Tag Archives: death tolls on the Panama Canal

Culebra Cut – Part III

Images: Top: Early slide in Culebra
Middle: Another early slide covering train track
Bottom: Culebra Cut today


The totally unforeseen nature of the approximately 22 “
slides” that plagued the construction of the Panama Canal, and in particular the operations in Culebra Cut, was what made them such a deadly and thoroughly exacerbating feature of the canal’s creation. The slides were also the single most convincing factor in determining that a sea level canal would never be possible in Panama. Continue reading

Culebra Cut – Part II

A line of “powder men” carrying 50 lb. boxes of dynamite on their heads; all West Indian. 

Images: Top- a West Indian dynamite crew in Culebra Cut
Bottom- a dynamite “magazine” or storage unit.

The amount of dirt excavated at Panama has been calculated in many different ways. Some engineers have measured it by the number of dirt cars that carried the soil, rock and other debris out of the construction area. Generally, it has been said that an entire train of dirt cars would be able to circle the world four times at the Equator if we were to understand the massive excavation undertaking. Continue reading

Culebra Cut- Part I

Top image is a map view of the Panama Canal Route
showing the location of Culebra Cut
Bottom image shows a very early photo of
Culebra Cut in all it’s ominous splendor.


At a gathering of visiting congressmen a few days after his appointment in Panama (March 31, 1907)
Colonel George W. Goethals, the new Chief Engineer, remarked, “I now consider that I am commanding the Army of Panama, and that the enemy we are going to combat is the Culebra Cut and the locks and dams at both ends of the Canal…” Continue reading

What of Their Adaptability and Strength!?

Image is from a painting of a “blast” at Empire about 1910


The first ten years of the canal construction work had black labor under constant applied negative forces by the canal administrative system, as we have noted earlier. However, the black labor force, rather than become so deformed as to
attack the system, became even more efficient in their conduct so as to withstand the stress upon the group. Continue reading

Enough of You, Anopheles!

Images: Top: Stegomyia fasciata the “Yellow fever” mosquito
Today it is called Aedes aegypti
Middle: Anopheles the “Malaria” mosquito
Thanks to www.wikipedia.com
Bottom: A 1905 fumigation truck spraying ditches
www.canalmuseum.com

By August of 1905 yellow fever had reached epidemic proportions and black workers “were the hardest hit.” In fact, malaria, pneumonia, tuberculosis, and intestinal diseases, all running rampant amongst the laborers, had spread fear and panic both in Panama as well as in Europe and the United States. Although these plagues killed and debilitated by far even more human beings, yellow fever was in the public eye. Continue reading