third locks project is something you don't read or hear about much in the
Canal Zone books and circles of historians. I remember well the areas
that were excavated. We used to spend afternoons at the Cocoli
"Third Cut" as we used to called it and Cocoli Lake.
These were the two of the excavated areas at the Miraflores third locks
project. The "Third Cut" section looks like the Canal's
Gaillard Cut to a degree with its high walls of solid rock. This
section is a real mystery as I have never come across any photos of the
actual excavation taking place. I am hoping that publishing this
presentation will scare out a few folks that may have such photos.
The "cut" or "dry excavation" section was done by contract and the
other sections of "wet excavation" done by the Panama Canal's Dredging Division. I have
included some photos taken by Dredging Division and are some real
classics. This must have been a massive project and would have been
interesting to observe the digging.
There was a
proposed section next to the Pedro Miguel Locks as well, but the area was
never excavated to the extent that was done at Miraflores and Gatun.
I understand that the jungle was cleared, but if any excavation was done,
it was filled through the years with hydraulic fill from the Dredge Mindi.
In fact the Sian Yung's cargo of fermenting rice was pumped into this
area. The Sian Yung was an old Victory ship that sank in the
Gaillard Cut during the late '60s.
excavation was similar to that of Miraflores and was done in
sections. There was not much solid rock to be drilled or blasted
here. I didn't have many good photos of the Gatun excavation, but
include a few interesting ones for the presentation.
third locks project came to a halt when World War II began. The men
and equipment were packed up and shipped to more important missions.
I recently obtained an interesting
article from the September 1940 issue of Popular Science magazine and will
share the article with you:
Enlarging the Panama Canal
for Bigger Battleships
How a vast engineering job will bring
the "Big Ditch" up to date in Peace and War.
Steam Shovels will soon be clanking again at the Panama Canal. Only a
little more than a quarter of a century after the opening of this "life
line" of the U.S. Navy and crossroads of the world's maritime commerce,
workers will break ground for a monster third set of locks - a project whose
$227,000,000 cost equals more than half that of the present canal!
The giant engineering
scheme calls for conversion of the present "two-lane" canal across
the Isthmus into a "three-lane" canal. To do this, three
sets of oversized single chamber locks will be built, to parallel to the
present twin-chamber locks but at some distance from them. There will
be no need to dig a whole new canal, since the "Big Ditch" itself
will easily carry the traffic.
Why a new locks?
First and foremost they will ensure the U.S. Fleet of unobstructed passage
between the oceans, in cases of emergency. Canal authorities long have
been jittery over the possibility of sabotage or direct attack on the
present locks. A vessel might be blown up, or time bombs might be
dropped, in a lock chamber; or the locks might be bombed by raiding
planes. If a heavy explosion or a lucky hit from the air happened to
destroy two side-by-side lock chambers at once, the entire Canal would be
put out of commission. Therefore, for many months, a force of several
thousand men has been working night and day to equip the old locks with
"special protective devices" of a secret nature. But the
Navy will feel still more comfortable when the new locks are built, from a
quarter mile to a half mile away from the old ones, so hat both cannot be
attacked simultaneously. Every known safeguard against bombing and
sabotage will be built into them, from the foundation up.
enormous size of the new locks, 1,200 feet long and 135 feet wide, will
comfortably accommodate the biggest men-of-war and ocean liners afloat or
contemplated. Widened by recent addition of antitorpedo bulges, some
of our modernized battleships can barely scrape through the old locks, with
only a foot to spare on each side! Our giant aircraft carriers Lexington
and Saratoga make almost as tight a fit. Until now, the
110-foot width of the existing locks has limited the dimensions of all U.S.
warships, including the 35,000-ton and 45,000 ton battleships now under
construction. As for the big merchant vessels, the Queen Elizabeth,
the Queen Mary, and the Normandie, they could not squeeze into
the old locks at all. The projected locks will have plenty of room for
Thirdly, the sheer
volume of peacetime traffic through the Panama Canal, steadily rising
through the years, will eventually call for more locks to handle it.
From this standpoint alone, the Governor of the Panama Canal recently
declared the third-lock project should be started within nine to eleven
years. Present plans simply advance the date for completion of an outstanding
national asset, both in war and in peace.
Connecting with the
present waterway several miles above and below the existing locks, "by
pass" or approach channels will lead to the new locks, so hat canal
traffic may be shunted through either set. Criss crossing routes will
enable a ship to be detoured around locks that may be out of commission.
Starting from the
Pacific, for example, a vessel may pass through either the old or new
Miraflores Locks, which raise it in two lifts to Miraflores Lake. The
old and new sing-flight Pedro Miguel Locks then offer alternate gateways
into Gaillard Cut, the artificial arm of Gatun Lake formerly known as
Culebra Cut. Separate channels from broad Gatun Lake allow the ship to
be routed through either the old or new three-flight Gatun Locks for its
descent to the Atlantic.
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