Panama Canal Company.

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(Editor's Note: This is the first of a
series of two stories on the commercial
banks of the Canal Zone. A story on the
Chase Manhattan Bank will appear in an
early issue.)



APRIL 6, 1956

Violent Storms Often Wrecked Shipping

At Atlantic Port In Its First 60 Years

CRISTOBAL WATERFRO.XT'd this apixMiann- m the latter part
of 1916, not long after mast of the ocean shipping had been diverted to the
docks in Cristobal. This, however, was where the big body of workers to
build the Panama Canal landed on arrival from 1904 to 1914. The rem-
nant of the old pier in the foreground was all that was then left of the Pacific

Mail Steamship Line pier. Some of the old piles on which the T-shaped pier
was built were not removed until the 1930's. The longest pier belonged to
the Panama Railroad and the old freight house, one of the oldest landmarks
on the Atlantic side, may be seen at the land end. The Hotel Washington on
Margarita Point was relatively new at the time this picture was taken.

To travellers ending a choppy voyage
across the Caribbean, and particularly
those afflicted with mal de mer, the Port
of Cristobal is a welcome sight and feeling
as their ship glides between the break-
waters into water as calm as a millpond.

The Panama Canal's Atlantic terminal
port has not always had this reputation.
Storms, fires, trade winds, and deluges
have all played significant roles in its
history. The constant placidity of its
waters today is one of the man-made
wonders which came about with the
building of the Panama Canal. The two
long breakwaters, built at an original cost
of about $3,500,000, make the harbor
virtually a land-locked port with ample,
safe anchorage for ships of all categories.

At the turn of this century the port
had developed a reputation for northers
which frequently struck with sudden and
devastating fury, causing much damage
and sometimes loss of life.

Of the several destructive fires which
have swept the Atlantic side community
and affected port activities there to a
greater or lesser degree, the worst occm"-
red in May 1885 when all but seven build-
ings were burned and 10,000 were made
homeless. The property loss was reported
at $6,000,000.

The water of both Limon Bay and
Manzanillo Bay help make Cristobal

Limon Bay is the large body of water
between the port and Fort Sherman. It
was long known as Navy Bay, this name
being derived from Naos (Ships) Bay,
which it was called during Spanish
colonial days. Manzanillo Bay is the
smaller body of water on the opposite side
of the island on which Colon and Cris-
tobal are built.

The earliest written history of the port,
or bay as it was then, goes back to 1502
when Christopher Columbus visited Li-
mon Bay on his fourth and last voyage to
the New World. An account of this
visit and what Columbus and his men
found is given in Dr. C. L. G. Anderson's
Castillo del Oro. According to this ac-
count, Fernando, son of Columbus, said
the Admiral and his men rested there for
three days. More entertainingly, Fer-

nando wrote that the inhabitants "dwell
upon the tops of trees, like birds, laying
sticks across from bough to bough and
building huts upon them rather than

"Though we knew not the reason of
this strange custom," he related, "we
guessed it was done for fear of the
griffins there are in that country, or of
enemies; for all along that coast the
people at every league distance are
great enemies to one another."

That is believed to be the last report
of mythological half-lion-half eagle figures
inhabiting the general area. It was al-
most the last report of Limon Bay for
•350 years until construction of the
Panama Railroad was begun.

Commercially, the Port of Cristobal or
Aspinwall or Colon, which it has been
variously called, is 105 years old this
month, antedating by just 50 years the
(>]iening of the Port of Balboa. Although
construction of the Panama Railroad was
begun on Manzanillo Island in May
1850, it was not until 1851, that the first
wooden docks were built. The history
of the port in the intervening years is
packed with highly entertaining passages.

The selection of Manzanillo Island as
the Atlantic terminus of the railroad was
made by Brevet Lieutenant Colonel
George W. Hughes, first Chief Engineer
for the railroad. The selection was
supposedly made after some controversy
as to its fitness as compared with the
better known harbor at Portobelo. It
was rumored that George Law, a steam-
ship line owner and a director of the
Panama Railroad Company, bought all
the land around Portobelo and demanded
a price for its use too steep for the new-

At any rate, the company secured pos-
session of the entire island, then little
more than a mosquito and mangrove
swamp covering some 650 acres, by trad-
ing back to New Granada about twice as
much land which had been granted else-
where on the Isthmus.

