Victor Appleton.

The Moving Picture Boys at Panama Stirring Adventures Along the Great Canal online

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nearly been his undoing.

For a week longer they lived in the jungle, moving from place to
place, camping in different locations and enjoying as much as they
could the life in the wild. Blake and Joe made some good moving
picture films, Mr. Alcando helping them, for he was rapidly
learning how to work the cameras.

But the views, of course, were not as good as those the boys had
obtained when in the African jungle. These of the Panama wilds,
however, were useful as showing the kind of country through which
the Canal ran, and, as such, they were of value in the series of

"Well, we'll soon be afloat again," remarked Blake, one night,
when they had started back for Gamboa. "I've had about enough

"And so have I," agreed Joe, for the last two days it had rained,
and they were wet and miserable. They could get no pictures.

Their tug was waiting for them as arranged and, once more on
board, they resumed their trip through the Canal.

Soon after leaving Gamboa the vessel entered a part of the
waterway, on either side of which towered a high hill through
which had been dug a great gash.

"Culebra Cut!" cried Blake, as he saw, in the distance Gold Hill,
the highest point. "We must get some pictures of this, Joe."

"That's right, so we must. Whew! It is a big cut all right!" he
went on. "No wonder they said it was harder work here than at the
Gatun Dam. And it's here where those big slides have been?"

"Yes, and there may be again," said Blake.

"I hope not!" exclaimed Captain Watson. "They are not only
dangerous, but they do terrible damage to the Canal and the
machinery. We want no more slides."

"But some are predicted," Blake remarked.

"Yes, I know they say they come every so often. But now it would
take a pretty big one to do much damage. We have nearly tamed

"If there came a big slide here it would block the Canal,"
observed Mr. Alcando, speculatively.

"Yes, but what would cause a slide?" asked the captain.

"Dynamite could do it," was the low-voiced answer.

"Dynamite? Yes, but that is guarded against," the commander said.
"We are taking no chances. Now, boys, you get a good view of
Culebra," and he pointed ahead. Blake and Joe were soon busy with
their cameras, making different sets of views.

"Hand me that other roll of film; will you, please?" asked Blake
of the Spaniard, who was helping them. "Mine is used up."

As Mr. Alcando passed over the box he muttered, though possibly he
was unaware of it:

"Yes, dynamite here, or at the dam, would do the work."

"What - what's that?" cried Blake, in surprise.



Judging by Mr. Alcando's manner no one would have thought he had
said anything out of the ordinary. But both Blake and Joe had
heard his low-voiced words, and both stared aghast at him.

"What's that you said?" asked Blake, wondering whether he had
caught the words aright.

"Dynamite!" exclaimed Joe, and then Blake knew he had made no

Somewhat to the surprise of himself and his chum the Spaniard

"I was speaking in the abstract, of course," he said. "I have a
habit of speaking aloud when I think. I merely remarked that a
charge of dynamite, here in Culebra Cut, or at Gatun Dam, would so
damage the Canal that it might be out of business for years."

"You don't mean to say that you know of any one who would do such
a thing!" cried Blake, holding the box of unexposed film that the
Spaniard had given him.

"Of course not, my dear fellow. I was speaking in the abstract, I
tell you. It occurred to me how easy it would be for some enemy to
so place a charge of explosive. I don't see why the Canal is not
better guarded. You Americans are too trusting!"

"What's that?" asked Captain Watson, coming up at this juncture.

"I was merely speaking to the boys about how easy it would be to
put a charge of dynamite here in the cut, or at the dam, and
damage the Canal," explained Mr. Alcando. "I believe they thought
I meant to do it," he added with a laugh, as he glanced at the
serious faces of the two moving picture boys.

"Well, - I - er, - I - ," stammered Blake. Somewhat to his own
surprise he did find himself harboring new suspicions against Mr.
Alcando, but they had never before taken this form. As for Joe, he
blushed to recall that he had, in the past, also been somewhat
suspicious of the Spaniard. But now the man's frank manner of
speaking had disarmed all that.

"Dynamite, eh!" exclaimed the captain. "I'd just like to see any
one try it. This canal is better guarded than you think, my
friend," and he looked meaningly at the other.

"Oh, I have no doubt that is so," was the quick response. "But it
seems such a simple matter for one to do a great damage to it.
Possibly the indifference to guarding it is but seeming only."

