Rio Grande, 17 miles to Brito on the Pacific, where also an artificial harbour is to be constructed. The distance from ocean to ocean is 187 miles. About midway between the lake and the Caribbean the San Juan receives its most important affluent, the San Carlos, and undergoes a radical change in character. Above the junction it is a clear water stream, capable of improvement by locks and dams. Below, it is choked with sand, and not available for slack-water navigation. A dam across the San Juan above the mouth of the San Carlos is to maintain the water of the river above that point on a level with the lake. The line of the canal occupies essentially the bed of the river from the lake to the dam; from the dam to the Caribbean it follows the left bank of the river, keeping at a safe distance from it, and occasionally cutting through a high projecting ridge. The lake and the river above the dam constitute the summit-level, which will vary in height at different seasons from 104 to 110 feet above mean sea-level. It will be reached from the Caribbean side by five locks, the first having a lift of 36|- feet, and the others a uniform lift of 18|- feet each, making a total lift of 110^ from low tide in the Caribbean to high tide in the lake. From the Pacific side the summit will be reached by four locks having a uniform lift of 28| feet each, or a total lift of 114 feet from low tide in the Pacific to high tide in the lake. The time required to build the canal is estimated at ten years, and its cost at $200,540,000. The Commission ended its report thus :— 1. The estimated cost of building the Nicaragua Canal is about 158,000,000 more than that of completing the Panama Canal, leaving out the cost of acquiring the latter property. This measures the difference in the magnitude of the obstacles to he overcome in the actual construction of the two canals, and covers all physical considerations, such as the greater or less height of dams, the greater or less depth of cuts, the presence or absence of natural harbours, the presence or absence of a railroad, the exemption from or liability to disease, and the amount of work remaining to be done. The New Panama Canal Company has shown no disposition to sell its property to the United States. Should that company be able and willing to sell, there is reason to believe that the price would not be such as would make the total cost to the United States less than that of the Nicaragua Canal. 2. The Panama Canal, after completion, would be shorter, have fewer locks and less curvature than the Nicaragua Canal. The measure of these advantages is the time required for a vessel to pass through, which is estimated for an average ship at twelve hours for Panama and thirty-three hours for Nicaragua. On the other hand, the distance from San Francisco to New York is 377 miles, to New Orleans 579 miles, and to Liverpool 386 miles greater vid Panama than vid Nicaragua. The time required to pass over these distances being greater than the difference in the time of transit through the canals, the Nicaragua line, after completion, would be somewhat the more advantageous of the two to the United States, notwithstanding the greater cost of maintaining the longer canal. 3. The Government of Colombia, in which lies the Panama Canal, has granted an exclusive concession, which still has many