Antique Bottle and Relic Collecting in the Zone

In 1976 I was cruising around Gorgona Island, across from Gamboa in my Cayuco. The Dredge Mindi was cutting the island down in size as part of the channel widening project in that area. I beached my cayuco to watch the Mindi do it's stuff. I started finding all kinds of little bottles laying all over the shore. These bottles didn't look like anything I had ever seen before. They were very crude looking. I then found a light bulb that didn't look like any light bulb I have ever seen. I had no idea this island was once one of the biggest Canal Construction day towns, the town of Gorgona. I gathered up all these little bottles and took them home. A neighbor told me that they were probably around 75 years old and came from a bottle dump on the island. Actually the dump wasn't on the island, it was under water and the dredge had opened the dump up. The bottles were full of air and when released, came to the surface and washed to shore. I am sure with the power of the Mindi, many more bottles got sucked up and went through the pump. I thought this was pretty cool stuff. I made a daily trip over to Gorgona while the Mindi was working there and always came home with more bottles. The bottles were mostly medicine type bottles. I found this out later that the Gorgona Hospital was right in that area. I found this out by serious research and studying old construction day maps. 

Well, this was the beginning of my bottle collecting obsession, which I still have today. I have put up some photos of bottle digging in the Zone. Just click the hyperlinks in the cells below. I wish I had a camera every time I went digging, but these seem to be the only times I did. These photos are from bottle dumps at Cucaracha, Miraflores and Santa Cruz Island. Digging a bottle pit is like excavating a archeological site. The deeper you excavate the hole, the more you start to know about the person that buried their garbage here 75 - 100 years ago. Sometimes we found even older spots, like on the Cruses Trail or Ft. San Lorenzo. We would locate these old garbage pits by using a metal probe. I am going to make a web page totally devoted to the antique bottles that were found in the Canal Zone in the future. These old bottles are so beautiful.

Bill McLaughlin


Bottle#1 Bottle#2 Bottle#3 Bottle#4
Bottle#5 Bottle#6 Bottle#7 Bottle#8
Bottle#9 Bottle#10 Bottle#11 Bottle#12
Bottle#13 Bottle#14 Bottle#15 Bottle#16

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