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About Omaha daily bee. (Omaha [Neb.]) 187?-1922 | View Entire Issue (April 14, 1912)
Journey Through Mighty Gorge
(Copyright. ! by Frank O. Carpenter.)
. ULEBRA, Canal Zone. Panama.
Come with me this morning
f'r a trip through the Culebra
cut, that mighty nine-mile
gash in the Andes which Is to
bring the shipping of the two
oceans together. It practically begins at
Tdto Miguel, where we shall start, and
it runs In a winding canyon through the
mountains from there on until It Is lost
In the great lake of Gat en. The ships
will come through the lake and steam
on at full speed through the cut, and the
water of the cut and the lake will be at
the same level.
The Culebra cut Is at the lowest pass
of the Andes, those mighty mountains
which In South America rise more than
four miles above the sea. but bow down
humbly as they reach the Isthmus on
their way north to Join with the Rock
ies. Right here at Panama the mountains
are on the average only about one-third
mile high, and at Culebra the tallest
peak, known as Gold Hill. Is Mo feet
above the sea. The lowest pass Is only
Me feet, and we have cut this down so
that shins can sail through It and the
eurface of the canal waters be only
clghly flve feet above the level of the
Thraaah the C at on Foot.
o shall start for our trip about nine
miles from the Pacific right under the
mighty lock of Pedro Miguel. Into which
the steamers will come when they have
passed through the cut. This lock Is as
(all as a three-story house, and It will
drop the ships to the level of the lock
at Jllraflore. where they have two more
gigantic drops before they reach the level
of the Pacific.
We crawl down into the locks and go
can-fully ts we wind our way about
through the network of steel wires and
cables, so many In number thai they look
like a thicket. Wo dodge to keep out
of the day of the concrete which Is falling
Into the network and pick out our path
along the line of the railroad.
We soon reach the beginning of the
cut and there start on our walk to Cule
bra. The average man roes th. ..,
these works on a motor csr or la ai.it I
r them on a special train, which makes '
understanding Impossible. In thhrtrlp of !
uurs ws snail take our feet In our hands
and move In and out among the ma
chinery and workmen, dodging the spoil
trains which are carrying their rivers of
earm ana rock down to the great dam
at (Katun and to the mighty Pacific
wean breakwater which la connecting
Balboa with the Islsnd of Naos. Much
of our way la on the ties of the railroads,
some of It Is over the masses of rocks
cast up by rho explosions, and we shall
have to climb from level to- level and
avoid tripping over the electric wires
which run here and there. Wa must be
ever on guard to Jump out of tho way
of tho trains and also to watch out for
the explosions of dynamite which are pro
paring tho rock for the steam shovels.
nia.llea Uovra the Aadeo.
There are steam shovels everywhere
working. There are hundreds of Jamai
can and Barbadian negroes engaged In
drilling. There are gangs of Italians
moving the tracks, and other gangs of
negroes and whites. In wster up to their
waists, repairing tho ahovels. Tho drill
ing goes on everywhere, and I venture
you have never seen such drilling before.
The drills have derricks above them.
They are. in fact, derricks on wheels,
and you can see a thicket of the derricks
In clumps as you look up tho cut. Eaca
drill consists of one of these derricks
and a long steel shaft, which rises and
falls, making a dynamite hole as big
around as your arm and twenty-six feet
deep for the blasting. Tho force which
moves tho drill Is compressed air sent
through a pipe as thick as the waist or
your sweetheart, which runs from one
end of roe cut to the other. There are
altogether more than thirteen inilea of
such pipes, the air coming from com
pressers at Rio Grande, Empire and Las
Her they arc charging tha drillings
with dynamite. That long Una of hole
running 1.000 yards up the cut is ready
for an explosion. Tha men are testing
them befor they put In the candles. By
and by they will go off with tha noise
of a battleship In action. Farther on is
another gang drilling In front of the
steam shovels which are working on the
explosions of yesterday night. That Is
the way the mountain Is cut down. Tho
rock ts first broken to pieces and then
loaded by steam shovels Into th cars
and carried on tho railroad out of th
cut. . ,
Rut let as move onward. Watch out
for your feet. Tou may trip on the wires
and an electric shock send you to heaven
or the reverse. Don't you see that train
coming? Ton most get far off the track.