"That's what it is!" went on Captain Watson. "Dynamite! Huh! I'd
like to see someone try it!" He meant, of course, that he would
not like to see this done, but that was his sarcastic manner of

"What do you think of him, anyhow?" asked Joe of Blake a little
later when they were putting away their cameras, having taken all
the views they wanted.

"I don't know what to say, Joe," was the slow answer. "I did think
there was something queer about Alcando, but I guess I was wrong.
It gave me a shock, though, to hear him speak so about the Canal."

"The same here. But he's a nice chap just the same, and he
certainly shows an interest in moving pictures."

"That's right. We're getting some good ones, too."

The work in Culebra Cut, though nearly finished, was still in such
a state of progress that many interesting films could be made of
it, and this the boys proposed to do, arranging to stay a week or
more at the place which, more than any other, had made trouble for
the canal builders.

"Well, it surely is a great piece of work!" exclaimed Blake, as he
and Joe, with Mr. Alcando and Captain Watson, went to the top of
Gold Hill one day. They were on the highest point of the small
mountain through which the cut had to be dug.

"It is a wonderful piece of work," the captain said, as Blake and
Joe packed up the cameras they had been using. "Think of it - a cut
nine miles long, with an average depth of one hundred and twenty
feet, and in some places the sides are five hundred feet above the
bottom, which is, at no point, less than three hundred feet in
width. A big pile of dirt had to be taken out of here, boys."

"Yes, and more dirt will have to be," said Mr. Alcando.

"What do you mean?" asked the tug commander quickly, and rather

"I mean that more slides are likely to occur; are they not?"

"Yes, worse luck!" growled the captain. "There have been two or
three small ones in the past few weeks, and the worst of it is
that they generally herald larger ones."

"Yes, that's what I meant," the Spaniard went on.

"And it's what we heard," spoke Blake. "We expect to get some
moving pictures of a big slide if one occurs."

"Not that we want it to," explained Joe quickly.

"I understand," the captain went on with a smile. "But if it _is_
going to happen you want to be here."

"Exactly," Blake said. "We want to show the people what a slide in
Culebra looks like, and what it means, in hard work, to get rid of

"Well, it's hard work all right," the captain admitted, "though
now that the water is in, and we can use scows and dredges,
instead of railroad cars, we can get rid of the dirt easier. You
boys should have been here when the cut was being dug, before the
water was let in."

"I wish we had been," Blake said. "We could have gotten some dandy

"That's what you could," went on the captain. "It was like looking
at a lot of ants through a magnifying glass. Big mouthfuls of dirt
were being bitten out of the hill by steam shovels, loaded on to
cars and the trains of cars were pulled twelve miles away to the
dumping ground. There the earth was disposed of, and back came the
trains for more. And with thousands of men working, blasts being
sent off every minute or so, the puffing of engines, the tooting
of whistles, the creaking of derricks and steam shovels - why it
was something worth seeing!"

"Sorry we missed it," Joe said. "But maybe we'll get some pictures
just as good."

"It won't be anything like that - not even if there's a big slide,"
the captain said, shaking his head doubtfully.

Though the Canal was practically finished, and open to some
vessels, there was much that yet remained to be done upon it, and
this work Blake and Joe, with Mr. Alcando to help them at the
cameras, filmed each day. Reel after reel of the sensitive
celluloid was exposed, packed in light-tight boxes and sent North
for development and printing. At times when they remained in
Culebra Cut, which they did for two weeks, instead of one, fresh
unexposed films were received from New York, being brought along
the Canal by Government boats, for, as I have explained, the boys
were semi-official characters now.

Mr. Alcando was rapidly becoming expert in handling a moving
picture camera, and often he went out alone to film some simple

"I wonder how our films are coming out?" asked Blake one day,
after a fresh supply Of reels had been received. "We haven't heard
whether Mr. Hadley likes our work or not?"

"Hard to tell," Joe responded. But they knew a few days later, for
a letter came praising most highly the work of the boys and,
incidentally, that of Mr. Alcando.

"You are doing fine!" Mr. Hadley wrote. "Keep it up. The pictures
will make a sensation. Don't forget to film the slide if one

"Of course we'll get that," Joe said, as he looked up at the
frowning sides of Culebra Cut. "Only it doesn't seem as if one was
going to happen while we're here."

