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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 61.djvu/260

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POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

ought to be located on the Panama route, and that it should be a sea level canal without locks. The fact was apparently overlooked that the range between high and low tides in the Bay of Panama, about twenty feet, was so great as probably to require a tidal lock at that terminus.

A company entitled 'Compagnie Universelle du Canal Interocéanique' was organized with Ferdinand de Lesseps as president, immediately after the adjournment of the international congress. The purpose of this company was the construction and operation of the canal, and it purchased the Wyse concession from the original company for the sum of 10,000,000 francs. An immediate but unsuccessful attempt was made to finance the company in August, 1879. This necessitated a second attempt, which was made in December, 1880, with success, as the entire issue of 600,000 shares of 500 francs each was sold. Two years were then devoted to examinations and surveys and preliminary work upon the canal, but it was 1883 before operations upon a large scale were begun. The plan adopted and followed by this company was that of a sea level canal affording a depth of 29.5 feet and a bottom width of 72 feet. It was estimated that the necessary excavation would amount to 157,000,000 cu. yds.

The Atlantic terminus of the canal route was located at Colon and at Panama on the Pacific side. The line passed through the low ground just north of Monkey Hill to Gatun, six miles from the Atlantic terminus, and where it first met the Chagres River. For a distance of twenty-one miles it followed the general course of the Chagres to Obispo, but left it at the latter point and passing up the valley of a small tributary cut through the continental divide at Culebra and descended thence by the valley of the Rio Grande to the mouth of that river where it enters Panama Bay. The total length of this line from 30 ft. depth in the Atlantic to the same depth in the Pacific was about 47 miles. The maximum height of the continental divide on the center line of the canal in the Culebra cut was about 333 ft. above the sea, which is a little higher than the lowest point of the divide in that vicinity. Important considerations in connection with the adjacent alignment made it advisable to cut the divide at a point not its lowest.

Various schemes were proposed for the purpose of controlling the floods of the Chagres River, the suddenness and magnitude of which were at once recognized as among the greatest difficulties to be encountered in the construction of the work. Although it was seriously proposed at one time to control this difficulty by building a dam across the Chagres at Gamboa that plan was never adopted, and the problem of control of the Chagres floods remained unsolved for a long period.

It was estimated by de Lesseps in 1880 that eight years would be required for the completion of the canal, and that its cost would be $127,600,000. The company prosecuted its work with activity until