Photo of the Week
April 14, 2002

This here is a very classic photo that came from a private collection.  A couple of very interesting features to this photo is that the guy in the front row, third from the left is Sam Grier, Sr.  Sam was the Motor Car operator for Mr. George Washington Goethals.  Second interesting point and probably one that is so fantastic that you may not believe it.  If you look above the banana leaf in the middle of this photo, you will see a control house for a boat.  This boat is one of the most interesting boats that has been part of the Panama Canal.  The "Exotic" was  a stern-wheel steam boat that had many different jobs during the early years of the Panama Canal.  Have you ever heard of it?  I doubt it, as it was one of those never heard of things that happened back then.  It is so very interesting, (considering the documented history of this vessel),  that these folks were transported in the flooding lake country, which is evident if you have ever visited the Gatun Lake area. And that this property must have or still is a finca that raises bananas.  The banana trees are there. Maybe it is the end of this finca and the lake will soon take it over.  I surmise that this visit of the "Exotic" to this lake side land was after it's transit up to the flooding Gatun Lake in the year 1914.  (See historical excerpts below).

According to the Catalogue of Equipment purchase for use on The Panama Canal and Panama Railroad, Between July 1, 1904, and January 1, 1913.

The "Exotic" was built by Pusey & Jones, Wilmington, Delaware., Purchased on Canal Zone requisition 1915-A, September 21, 1907. Received on the Isthmus, December 29, 1908.  Cost, knocked down, $25,493, Erected at Dry Dock Shops, I.C.C.  Total cost, $40,000.

Named "Exotic", in service on Atlantic side.  Steel, stern-wheel towboat.  Length, 90'; beam 19' 6"; depth;, 5' 3".  Maximum draft, 3' 6".  Gross tonnage, 150.  Engines, 2 tandem compound 7" by 14", 48" stroke.   Boilers, 2 tubular, 44" by 190", horsepower, 70. Equipped with a boiler-feed pumps, air pump, capstan, steering gear, electric, light, etc.  No quarters on the boat.  For use in inland river service only.  As of 1913, this boat was surplus.


Another extremely interesting history of the "Exotic" is that is was one of the very first vessels used in the testing of the Gatun Locks.  From the "Report of the Isthmian Commission and the Panama Canal, 1914:

The Gatun Lock control board was tried out on May 9, 1914, when all valves, gates, and machines were operated by remote control.  Upon May 11, 1914, the fifty-first lockage took place, and was the first lockage used use of the control switches on the lock-control board.  The La Valley and tug Exotic entered the lower chamber at 7:36 a.m. and left the upper chamber at 8:48 a.m., the total time of the lockage being 1 hour and 12 minutes.  This lockage was also the first lockage made by means of the towing locomotives which were operated upon the walls of the west chamber, the locomotive numbers being 641, 642, 643 and 644.

See the two images below of this mystery vessel from our past.  Mark Twain...did you forget our little paddle wheel steam boat?


Another Interesting and Unknown Event of the Panama Canal.

Long live the memories of the Canal Zone!



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