Those cars are loaded with rock and
earth, and hug rocks frequently fall and
men are killed by them. Tha air is full
of sharp dust, carried on by the motion.
The train is tM feet long and every car
is loaded with that mighty blue rock.
Clasjls with Mreaatk of ilea reds.
But let us step at this great steam
shovel and watch it. See bow It gougos
out the rocks and earth exploded by
dynamite. Ther are scores of other
shovels at work In the cat, and each I
accomplishing mora than th labor of 509
There are. altogether, mar than Wt
shovels on the Isthmus and tbey equal
a force half as large aa the whole United
Stste army. Fifty thousand Samsons
could sot do what tbey do.
W take a seat an the stones oa th
level above the ditch where th shovel
Is working. Tha hug monster makes
one think of a giant oa wheels with a
nighty arm at the front which ends m
a mouth of steel as big a hogshead.
This mouth baa four long, sharp, cruel
steel teeth on the edge of Its lower lip.
aad it gouges out ten tons of earth at a
. .... . . '
bite and, raising its head In, the air. It
swings th bits on to th car.
8ee. It Is taking a bite now. It has
swallowed a rock which weighs three or
four tons and has carried It with a mas
of debris. Ther aro eight tone Inside Its
square cheeks, but It lifts the load aa
though It were feathers and, loosening its
lower lip. drops It Into th ear. Tho msss
falls with a loud explosion and th car
has not finished quivering before th
giant has bitten out five more wsgonloada
of earth and dropped them on top.
Look again. The shovel has taken, up
a rock too big to pass through It. It
has bitten off more than It can ohew.
Be how It throw tho rock back on th
dump. and. knocking It thla way and
that with lis cheeks, twists and turns it
so that it may pass Inside th shovel.
That rock weighs over ten tons, and th
tngine roars and the steam puffs as th
treat Jaw Jerks and rise and falls. Jolt
ing It down on th csr.
Now look one mors at the machine and
th brains which make It mot aa
though It were human. It all cornea from
that whit pygmy In blue cotton clothing.
That la a steam shovel man. He has a
small rope In his hand, and with thi ho
Jerks the machinery which makes th
mighty giant mov at a touch.
Woader of the dhovela.
W walk on a few yards to another
shovel which Is tsklng up wagon loads of
rock at each mouthful and dropping them
down Into th cars with Its alligator-Ilka
Jaw. See how Intelligently It works. As
the pile grows uneven It smooth out
the rocks with lis chin. It turn gigantic
bs with a nod of tha head, and, sink
ing Its teeth deep Into old Mother Earth,
takes up rock and clay, two hogahoad-
tula at a bite, and aplta them Into th
cars. This machinery here la tho wonder
of th world and It doe Ita work with
eut kicking. It never stops and never
strllfs. It la a tool of tho gods, hut
lltti man works It with a touch of hla
One will load a flat car holding forty
tons In five bites, and w have shovels
which hav loaded more than 4,03s cubic
yards In a day. Records sre kept of th
work of earn, and slngls machine fre
quently load COM eublo yard of earth
and upward In one working month. It
that amount of material war loaded
upon two-horse wagona It would take
131' 00 horses to haul It, and estimating
ch wagon at forty feet, the k
wagon train of a single shovel would On
a roadway Ms miles long.
As we look I tak out my watch and
time tho loading of a car. Th shovel
drop a mouthful weighing from five to
eight tons every sixteen seconds, and
th ear la filled In a Utile over a minute.
In on day's wdrk a single above! has
loaded mora than (.000 tana., and last
March flfty-on shovels excavated oa aa
average almost W.OM yards each.
Learn ! the Aat.
Aa wa watch the work one af th shov
els comes to rest, aad I remark to th
man who forma tha brains of th giant
upon tha mighty power he is handling.
