Photo of the Week
February 2, 2020

I received more sad news last week that another friend of mine is gone.  The Suction Dredge Mindi was the reason I got involved in bottle and relic hunting back in 1976.  I was fascinated by this big machine so much that I had to paddle my small cayuco across the Canal from the old Gamboa Airstrip over to Gorgona Island on the West Bank to see this marvelous machine up close..  Gorgona Island was still pretty much undisturbed at this time with lots of relics and evidence that the rather large town of Gorgona was there at one time.  When I beached my cayuco on the island  I saw the beach littered with lots of antique bottles.  Most of these bottles were small medicine bottles.  I later found out that the Gorgona Hospital was at one time sitting right where I was sitting.  The Dredge Mindi was just off shore and I could have hit it with a stone if I threw one.  She was swinging her big boom and cutter along the submerged edge of the island.  As she was swinging and cutting, the cutter would hit an old bottle and refuse dump.  Lots of the bottles in these dumps had air still in them and came popping up to the surface and come to shore.  I couldn't get too close to the Mindi as I didn't want to get sunk.  I was in a very small cayuco.  I returned several times more until the Mindi was finished and moved on.  Finding these old bottles and other relics like an intact light bulb used in the Canal Construction Days got me fired up on the history of the Canal which still drives me today.

I am posting these two photos this week to give my condolences to the Dredge Mindi. The top photo is an old PCC photo from 1945 and the one below I captured from  The Mindi in these photos is the same Mindi, but the one in the lower photo has been modernized and made into a much more powerful dredge.  PCC did all the upgrading.  Before the upgrade, the Mindi had a large lattice work structure on the stern which was a spud tower.  The spuds would keep the dredge from drifting and twisting while working.  After the upgrade, a separate barge was secured to the stern of the dredge which had the newly designed spud mechanism.  You can see that separate section in the photo below.

While researching the Mindi back in 2002, I contacted Pat Williams who was Engineer on the Mindi for years.  I asked him some questions and here is what he told me:

1.  When did the conversion from steam take place?  Project began in 1978, completed in 1980.

 2.   What kind of power was it converted to? Main pumps (2 ea) 3600HP.  Generators (3ea) 1150 KW (1500 HP)

 3.  What was the advantage of this conversion? Easier to maintain, boilers were about shot.  Turbine was getting old. Steam Engineers were being phased out.

 The Mindi went though a 3 phase conversion. 

1.  Steam to Diesel

2.  DC electrics to AC

3. Conventional spuds to walking spud barge 

Along with all of this the controls were changed from hydraulic to electric over air.  A ladder pump was added.  Winches were changed out and individual motors for each winch were installed. (300 hp)

Spud barge is all hydraulic.

You ask what sad news and why am I talking about the Dredge Mindi?

From Dredge

"The MINDI was finally programmed for decommissioning on August 29th, 2016 and dredged until the last minute. She was originally scheduled to be retired several years ago, but her service was extended to participate in the recent canal expansion project. During her 73 years of consecutive operations, MINDI was always reliable, even for the most difficult projects."

"DredgeWire has obtained dramatic video footage of the sinking of the CSD “Mindi” 100 miles off of Balboa, Panama as it was under tow to its new owner. Fortunately no casualties were reported."

My brother received a copy of the video footage and sent me a copy.  There was no story told.  I watched the video and I felt like I lost a human friend.  The Mindi has always fascinated me and has been a part of my life.  Watching the Mindi sink below the waves was a tremendous loss of out Canal Zone heritage.  Another part of our history is gone.

You will note that the spud barge isn't shown in the video and no word as to what happened to it.  Someone told me that ACP inspectors gave the purchasing company a list of items that needed to be done before the dredge would be seaworthy enough to be towed in open ocean waters.  I, nor the people telling me this, know whether the company did these things prior to sailing, or not.  What's clear is the MINDI was not properly secured for open ocean towing.  Something let go, and she sunk. 

Watch the video by clicking here.

No word on who took the video.

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