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.
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 flickr.com. 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.
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:
When did the conversion from steam take place?
Project began in 1978, completed in 1980.
What kind of power was it converted to?
Main pumps (2 ea) 3600HP. Generators (3ea) 1150 KW (1500
What was the advantage of this conversion?
Easier to maintain, boilers were about shot. Turbine was
getting old. Steam Engineers were being phased out.
Mindi went though a 3 phase conversion.
Steam to Diesel
DC electrics to AC
Conventional spuds to walking spud barge
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)
barge is all hydraulic.
ask what sad news and why am I talking about the Dredge Mindi?
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
obtained dramatic video footage of the sinking of the CSD
“Mindi” 100 miles off of Balboa,
it was under tow to its new owner. Fortunately no casualties were
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.
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.
the video by clicking here.
No word on who took the video.