Yea." he replies, "this machine la stu
pendous, but It Is nothing la eoBapart
son with that of all nature about us.
Wa hav ants her la Culebra which
drag along leave four times aa big aa
themselves and flvs time their weight.
Their machinery la more wonderful than
this and I tell you God has man beat
But let as go on. Look at the hills
w are now passing through. Tho tops
of th canyon are of the greenest of
green, snd they look refreshing ta con
trast with the scarred desert dowa her
In th cut. Be the' railroad train mov
ing on that level above us. There Is
another caravan oa th torsi below,
others la the cut and high above ts an
twenty car flying away down to Balboa.
There Is a train at the light, at th toft
and trains everywhere carrying rivers
of rock. Tbey make a think of tho bat
tle of Balaklava engines to right of
them, engines to left them, engines la
front of them volleyed and thundered,
laloaa.as law Spall.
Now stop and look at th car. Did
you ever see such engine before They
are giants In conpariaofi with those of
our railroads. They puff ant great toU
umee of smoke, but the stiff wind which
ir J-T r.A(Lsf-' -NJ V.. u : - : .
iiuuw iar ww v rfnvsa
la blowing keeps tho air clear.
These car srs Udgtrwood car, which
are unloaded with plows. There are
mors than l.iN of them now In use, and
at tho tame Urn aa equal number ot
steel dump cars largo aod email. There
are mora than 4,N car moving back and
forth through tho work, and on th ever
sge ther Is a train ovary four min
utes all th day through.
Th Lidgerwood car art among tha
wonders of modern excavation. There
are twenty of them In each train, and
each car ta, I should Judge, about thirty
feet long. One trsln will messur over
90S feet on th track, and eight or nine
trsln make a mile. They are fiat, with
a wall as high as yonr wslst at on
side, and are so connected by steel sprons
that when loaded th earth and rock
form a windrow or great bank from one
end of the train to the other.
When they shoot out on the dumps
tha engine hav aucn machinery that
they drag a mighty steel plow over the
train and It shovela th tnaea at ona mo
tion far out from th aid of th track.
After a time th nil rises, and then a
glgantlo spreader another machine which
runs on th track and doss th work of
1.S0S men smooths down' tho duaSp. Mors
rock Is put on, and finally, even with the
spreader. It Is too high for unloading.
And then what do the engineers do?
Do they seek a new dump? Not at ail.
They merely run out th track shifter, a
mighty machine which picka up tracks,
ties aad all and lifts them over so that
another dump can be made. Thla machine
will throw more than a mil of track
nine test In eight hour, and It repre
sents th work of M men. Nevertheless
It I handled by three whit man and six
laborers. Single plow havo unloaded
sixteen trains In eight hours, an amount
so great that It would take M.M horses
to haul It If piled upon wagona
Leek at the Reek.
But let us go on. Wo hav already
traveled three mile and ar pretty well
along th cut. See hoar tho rock runs la
tines on each side. Tho strata vary snd
they aro of different colon. As we psss
one of th foremen hands me a piece of
rack In which a asaahell baa bean petri
fied. That shell must hav been depos
ited her when the ocean was over the
tops of thsse mountains.
Tho rock of Gold hill la of many colors.
As we psss through It Is 4 o'clock In lbs
evening and th sua a raya ar bringing
them out Bom of tho rock Is light red;
other strata are blue and ther are great
patch of yellow aad variegated huea
Much of the wall Is of th same color as
the blue clay in the great diamond pipes
of South Africa, and. Ilk th Utter, It
weathers upon exposure to air. One of
the workmen tell ma he has picked up
stone which ar a beautiful crystal and
which, when cut. shine Ilk a moonstone.
Would It not bs strangs to find diamonds
here in aur canal bed?
At Geld Hill.