The first of the many storms to strike
the port during the last half of the
nineteenth century occurred December
31, 1854, shortly before the railroad was

completed. It was a violent norther
which wrecked every vessel in the new
port and shook the Chief Engineer's con-
fidence in Limon Bay's safety as a harbor.

L. T. Chapel, formerly the Canal's
Assistant Chief Hydi'ographer, who de-
voted much time and study to Isthmian
weather and its abnormalities wTote of
the storms which plagued the port: "The
historical northers were probably remem-
bered more for the damage they caused
than for their meteorological associations.
Unlike the intensified trades, all available
evidence indicates that destructive north-
ers are not associated with well-estab-
lished trades."

Ten northers which occurred between
1857 and 1906 were mentioned in an
article appearing in the November 1917
issue of the "Monthly Weather Re-
view." Of these, the three most dis-
astrous occurred in November 1862,
January 1873, and December 1885.

The English steamer Avon was dri\'en
ashore in the 1862 storm and the three-
masted Bolivar was wrecked at the
wharves. Two U. S. Navy vessels, the
sloop Bainbridge and the storeship Fal-
mouth, were at anchor and were almost
dri\-en onto the reefs. The crew of the
Bainbridge cut away its masts and threw
the guns overboard to save the ship. It
was necessary to rescue the crew but the
ship was not wrecked. That November
was a wild one for Colon and about 45
inches of rainfall were reported.

Damage estimated at a half million
dollars was caused to the waterfront in
the 1S73 norther. Three men were
drowned, a three-masted ship was driven
through the Pacific Mail wharf, and many
other .ships were lost in the harbor

Fourteen sailing ships were lost in
what the Star & Herald called the "ter-
rible gale" of 1885. One of the principal
piers was practically demolished and
many lives were reported lost. The
newspaper deplored the great loss of life,
saying the waves were so high it was
impossible to rescue the crews.

People who are inclined to blame all
weather changes today on nuclear weapons
can hardly hold to that theory on the
northers in Cristobal harbor. In fact,

APRIL 6, 1956



the weather there seems to have changed
early in this century, before an atom was
split, and the past half century has
produced far fewer destructive storms
than the preceding 50 years.

Three storms of unusual intensity
occurred during the Canal construction
period. The first of these put the finish-
ing touch to a decision to build protective
breakwaters. It happened in January
1905 while the Committee on Engineering
of the Isthmian Canal Commission was
visiting the Isthmus to study and report
on engineering phases of the Canal con-
struction. While apparently not of the
severity of other storms, it made a deep
impression on the committee members.
Almost as much attention was given, in
their report, to the Atlantic terminal as
to digging the Canal.

The committee unanimously and em-
phatically recommended a breakwater to
protect the harbor and shipping, saying,
in part:

"If the construction of the canal were
a purely commercial enterprise the pro-
tection of an outer terminal harbor open
to storms of rare intervals, as in this
instance, would not be justified. This
project, however, is a great public work
by the United States Government, in
which no feature contributing effectively
to either safety or efficiency should be

There have been few statements
about the Panama Canal which more
eloquently describe its basic mission
and the need for providing its many
special services and facilities for world

Two violent northers hit the harbor in
1915, one early in February and the
other in April. In the first, 4,000 feet of
trestle erected for the east breakwatei'
were carried away. Two piledi'ivers and
a train of 21 Lidgerwood flat cars and
their unloader were lost. Sixty-nine men
working on the breakwater were maroon-
ed on one end when the trestle was
carried away and were rescued by a tug
and dredge. The April storm also did
considerable damage to both breakwaters,
the total damage by the two northers
being estimated at over $360,000.

Apropos of storms and trade winds on
the Atlantic side, a statistically-minded
employee in the meteorological office at
Balboa Heights has figured that 4,150,000
miles of wind have passed the anemome-

THIS PICTURE WAS taken in 1886. It shows the waterfront of Aspinwall (Cclon) on a busy day.
.\sk a hundred persons what is being unloaded and doubtless none could tell you. Since this is not
a puzzle contest, we can tell you— it is ice. Some of the tycoons of that day may be seen in the center
supervising operations and perhaps thinking of a mint julep with ice cut out of some New England lake.

ter at Cristobal since it was installed in
January 1908. This is an average rate
of 9.9 miles an hour, day and night
enough wind to make eight and a half
round trips to the moon.

