Travel Reference
In-Depth Information
until I spoke to them.
This was the first time I had lived among Americans, for I had never been in the United
a correct opinion about so big a nation. To judge a country by its tourists abroad is ridiculous,
but unfortunately is often done, and the impression some of them are apt to make is often not
one that reflects credit on the nation of their origin.
The Canal Zone is supposed to be 'dry', but even if this were the case, one has merely to
cross the street to Colon, on the Atlantic side, or to Panama City on the Pacific, and there it is
of Panama, if politically such a country exists, one finds one bar alongside the other. In addi-
tiontherearesomecabarets andscoresofhousesofillfame.Touristsleavetheirmoneyinthe
former, whilst soldiers mostly frequent the latter, especially on or immediately after paydays,
when they squander their dollars and very often their health.
The difference between the Panamanian and American side is as great as that between day
and night. If it were not for American sanitary inspectors and influence, no white man could
live in those towns, and were it not for the Canal and the amazing accomplishment of sanita-
tion ofthese formerly deadly regions, Panama, today,would hardly figure onthe average map
at all.
The Silent Canal
It would be out of place if I tried to describe the Canal; technical men as well as expert pens
have often done this, so I will limit my description to a few personal impressions only. Engin-
eers kindly showed me round and explained many technical details to me, but I am afraid I
might just as well have been listening to Einstein lecturing onthe fourth dimension. However,
bad as I was at understanding, I was a good listener.
The control house at the Gatun Locks was of particular interest to me, for, in spite of its
intricate mechanism, the actual manipulation and control of the locks is simplicity in itself.
When a ship approaches a special crew fixes cables to electric trolleys, called 'mules', and
these steadily pull the vessel into the lock. In the control house there is a complete miniature
set of locks on a large marble table, and this set indicates every movement of the real locks
without. The only difference is that the miniature sets do not fill with water, the water level
being shown on indicators that resemble large thermometers. When a ship has been moved
into position for the next movement of the locks, the operator in the control house is advised
by telephone. By turning a small handle on the table, the engines that open or close the gates,
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