"I hope it never does," declared Captain Watson, solemnly.

As the boys wanted to make pictures along the whole length of the
Canal, they decided to go on through the Pedro Miguel and
Miraflores locks, to the Pacific Ocean, thus making a complete
trip and then come back to Culebra. Of course no one could tell
when a slide would occur, and they had to take chances of filming

Their trip to Pedro Miguel was devoid of incident. At those locks,
instead of "going up stairs" they went down, the level gradually
falling so their boat came nearer to the surface of the Pacific. A
mile and a half farther on they would reach Miraflores.

The tug had approached the central pier, to which it was tied,
awaiting the services of the electrical locomotives, when back of
them came a steamer, one of the first foreign vessels to apply to
make the trip through the Isthmus.

"That fellow is coming a little too close to me for comfort,"
Captain Watson observed as he watched the approaching vessel.

Blake and Joe, who were standing near the commander at the pilot
house, saw Mr. Alcando come up the companionway and stand on deck,
staring at the big steamer. A little breeze, succeeding a dead
calm, ruffled a flag at the stern of the steamer, and the boys saw
the Brazilian colors flutter in the wind. At the same moment Mr.
Alcando waved his hand, seemingly to someone on the steamer's

"Look out where you're going!" suddenly yelled Captain Watson.
Hardly had he shouted than the steamer veered quickly to one side,
and then came a crash as the tug heeled over, grinding against the
concrete side of the central pier.

"We're being crushed!" yelled Blake.



The crashing and splintering of wood, the grinding of one vessel
against the other at the concrete pier, the shrill tooting of the
whistles, and the confused shouts of the respective captains of
the craft made a din out of which it seemed order would never

"If I could only get this on a film!" said Joe to himself during a
calm moment. But the cameras were below in the cabin, and the tug
was now careened at such an angle that it was risky to cross the
decks. Besides Joe must think of saving himself, for it looked as
though the tug would be crushed and sunk.

"Pull us out of here!" yelled Captain Watson to the man on the
lock wall in charge of the electrical towing locomotives. "Pull us

That seemed one way out of the trouble, for the _Nama_ was being
crushed between the Brazilian steamer and the wall. But the order
had come too late, for now the tug was wedged in, and no power
could move her without tearing her to pieces, until the pressure
of the big steamer was removed.

So, wisely, the men in charge of the towing machines did not
follow Captain Watson's orders.

"Over this way!" cried Blake to his chum, and to Mr. Alcando, who
were standing amid-ships. Joe was at the bow, and because that was
narrower than the main portion of the tug, it had not yet been
subjected to the awful pressure.

But there was no need of Joe or the others, including Captain
Watson, changing their positions. The Brazilian ship now began
drawing away, aided by her own engines, and by the tow ropes
extending from the other side of the lock wall. The _Nama_, which
had been partly lifted up in the air, as a vessel in the Arctic
Ocean is lifted when two ice floes begin to squeeze her, now
dropped down again, and began settling slowly in the water.

"She's sinking!" cried Blake. "Our cameras - our films, Joe!"

"Yes, we must save them!" his chum shouted.

"I'll help!" offered the Spaniard. "Are we really sinking?"

"Of course!" shouted Captain Watson. "How could anything else
happen after being squeezed in that kind of a cider press? We'll
go to the bottom sure!"

"Leave the boat!" yelled one of the men on top of the lock wall.
"We're going to tow you out of the way, so when you sink you won't
block the lock!"

"Let's get out our stuff!" Blake cried again, and realizing, but
hardly understanding, what was happening, the boys rushed below to
save what they could.

Fortunately it was the opening of many seams, caused by the
crushing process, rather than any great hole stove in her, that
had brought about the end of the _Nama_. She began to sink slowly
at the pier, and there was time for the removal of most of the
articles of value belonging to the boys and Mr. Alcando.

Hastily the cameras, the boxes of exposed and unexposed film, were
hoisted out, and then when all had been saved that could be
quickly put ashore, the tug was slowly towed out of the way, where
it could sink and not be a menace to navigation, and without
blocking the locks.

"Poor _Nama_" murmured Captain Watson. "To go down like that, and
not your own fault, either," and he looked over with no very
friendly eyes toward the Brazilian steamer, which had suffered no
damage more than to her paint.

"You can raise her again," suggested one of the lock men.

