Photo of the Week
September 9, 2018

I did a series of first ships to lock or transit the newly completed Canal starting back on October 29, 2017 with a trial lockage at Gatun by the SS Allianca on June 8, 1914. The next was on November 5, 2017 with a photo taken of the SS Ancon in Gatun Locks on the famous August 15, 1914 transit that officially opened the Panama Canal.  We then back tracked to August 3-4, 1915 for the trial full transit of the SS Cristobal on November 12, 2017.  This was the first full transit of an ocean liner and during it's transit, they discovered that four towing locomotives were not enough to handle ships this size in the locks.  Hence they boosted the amount of towing locomotives to six.  The November 12 posting has links to several good articles from the Canal Record's August 5th, 12th and 15th issues.  Note: Click the blue linked dates to view the past posts.

There were two other ships mentioned in the August 12 issue of the Canal Record that were part of the trial transits that I didn't have photos of at the time, but now have three fantastic photos of the SS Panama that transited on August 11.  Above is the SS Panama entering the Gatun Locks with the second photo below is a priceless view that the photographer took looking towards the back of the ship.  You can't get anything better than that shot.  You can see the crowd on the lock walls watching this historic moment.  After the problems encountered with  the transit of the SS Cristobal, the SS Panama transit went much smoother of handling through the locks and a reduced time of transit.  

The photo below was taken by the same photographer that day while the SS Panama was sailing down the Galliard Cut.  Shown in this photo were many invited guests which were mostly "old employees" diggers of the Panama Canal and their families.  This was a fitting tribute of thanks to them to be on one of the first ships through the Canal that they were responsible for a successful completion. The handwriting on the photo says the ship is in the locks, but is evident that the ship is in the cut.  Check out the captain or pilot up above the spectators operating the ship.  This is another "can't get better than this" type of capture in time.

I just read probably the best documentation of these early transits and getting the Canal up and running in a 15 page article printed by the Martha's Vineyard Museum that my friend Fred Sill sent me in the mail.  The 15 page article is an excerpt from a book that Thomas Goethals was writing about his grandfather George W. Goethals.  Fred told me that Thomas was working on the book when he passed away in 2014 and suspects that the book was never published.  This is tragic as this book should be published so all can read it.  According to the Table of Contents in The Dukes County Intelligencer, Vol 56, No.1 - Winter 2014 the book excerpt titles Thomas's book - Opening of the Panama Canal: Just Another day for "The Man of Iron" by Thomas Goethals.  

I feel so strong that everyone interested should read these 15 pages that I have scanned to pages and have posted them here on the website (click here).

Thank you Fred for sharing this wonderful read and great knowledge.

Thank you to The Dukes County Intelligencer and the Martha's Vineyard Museum for publishing this most valuable read..

The photos of the SS Panama came from the Flickr website posted by a gentleman named Richard.  I have written to Richard, but am not sure my message will reach him via Flickr, but thank you Richard for posting these wonderful old photos from that collection.



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