Photo of the Week
September 2, 2018

We are in for a real treat this week with an old video that was filmed back in the later 1930ís of the Panama Canal in action. CZImages contributor Fred Sill sent me a copy of this film which he had converted from a 16mm film roll into a DVD. He mentioned the company that converted it had a hard time because of its fragile state, but they worked their miracles and were successful. Fredís father was a Panama Canal Construction worker and Roosevelt Medal holder. He retired in 1947 and they asked him if he would like the customary gold watch or two short 16mm films, one of scenes in Panama City and the second scenes of the Canal operation. Fredís dad said he would prefer the films. The film of Panama City didnít make it through the test of time.

This film is about 10 minutes long and is a little rough because of its age, but the content is historical fantastic!

It begins with footage of one of the famous Bucyrus dipper dredges that the Isthmian Canal Commission purchased to help complete the construction of the Canal. There were three of these dredges; the Paraiso, Gamboa and Las Cascadas. I remember the Cascadas digging up into the 1980ís before it was unfortunately disposed of. It should have been kept as a historical museum piece for the Canal. 

The film continues aboard a transiting ship traveling down the Gaillard Cut with footage of an approaching ship and then some on board scenes.

A view from Ancon Hill looking down towards the Balboa Docks framed by two nice Royal Palms.

Next is historic footage of the USS Seal (SS-183) ( S2) Salmon-Class Submarine heading to its new home port of Coco Solo, Canal Zone when Coco Solo was still a submarine base. The USS Seal conducted many operations until WWII began when she headed to the South Pacific. She earned ten battle stars during the war years. Post war she was used as a reserve naval training ship and later scrapped in 1956. As I said, historic footage of this famous submarine.

The Canal and locks are only 25 years old at the time of this film.

Note the military guard presence within the locks area. This was common in the early days until the Canal started their own security guard force.
The miter gate safety chains were still in full use.

After the locks scenes, a very historic transit is recorded. That is the transit of the German luxury line SS Bremen the first ship of its size to transit the Panama Canal. If you look closely when the camera pans up the shipís main mast, you can see the Nazi Swastika flag fluttering in the wind. When WWII broke out a few months later, the Bremen returned to Germany where work began to convert it into a barracks ship to take troops for the invasion of England, but a fire wiped it out (1941) and later scuttled.

Next are some historical US Navy vessels in transit. I canít tell which Battleships are show,, but could have possibly be ones that were sunk in Pearl Harbor later
This film needs to go down in the history books for preservation. I plan to make a copy for the Panama Canal Museum at the University of Florida along with this narration.

Thank you so much Fred for sharing this treasure with all of us.

Click the image above to view the film.



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