Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 22.djvu/229

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The time allowed me for addressing you on this occasion is wholly insufficient to do justice to the great engineering works of the present day, and I must therefore limit myself to making a short allusion to a few only of the more remarkable enterprises.

The great success, both technically and commercially, of the Suez Canal, has stimulated M. de Lesseps to undertake a similar work of even more gigantic proportions, namely, the piercing of the Isthmus of Panama by a ship-canal, forty miles long, fifty yards wide on the surface, and twenty yards at the bottom, upon a dead level from sea to sea. The estimated cost of this work is £20,000,000, and, more than this sum having been subscribed, it appears unlikely that political or climatic difficulties will stop M. de Lesseps in its speedy accomplishment. Through it, China, Japan, and the whole of the Pacific Ocean will be brought to half their present distance, as measured by the length of voyage, and an impulse to navigation and to progress will thus be given which it will be difficult to overestimate.

Side by side with this gigantic work, Captain Eads, the successful improver of the Mississippi navigation, intends to erect his ship railway, to take the largest vessels, fully laden and equipped, from sea to sea, over a gigantic railway across the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, a distance of ninety-five miles. Mr. Barnaby, the chief constructor of the navy, and Mr. John Fowler have expressed a favorable opinion regarding this enterprise, and it is to be hoped that both the canal and the ship-railway will be accomplished, as it may be safely anticipated that the traffic will be amply sufficient to support both these undertaking's.

Whether or not M. de Lesseps will be successful also in carrying into effect the third great enterprise with which his name has been prominently connected, the flooding of the Tunis-Algerian Chotts, thereby re-establishing the Lake Tritonis of the ancients, with its verdure-clad shores, is a question which could only be decided upon the evidence of accurate surveys, but the beneficial influence of a large sheet of water within the African desert could hardly be matter of doubt.

It is with a feeling not unmixed with regret that I have to record the completion of a new Eddystone Light-house in substitution for the chef-d'oeuvre of engineering erected by John Smeaton more than one hundred years ago. The condemnation of that structure was not, however, the consequence of any fault of construction, but was caused by inroads of the sea upon the rock supporting it. The new lighthouse, designed and executed by Mr. (now Sir James) Douglass, engineer of Trinity House, has been erected in the incredibly short time of less than two years, and bids fair to be worthy of its famed predecessor. Its height above high water is one hundred and thirty feet, as compared with seventy-two feet, the height of Telford's structure, which gives its powerful light a considerably increased range. The