THE PANAMA CANAL
 WE travel by one of the Pacific Steam Navigation Company's coasting steamers from Callao to
Balboa, at the Pacific entrance to the Panama Canal. The vessel is a coasting steamer only
as regards the service she performs; in reality, she is a first-class ocean liner, run on
first-class lines; and as during our trip on her all the passengers form a happy family
party, under the kindly influence of the Captain, who makes everyone feel an honoured
guest, we are very sorry when the week's cruise comes to an end.
When we reach Panama, in the spring of 1914, the Canal is finished. True, there have been
some troublesome landslides; one has taken place just previous to our arrival, and numbers
of workmen, steam cranes, and trains are busy shovelling out and removing to a
dumping-ground the tons of earth and rock that have tumbled into the section known as the
Culebra Cut. But certain privileged vessels have already been through the Canal, so,
despite temporary interruptions to traffic, the short cut between the Pacific and Atlantic
Oceans may be said to be an accomplished fact.
Although at the time of our visit the Canal has not been formally declared open, we have
the good fortune to journey by electric launch along the whole course of this marvelous
waterway. To the courtesy of American officials we owe the honour of being among
 the first travellers to pass through the Panama Canal. Previous to the trip by launch,
however, we get many interesting and beautiful views of the American "Big Job "in going by
train from Panama city, near Balboa, to Colon, at the Atlantic entrance to the Canal, for
the railway which crosses the Isthmus of Panama skirts the waterway that has been cut
across that Isthmus.
In passing through the Panama Canal, from the Atlantic to the Pacific, a vessel sails for
about four miles within the buoyed boundaries of a deep-water channel in Limon Bay, then
enters the Isthmus of Panama through an opening in the low-lying arena of a hill-girt
amphitheatre. Here she begins an adventurous journey through a region of jungle-clad
wilds. For three miles her course lies along a broad ditch, the water in which is kept at
sea-level by the Atlantic. Suddenly she has to come to a standstill, for the ditch is
blocked by a massive gateway, which supports giant gates that are tightly closed.
Presently, the gates are opened, giving access to a lock-chamber; the vessel is towed into
that chamber, the gates behind her are closed, and by a flight of three locks she is
lifted 85 feet to the level of an artificial lake. Through that fresh-water lake, which is
fed by a neighbouring river, the ship travels about twenty-four miles; then she passes
into a ditch in the depths of an artificially made ravine. At the end of a nine-mile-long
passage between mountain walls she enters a lock, and is lowered 30 feet to a second, and
smaller, artificial lake, which is fed by
 the waters of another river. By way of this lake, which is at an elevation of 541 feet
above sea-level, she gets one and a half miles farther on her journey, and is then lowered
by locks in two steps to a sea-level ditch, wherein mingle the waters of a river and of
the Pacific Ocean. A run of about four miles between jungle-clad banks brings her to
Balboa; here the ditch merges into a deep-water channel in Panama Bay, and within its
buoyed boundaries the vessel sails on for four and a half miles, when she passes into the
naturally deep waters of the open Pacific.
The entire length of the Panama Canal, from deep water in the Atlantic to deep water in
the Pacific, is about fifty miles. Its length from shore line to shore-line is about forty
miles. Its minimum width of 300 feet is three times that of the Suez Canal; its maximum
width is 1,000 feet, and this is maintained for several miles in the channel through the
great lake. The depth varies from 41 to 85 feet. The locks are in pairs, hence vessels
going in opposite directions can continue their journey simultaneously, some going
"upstairs "and others "downstairs,"
The Canal is centrally situated within a ten-miles-wide strip of the Isthmus of Panama.
That strip is known as the "Canal Zone," and belongs to the United States of America.
When I was first in Panama, in the spring of 1912, the bed of the Canal was a hive of
industry. Where there is now a waterway, there were then swamps that
 told of submerged forests and of lakes in the making, deep and wide ditches that were
being made deeper and wider by armies of men and wondrous machinery, camps that looked
like large towns, and trains rushing hither and thither in the bowels of the earth, packed
with workmen of all shades and nationalities, or with excavated "dirt" for the
The first Panama Canal was begun by the French in 1880; the unhealthy conditions of the
Isthmus were largely responsible for the failure of that enterprise. When, in 1904, the
Americans tackled the "Big Job," they began the work of canal-building by waging war on
yellow-fever mosquitoes and other deadly pests, and by providing healthy housing
accommodation and organizing good food supplies in readiness for the thousands of
labourers they would require in the Canal Zone. For the world-wide renown the United
States have won in carrying through the biggest engineering job that has ever been
undertaken, Americans are indebted as much to Colonel Gorgas, the head of the Canal Zone
Department of Sanitation, as to Colonel Goethals, the Chief Engineer of the Panama Canal.