"Yes, but she'll never be the same," sorrowfully complained her
commander. "Never the same!"

"How did it happen?" asked Blake. "Was there a misunderstanding in

"Must have been something like that," Captain Watson answered.
"That vessel ought to have stayed tied up on her own side of the
lock. Instead she came over here under her own steam and crashed
into me. I'm going to demand an investigation. Do you know anyone
on board her?" he asked quickly of the Spaniard. "I saw you waving
to someone."

"Why, yes, the captain is a distant relative of mine," was the
somewhat unexpected answer. "I did not know he was going to take
his vessel through the Canal, though. I was surprised to see him.
But I am sure you will find that Captain Martail will give you
every explanation."

"I don't want explanations - I want satisfaction!" growled the tug

"There goes the _Nama_," called Blake, pointing to the tug.

As he spoke she began to settle more rapidly in the water, but she
did not sink altogether from sight, as she was towed toward the
shore, and went down in rather shallow water, where she could be
more easily reached for repairs.

"It was a narrow escape," Joe said. "What are we to do now, Blake?
Too bad we didn't get some moving pictures of that accident."

"Well, maybe it's a good thing we didn't," returned his chum. "The
Canal is supposed to be so safe, and free from the chance of
accidents, that it might injure its reputation if a picture of a
collision like that were shown. Maybe it's just as well."

"Better," agreed Captain Watson. "As you say, the Canal is
supposed to be free from accidents. And, when everything gets
working smoothly, there will be none to speak of. Some of the
electrical controlling devices are not yet in place. If they had
been that vessel never could have collided with us."

"I should think her captain would know better than to signal for
her to proceed under her own power in the Canal lock," spoke Joe.

"Possibly there was some error in transmitting signals on board,"
suggested Mr. Alcando. And later they learned that this was,
indeed, the case; or at least that was the reason assigned by the
Brazilian commander for the accident. His vessel got beyond

"Well, it's lucky she didn't ram the gates, and let out a flood of
water," said Joe to Blake a little after the occurrence.

"Yes, if that had happened we'd have had to make pictures whether
we wanted to or not. But I wonder what we are going to do for a
boat now?"

However, that question was easily settled, for there were other
Government vessels to be had, and Blake, Joe and Mr. Alcando, with
their cameras, films and other possessions, were soon transferred,
to continue their trip, in the _Bohio_, which was the name of the
new vessel. The _Nama_ was left for the wrecking crew.

"Well, this isn't exactly the quiet life we looked for in the
canal zone; is it, Blake?" asked Joe that night as he and his chum
were putting their new stateroom to rights.

"Hardly. Things have begun to happen, and I've noticed, Joe, that,
once they begin, they keep up. I think we are in for something."

"Do you mean a big slide in Culebra Cut?"

"Well, that may be only part of it. I have a feeling in my bones,
somehow or other, that we're on the eve of something big."

"Say, for instance - "

"I can't," answered Blake, as Joe paused. "But I'm sure something
is going to happen."

"No more collisions, I hope," his chum ventured. "Do you know,
Blake, I've wondered several times whether that one to-day was not
done on purpose."

Blake stared at his chum, and then, to Joe's surprise replied:

"And I've been thinking the same thing."

"You have?" Joe exclaimed. "Now I say - "

"Hush!" cautioned Blake quickly, "he's coming!"

The door of their stateroom opened, and Mr. Alcando entered. He
had a room across the corridor.

"Am I intruding?" he asked. "If I am - "

"Not at all. Come in," answered Blake, with a meaning look at his

"I wanted to ask you something about making double exposures on
the same film," the Spaniard went on. "You know what I mean; when
a picture is shown of a person sitting by a fireside, say, and
above him or her appears a vision of other days."

"Oh, yes, we can tell you how that is done," Joe said, and the
rest of the evening was spent in technical talk.

"Well, what were you going to say about that collision?" asked Joe
of Blake when Mr. Alcando had left them, at nearly midnight.

"I don't think it's exactly safe to say what I think," was Blake's
response. "I think he is - suspicious of us," he finished in a
whisper. "Let's watch and await developments."

"But what object could he - "

"Never mind - now," rejoined Blake, with a gesture of caution.