From its infancy, the port on the
Atlantic side has been a busy place. In
fact, a description of passengers arriving
there in the early Panama Railioad days
might well fit a cruise season of today.
Otis, in his History of the Panama Rail-
road, described this activity as follows:

"Fifteen hundred passengers, with the
mail and freight of three steamships,
have not infrequently been transported
during the single half day. The arrange-
ments for loading and unloading of
cargoes are unusually perfect. Frequently
less than two hours pass between the
arrival of the largest ships, laden with
from 200 to 300 tons of merchandise,
besides the baggage of from 400 to 800
passengers, and the departure of the
trains for Panama."

This was back in the gold rush days
when thousands were stampeding across
the Isthmus to California. Such a hum
of activity did not long continue and
there were many years during the next
half century when the port presented as

sleepy and lazy an appearance as any
port of the Caribbean.

The facilities for loading and unloading
cargo which Otis called "unusually per-
fect" probably would not measure up to
that classification today. The first wood-
en piers built in 1851 were designed to
unload men and materials for the Panama
Railroad construction. The port got its
first big boost in November 1851 when
two steamers, the Georgia and Philadel-
phia, were driven away from the mouth
of the Chagres by a violent storm and put
into Limon Bay with 1,000 gold-crazed

The California-bound passengers de-
manded passage on the Panama Rail-
road on tracks which had been laid to
Gatun. This fortunate incident made
the port and probably saved the Pana-
ma Railroad Company from a financial

Because of the great trade which
sprung up almost immediately after this
incident, the port facilities were greatly
expanded from the small wooden wharves
put up by the Railroad Company.
Covered wooden piers long enough to
accommodate all types of ships of that
era were constructed and {See page n

CRIST0B.4L HARBOR with its placid waters provides a fine anchorage for
many vessels. The pier area is shown in the upp9r left of this aerial view of
Manzanillo Island on which Cristobal and Colon are built. Practically all
remnants of the old pier area between Fort de Lesseps and the Panama Rail-

road Company have now been removed. At one time this was as busy a place
for shipping and passengers as the modern concrete piers in Cristobal. In
the early days of the Panama Raih-oad it was not unusual for several hundred
passengers — bound for the California gold fields— to land in a single day.



APRIL 6, 1956

CanaFs Agronomist Now Available
To Consult With Amateur Gardeners


Ailing alamanda and peaked poinsettia,
which have been suliject to the well-
meaning if often ineffectual care of ama-
teur gardeners, can now take heart.
Professional attention of the expert
variety is available, without charge.

With the consolidation of the Grounds
and Housing Divisions and his transfer
to the position of Agronomist, Walter R.
Lindsey may now be called on to consult
with Canal Zone householders on plant
foods and pruning and pests, or any other
problems which beset them and their

Unlike most Zonians, whose first

Violent Storms Often Wrecked Shipping
At Atlantic Port In It s First 60 Years

{Coniinwd from paje I!) four years after
the railroad was completed a 60-foot high
iron lighthouse was erected to replace a
wooden tower built earlier.

The wooden piers were clustered in the
area at or near the seaward tip of the
island, mostly between what is now Fort
de Lesseps and the Colon Railroad sta-
tion. The piers were set perpendicular
to the land and therefore broadside to
the prevailing trade winds and northers,
with no protection from the open sea.
For this reason, one or more were occa-
sionally wrecked and had to be replaced
over the years.

A relic of this era and one of the oldest
structures on the Atlantic side is the
Panama Railroad freight house near the
waterfront in Colon. It was built in
1864 and rebuilt after the 1885 fire.
Adjoining this building was one of three
of the Panama Railroad piers. Two
other piers there were the Panama Mail
and Pacific Mail Steamship Line piers,
the latter being a T-.shaped structure at
the present site of the Strangers Club.

During the first .50 years of its existence,
the port was served by about a half dozen
ship lines, both steam and sail, operating
to the United States, Central and South
America, and Europe. While the port
had its busiest period during the few years
that the California gold rush was in
progress and before the first transconti-
nental railroad was completed in the
United States, its fortunes rose and sank
several times between 1851 and 1904.
Even in its dullest periods, however, it
remained the principal port of entry for
the Isthmus of Panama and was far

exposure to hibiscus and shower trees
came when they arrived on the Isthmus,
Mr. Lindsay has been familiar with trop-
ical plants all of bis life.

