Panama Canal

The Panama Canal, known as the Seventh Wonder of the Modern World, was built to decrease dramatically the travel time for ships between the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. Its history was the subject of a recent talk by Malcolm Boyd to members of the club. Malcolm was very familiar with the Canal having passed through it on three occasions as a merchant seaman on a Salvesen tramp steamer, carrying cargo to Japan and beyond. 

Malcolm was introduced by President Roddy Eunson and gave the members a very descriptive talk on the history of the Canal and the many attempts over the years to establish an overland trade route there, including the ill-fated Darien Scheme launched by the Kingdom of Scotland in 1698, which was abandoned two years later due to the inhospitable conditions and loss of life. Its failure left the entire Scottish Lowlands in financial ruin and weakened their resistance to the 1707 Act of Union.

He explained that Great Britain attempted to develop a canal in 1843 but it never materialised. France began work on the canal in 1881 but stopped due to engineering problems and a high worker mortality rate of 80% due to malaria and yellow fever, so the United States took over the project in 1904, and the canal was finally opened in 1914. The cost of the 51 mile long canal was $375m and it took the lives of some 30,000 souls. The canal was taken over by the Panamanian government in 1999 and remains the countries biggest source of income. New locks were constructed between September 2007 and May 2016 allowing the transit of larger container ships. He concluded his talk by saying that the water shortages and drought caused by global warming were major threats to the Canal’s future viability.

A vote of thanks was given by Bernie Rafferty who thanked Malcolm for giving what was an entertaining and well delivered talk on one of the largest and most difficult engineering projects ever undertaken.

The Club will next meet on 6th September in the Willowbank Hotel at 10am when William McMahon will speak on Conspiracy Theories. Men over the age of 50 who are retired, or nearing retirement, are welcome to join the Club by completing our Contact Form.