But I despair of giving yon tho scenes
ot Culebra. Th cut la Indescribable and
Its feature chance every moment. We
stop at last under Gold hill, the top of
which la more than Ms feet above sea
level. We are now on the very level of
th cans) bed. Juet about forty feet above
the aurfac of th Caribbean and tha Pa
cific ocean. W ar ta a rocky, ragaed
gorge of numerous levels, which rise aka
cHffa on each side of us. At place the
rock 1 cracked aa though aa earthquake
had shattered It- Right near her were
the great slides when tbouaanda upon
thousands ot tons' rolled down lata the
cot. The crack can be seen everywhere
ss we move. We climb th heights to
Culebra and as ws do so find ouraelve
wondering whether th whole aaountaia
will elide. Th engineer, however, know
all th dangers. Tbey havo tested every
part ot th excavation and understand
Just bow to handle th canal It any part
ot th mountain should move. It may be
that th slop will hav to be widened. I
know it Is a mighty steep wall to tho top.
I went up on my hands and feet, panting
aad resting st every few step. Th
exertion wa terrible In this tropical air,
and tt took ms something Ilk a quarter
ot an hour to make my way to th top.
Five O'eWk ta Its Cat.
I shall ask you ta tske a seat with me
ther and look at toe view. Vr are Just
THE OMAHA Sl'NUAT BLE: ArKIL
a H 't: r I .-, - rr?aM"ji:?o' i vv
Eacpla&aan ef 2200 fbnacs
ii 410) t.
back ot th Toung Men's Christian
elation building opposite Gold hilt and
a little abov th peak known as Con
tractors' hill. Wa ar at th deepest part
of th cut, which lie over w feet down
In th forge. Ws can so th great gash
winding its way In a cure toward th
Pacific, and twisting about like a totter B
ss It goes toward ,Os tun. Wa can see th
amoks of ths steam (novels and hear
their groaning as they labor and tug. We
hear the chug-chug-chug of tha drills, th
whistles of tho many steam snglnea. th
rattling ot th cars and what seems ths
perpetual noisy motion of tho machine
and arms of tho gods aa they mov moan
Islns going on In th great canyon below.
Tak eat your watch. Ir art flvs minutes
of i. When tha second hand reach th
figure th work will all step. There goes
Ihs whistle and th men come swarming
up the aide of th nwuntslna Now hsar
th explosions. Th dynamite drillings all
through th cut sr tearing th rocky
heart of th earth. Th no la I that ot
a mighty battle. It ahakea th nreuntlns,
and th echoes reverberate Ilk th clap
ping of thunder. The earth quiver and
w think of slid, and wonder If th hill
upon which w are silting may not
mov town Into th gorge.
Carle laaa's Mighty Thande Blast.
This great battle of explosion goss on
for sn hour or more. The charges ar
set off by electricity, which lights ths
fuses, but a fuse msy be slow and th
explosion sre varied. New ther I a
single volcanic eruption, aad now It
sounds like a battery ot our great men-of-war
when In action. It la unsafe to
walk through the canal after dark, and
especially shortly after the man hav
stopped work. A csrtrldg may unex
pectedly explode and blow one to atom
But wok again down tho cut. There
goss th labor train taking th workman
horn to A neon. It la loaded with sliver
employes, married men. Jamaicans and
negroes from other parts of th West
Indies, and also with Syrians, Italians,
Spaniards and others who live at Ancon.
But see th train has stopped at the
going oft ot a mighty dynamite charge
at th foot of Gold hill. Thi has aent
up a volume ot vapor and fume mixed
with dust, which hss tilled th cut from
on side to th other, and It covers ths
tracks In front of I ha can. Th train
stops to let them rise befor It goes
through and ss It awaits there Is
ether mighty explosion oa th opposite
side ot Culebra. Uncle Sam furnishes
these mighty thunder blasts every night
Tbey will form a fit end of our trip.
FRANK O. CARPENTER.
A aather Braad.
He suddenly put his hand In his waist
coat pocket and drew out three broken
Then he looked st his best girl with a
"nor da King Alfnnsoa." he airily said
"Fifty doliara a hundred. But h
"M me see them. raid the girl.
She inspected the fragments closely.
"Tea." aha quietly announced, "that'e
th kind papa awas buys when he's
running for office. Five dollars s thou
sand. Somebody has fooled you. George."
She wa a wis girl and did not smile.
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