He was responsible for introducing to
the Isthmus many of the now common
trees and shrubs used in landscaping.
Many new varieties of hybrid hibiscus,
anthuriums, and dracacna are some of
the most recent intrdductions. Practic-
ally all of the Norfolk Island pine trees
on the Isthmus originally came from seeds
produced by trees on Mr. Lindsay's place
in Hawaii.

Born on the Island of Maui in the
Hawaiian Islands, he worked during sum-
mer vacations supervising laborers on the
island's pineapple plantations. Later,
while he was attending the University of
Hawaii, he was a part-time horticulturist
for the United States Experimental
Station in Honolulu.

He came to the Isthmus in 1930 to
work at the Experiment Garden at Sum-
mit and was its director until 1950 when
he was named Chief of the newly estab-
lished Grounds Division.

His new post leaves him freer for actual
gardening work than he has been for the
past several years. Any perplexed gar-
dener on either side of the Isthmus may
call for advice through the Housing and
Grounds Division at 2-1801, or .3-2373.
In addition, he is making plans for classes
on plant classification and the care of
plants to be held a little later in the year.

busier than either Panama or Balboa.

Business was greatly revived in the
early 1880's at the beginning of the Canal
construction by the French. Some addi-
tional improvements to the port were
made during this period, principally by
the extensive dredging program for the
Atlantic entrance. It was during this
period that much of the land which is
now Cristobal was filled in by dredged



Col. Norman H. Wiley who was
recently appointed to succeed Col. How-
ard W. Doan as Superintendent of
Gorgas Hospital will arrive here April 16
to assume his new duties. Prior to his
appointment to the Canal Zone, he was


in command of the U. S. Army Hospital
at Fort Benning, Ga.

A native of Hollisterville, Pa., Colonel
Wiley is a graduate of Lafayette College
and of the Jefferson Medical College.
He served his internship at Walter Reed
Army Hospital and was commissioned in
the Army Medical Corps in 1929.

Early in his Army career he spent four
years on the surgical stafT of the Stern-
berg General Hospital in Manila.

Colonel Wiley has a colorful World War
II record. He landed with the first
United States troops in Algeria and
Tunisia and subsequently commanded
the 128th Evacuation Hospital in the
invasion of Sicily. Later he led this unit
across Europe with the First .\rmy.

Accompanying Colonel Wiley to the
Isthmus will be his wife and their three
children, Valerie, 17, Norman, .Ir., Hi,
and .James, 8.

Engineers At Play

FORE! Or whatever croquet fans say, and Bob Donaldson's ball sails for the stake. Weather
and wives permitting, the croquet tournament goes on every Saturday afternoon on the ROTC
parade ground in Balboa. Left to right, the players, all from the Engineeruig Division, are: Hubert
Oken, Eddie B. Goodrich, Rubert C. Schroeter, Robert D. Donaldson, and Donald Wyeneth.

APRIL 6, 1956



Supply Problems Discussed

OFFICIALS of the Supply and Employee Service Bureau ami the ('ommis-
sary Division got together last month with managers of the retail stores to
meet Lester A. Ferguson, Chief of the Procurement Department of the New
York Office. Mr. Ferguson, wearing a bow tie. is fourth from the right in

the front row. On his right is Paul II. Friedman, .\ssistant to the Director
of the Supply and Employe? Service Bureau, and on his left Richard L.
Sullivan, General Manager of the Commissary Division. George N. Engelke,
.Assistant General Manager of the Di\Tsion, is on Mr. Friedman's right.

Voting Information
Will Be Available
To All E mployees

Employees in the Canal organization
and their dependents will be given all
assistance feasible this year to e.xercise
their privilege of absentee voting.

It is estimated that approximately
6,400 employees and their dependents are
eligible to vote. Governor Seybold has
expressed hope that the maximum num-
ber of these will exercise their franchise
rights in the national elections this year.
He plans to discuss the program for pub-
licizing information on registration and
absentee voting at his April conference
with Civic Council representatives.

