Panama Canal

Posted on
The Panama Canal, as sketched by CLinton Havill in July, 1915

Lloyd’s Casualty Week for December 10 just arrived this morning at the library.  Along with the usual information about vessels grounded, stranded, disabled, sunk, captured by pirates, or embroiled in civil unrest or labor disputes, there was an interesting note about the Panama Canal.  Lloyd’s reports that for the first time in 20 years, the Canal has been closed down.  Heavy rains filled up the Gatun and Alhajuela lakes, making the transit through them unsafe and forcing traffic to a halt.  They are expecting a backlog of 60 ships by Friday, and as much as a two-day wait for vessels arriving without a booking. 

This is a bit more than a blip in worldwide sea traffic.  The Canal handles up to 5% of the world’s seaborne commerce, according to Lloyd’s.  The Panama Canal Authority (ACP), through its vice-president Manuel Benitez, says they are “planning to open flood gates to relieve one of the lakes.”   Read more

What to do with the USS Olympia?

Posted on
Protected Cruiser Olympia (C-6), circa 1901

We have been following with interest the story about the USS Olympia (C6), the famed protected cruiser that served as Admiral Dewey’s flagship at Manila Bay during the Spanish-American War. The cruiser is the only survivor of that war, and the oldest American steel warship afloat. She fired the opening shot in the action that destroyed the Spanish fleet at Manila Bay, and she brought home the body of the Unknown Soldier from World War I in 1921.

USS Olympia has been a museum ship since 1957 at the Independence Seaport Museum in Philadelphia. The ship has not been drydocked in 45 years and corrosion at the waterline is severe. The Museum had announced that, because she could sink at her moorings, they were discontinuing tours beginning Nov. 22. Since then, the museum’s Board announced that they were putting that decision on hold, given the new availability of funds to make emergency repairs (Philadelphia Inquirer, Nov. 18, http://www.philly.com/inquirer/home_region/20101118_Spanish-American_warship_spared__at_least_for_now.html).  However, if significant funding isn’t found, to the tune of $19 million, for drydocking and restoration, the ship could still sink at her berth or could be disposed of through scrapping or sinking off Cape May as an artificial reef.   Read more