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[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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Panama Canal: 1915

Panama Canal: 1915

Circa 1915. "North approach, Pedro Miguel Lock, Panama Canal." 8x10 inch dry plate glass negative, Detroit Publishing Company. View full size.

On Shorpy:
Today's Top 5

Cargo/passenger ship on left

Does anyone know the name of this ship? It would make a wonderful model of a cargo ship that also carried passengers. Somewhat typical of the banana boats of the period. Thanks.

Jay Beckham

Ship and Tow Vessel?

Notice the four-masted, square rigged sailing vessel (bark?) astern of the foreground steamer on the right. The lowest yards on each mast are tilted to clear the lock accoutrements. The bowsprit appears very near, perhaps over, the stern of the steamer. Could the steamer, which seems to be pretty small, be the larger vessel's tow boat? Not sure what (if anything) that would say about conditions on the steamer's decks.

2 locks, plenty of waiting.

The caption reads "North Approach", and the mule tracks begin here, so I think this really is the line of ships waiting to be towed into the locks.

Locking Through Together?

All of the ships in the photo seem to be moored to the bollards on the concrete.

With the smaller size of the ships during this era it might be possible for more than one ship to fit in a lock chamber. Could it be that all of these ships are within their respective locks and in the process of completing the locking operation in the direction of the arrow, that is "up".

There are tracks for the mechanical mules to pull them through, but there isn't one in sight. I suspect that when the lock chambers fill completely the mules will pull each ship out of the lock chamber in sequence.

Sleeping on deck

must have been nice option as to down below in the humid tropics, the ship on the right has a canvas between two lifeboats and a couple of mattresses on the deck.


I thought the Canal wasn't completed until 1914.


The ships are in a lock. Cargo is not moved on or off a ship there. I have been through the Canal five times and there are no cargo facilities there. A few docks for the tourists, but cargo would most likely be handled in Balboa. The first time I went through was in 1955 and we took the train that paralleled the Canal back to the Caribbean side. The passenger cars were wooden with lanterns for lighting. It looked like a movie set from some '30 film.

Computer glitch

Someone's cursor is caught in the picture!

Cargo ship experience

A navy Chief rarely works on cargo ships. What is probably happening is the ship is loading or offloading cargo. You can see the canvas hatch cover stuffed aft of the rear hatch. While you are moving cargo, bits of packing material and small bits of bulk cargo end up on the deck. Blame the 60 stevedores for that. Then when they get a little rain, all that junk gets washed aft to just forward of the deckhouse, where you see it in the picture. There is a scupper outboard there, but it quickly gets clogged. You see where someone has laid boards down to keep their feet dry. I am sure the deck will get swept after cargo ops. At least someone has cleared the scupper to get the water off the deck.


Looking at the steamer on the left versus the one on the right I think the crew needs to be doing some major work to that deck below them! That mess would give a Navy Chief an apoplectic fit!

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