Several busy days followed the sinking of the _Nama_. The moving
picture boys went through the Miraflores locks, making some fine
films, and then proceeded on to the Pacific Ocean breakwater, thus
making a complete trip through the Canal, obtaining a series of
pictures showing scenes all along the way. They also took several
views in the city of Panama itself.

Of course theirs was not the first vessel to make the complete
trip, so that feature lost something of its novelty. But the boys
were well satisfied with their labors.

"We're not through, though, by any means," said Blake. "We have to
get some pictures of Gatun Dam from the lower side. I think a few
more jungle scenes, and some along the Panama Railroad, wouldn't
go bad."

"That's right," agreed Joe.

So they prepared to make the trip back again to Colon.

Once more they were headed for the locks, this time to be lifted
up at Miraflores, instead of being let down. They approached the
central pier, were taken in charge by the electrical locomotives,
and the big chain was lowered so they could proceed.

Just as the lower gate was being swung open to admit them to the
lock, there was a cry of warning from above.

"What's that?" cried Joe.

"I don't know," Blake answered, "but it sounds as though something
were going to happen. I didn't have all those feelings for

Then came a cry:

"The upper gate! The upper gate is open! The water is coming down!
Put the emergency dam in place! Quick!"

Joe and Blake looked ahead to see the upper gates, which were
supposed to remain closed until the boat had risen to the upper
level, swing open, and an immense quantity of foamy water rush
out. It seemed about to overwhelm them.



For a short space there was a calm that seemed more thrilling than
the wildest confusion. It took a few seconds for the rush of water
to reach the _Bohio_, and when it did the tug began to sway and
tug at the mooring cables, for they had not yet been cast off to
enable it to be towed.

Blake rushed toward the lower cabin.

"Where are you going?" cried Joe.

"To get the cameras," replied his chum, not pausing. "This is a
chance we mustn't miss."

"But we must escape! We must look to ourselves!" shouted Mr.
Alcando. "This is not time for making moving pictures."

"We've got to make it this time!" Joe said, falling in with Blake.
"You'll find you've got to make moving pictures when you _can_,
not when you _want_ to!"

To do justice to Mr. Alcando he was not a coward, but this was
very unusual for him, to make pictures in the face of a great
danger - to stand calmly with a camera, turning the crank and
getting view after view on the strip of celluloid film, while a
flood of water rushed down on you. It was something he never
dreamed of.

But he was not a "quitter," which word, though objectionable as
slang, is most satisfactorily descriptive.

"I'll help!" the young Spaniard cried, as he followed Blake and
Joe down to where the cameras and films were kept.

On came the rush of water, released by the accidental opening of
the upper lock gates before the lower ones were closed. The waters
of Gatun Lake were rushing to regain the freedom denied them by
the building of the locks.

But they were not to have their own way for long. Even this
emergency, great as it was, unlikely as it was to happen, had been
foreseen by those who built the Canal.

"The dam! Swing over the emergency dam!" came the cry.

The _Bohio_ was now straining and pulling at her cables.
Fortunately they were long enough to enable her to rise on the
flood of the rushing water, or she might have been held down, and
so overwhelmed. But she rose like a cork, though she plunged and
swayed under the influence of the terrible current, which was like
a mill race.

"Use both cameras!" cried Blake, as he and Joe each came on deck
bearing one, while Mr. Alcando followed with spare reels of film.
"We'll both take pictures," Blake went on. "One set may be

Then he and his chum, setting up their cameras on the tripods,
aimed the lenses at the advancing flood, at the swung-back gates
and at the men on top of the concrete walls, endeavoring to bring
into place the emergency dam.

It was a risky thing to do, but then Blake and Joe were used to
doing risky things, and this was no more dangerous than the
chances they had taken in the jungle, or in earthquake land.

On rushed the water. The tug rose and fell on the bosom of the
flood, unconfined as it was by the restraining gates. And as the
sturdy vessel swayed this way and that, rolling at her moorings
and threatening every moment to break and rush down the Canal,
Blake and Joe stood at their posts, turning the cranks. And beside
them stood Mr. Alcando, if not as calm as the boys, at least as
indifferent to impending fate.

Captain Wiltsey of the _Bohio_ had given orders to run the engine
at full speed, hoping by the use of the propeller to offset
somewhat the powerful current. But the rush of water was too great

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Online LibraryVictor AppletonThe Moving Picture Boys at Panama Stirring Adventures Along the Great Canal → online text (page 7 of 10)