"The right of franchise," the Governor
said in a recent announcement, "is one of
the foundations of our democracy. It
should be exercised by every citizen who
is qualified to vote. Many employees
here have failed to take advantage of
this great privilege of our citizenship,
either by ignorance of the fact that they
are privileged to vote or a lack of interest
because of long residence outside the
United States."

Coordinating Committee

To promote a wider interest and partici-
pation in general elections through
absentee voting this year, the Governor
has appointed L. M. Brockman, Programs
Coordinator in the Personnel Bureau, and
William G. Arey, Jr., Public Information
Officer, as a committee to coordinate
the program.

Absentee voting by civilians in general
elections is permitted by all States with
the exception of New Mexico. Voting
in primary elections is permitted by all
but seven States -Connecticut, Dela-
ware, Massachusetts, New Hampshire,
New Mexico, New York, and Noith
Carolina — with North Carolina having
requirements permitting certain civilians
to vote.

The requirements for registration vary
widely among the various States. Em-
ployees have been urged to ascertain for
themselves the regulations of their own
States with respect to qualification.



When nine young women students of
the Canal Zone Junior College ent<>r the
business world this year, office procedures
will be no mystery to them. They will
have been well-schooled in such element-
ary facts that punctuality and regularity
of attendance are well thought of— to put
it mildly — that there are bound to be
crises in the best run office, and that they
will get just as much cooperation from
their fellow workers as they give.

The nine young women are learning
the theory of these and other funda-
mentals of day-to-day office life in a
course on Work Experience taught by
John A. Lyons of the College faculty and
they are putting the theories into practice

registration, and absentee voting. Gen-
erally, most States permit absentee

A number of pamphlets giving full
information on absentee voting have been
received and a substantial number of
these will be placed in the Library and
its branches on a nonlending basis.

in six hours each week of actual on-the-
job training in three different Canal units.
The girls, all Junior College second-
year students, are: Livia Noiran, Emma
Robles, Rosa and Pilar Vales, Virginia
Kam, Velvia Bringas, Margarita La-
torroca, Teresa Chutis, and Mildred

Will Receive Credit

Miss Noiran and Miss Robles are
spending their six hours a week, in two
three-hour sessions, in the Wage and
Classification Division of the Personnel
Bureau. Rosa and Pilar Vales, sisters,
are also in the Personnel Bureau, Rosa
with the Employment and Utilization
Division and Pilar with the U. S. Records
Section, and Miss Kam is assigned to the
Office of the Personnel Director in the
Training Section. This group of five is
on a roving-assignment basis; before the
end of the school semester, they will
have learned a little of each type of
clerical work done in the unit to which
they are assigned.

The Misses Bringas, Latorroca, and
Chutis ha\-e been assigned to the typing
pool in the Accounting Division, and
Miss Damerau is spending her six hours
on the job in the oflice of the Balboa
Junior High School.

Various Jobs

At the end of the semester they will
receive two hours of college credit for
their on-the-job work, provided, of
coiu-se, that they complete their assign-
ments satisfactorily.

They will be graded by their immediate
supervisors on such factors as willingness
to cooperate, dependability^ adjustment
to work situations, acceptance of respon-
sibility, orderliness of woik, initiative
and resourcefulness, ability to get along
with others, etc.

The work-and-learn program was work-
ed out by IVIr. Lyons with Daniel J.
Paolucci, Training Officer in the Person-
nel Bureau; they confer frequently on
the development of the course and the
progress of the trainees.



APRIL 6, 1956



February 15 through March 15

Employees who were promoted or trans-
ferred between February 15 and March 15
are listed below. Within-grade promotions
are not listed.

Richard S.Brogie, from Accoimting Clerk,

Housing Division, to Time, Leave, and

Payroll Clerk, Payroll Branch.

Jack C. Campbell, from Accountant to

Auditor, Internal Audit Branch.


Mrs. A. Elizabeth Lester, from Clerk-
Typist to Clerk (Typing), Electrical Divi-

Mrs. Patricia A. Robinson, from Clerk-
Stenographer, Executive Planning Staff, to
Clerk-Typist, Electrical Division.

1 3

Online LibraryPanama Canal CompanyThe Panama Canal review (Volume v.6:no.9(1956:Apr. 6)) → online text (page 3 of 4)