« PreviousContinue »
General Davis. My information is based on what Mr. Ripley said.
Senator TALIAFERRO. The point in that, General Davis, is that it has been found necessary to enlarge these locks from time to time?
General Davis. Continually. I am coming to something else upon this point which is quite pertinent to it.
If the commerce of the Great Lakes continues to increase in the future as in the past, this plant for making the transit at the Soo will be overtaxed, and more locks or larger ones demanded. On the other hand, an international commission is now in session considering the question of a probable, indeed certain, inadequate water supply for the combined purposes of navigation and other industrial uses; for it is evident that the one or the other must be curtailed. General Ernst is a member of that commission, and they are now trying to draw up regulations to get the two countries to agree to specify that this industrial establishment shall not use more than so many second feet, or that that one and all shall not use more than so many second feet, or that the whole use of water on the American side shall not exceed so much, and so much on the Canadian side, so that there will be left enough to serve all purposes partially.
Senator MORGAN. All purposes of navigation ?
General Davis. Yes; and industrial purposes, too. Navigation is an industry. I do not know that the navigation men have any superior claim with respect to the use of waters over those who may have riparian rights along the channel. However, that is aside from my purpose,
The Soo locks have served a most beneficent purpose. They have been admirably managed. They are an object lesson that the Board of Engineers very carefully studied. But when we endeavor to apply at Panama the principles governing at the Soo, and propose to equip the interoceanic canal with devices such as could not be dispensed with at the old lake portage, the lesson of the Soo is inapplicable. A lock or locks of small lift was necessary to overcome the difference of level; but at Panama there is no difference of level that can not be surmounted in the same way that the Suez interior elevations were.
The ships plying the Lakes are built to suit the lock conditions, and they pass and repass every ten days or two weeks during the open season. During the closed season one-third or more of the yearthe boats and the locks are idle, and there is a time for general overhauling; for it is certain that no vessel will ask passage either up or down. But at Panama the ships will not be specially built for the canal, but for the navigation of the broad oceans, and there will be no time, either months or days, when the canal will be out of use.
It has been claimed that since it is proposed to make the Panama locks in pairs there will be ample time for the overhauling of one flight by putting it out of commission temporarily and depending solely on the other flight. But when the traflic increases so as to approach or reach the limit of capacity of both flights, the disuse of one for even a few days would cause intolerable delays; for one will never know when an accident disabling a lock will occur.
This example of the successful use of locks at the Soo has apparently served as an object lesson to many American engineers who are forgetful or ignorant of the splendid examples of Suez, Kiel, and Corinth. It sometimes seems that in some men's minds it may have come about that the canal at Panama, or indeed any canal, can not be
thought of even save in terms of locks, for if all the arguments that have been adduced in praise of these devices be accepted as sound, then it would seem to follow that the only way to make the Suez Canal perfect would be to put a lock at each end and feed the summit level from the Nile, a proposition that was once seriously considered in a way at a time when it was alleged that the Suez Canal, as it was in 1870 to 1880, would soon be inadequate.
It has been suggested that the adherence of the majority of the Consulting Board, including all the foreign members, to this sea-level idea, may have been due in part to the fact that the great canal of the Old World is that at Suez, while the great canal of the New World is the Soo-one at a uniform level and the other in two levels; also that the recommendations of the majority are vitiated by their having ignored the latter.
I hope to be able to show you, gentlemen, that there are very good, indeed abundant, reasons for the expressed preference of the majority to make the Panama Canal conform in type to the former.
At least three of the majority, including one foreign member, have seen the Soo lock in operation; but I am told that not one member of the minority or of the Commission ever saw the Suez Canal, while several of the majority, including one American member, have personally inspected that greatest of all maritime canals. If there is an inadequacy of personal knowledge by the members respecting either object lesson, it would seem to apply with most force to the minority as respects Suez.
There has been a reference made in the papers before you to what is claimed to be a fact, that the tonnage passing the Soo locks is three times greater than that passing Suez. In 1905 the Suez Canal passed 13,000,000 net tons, and there passed the Soo some 36,000,000, or about two and three-fourths times as much tonnage. A valuation of this freight at $10.60 per ton, the figure of 1904 (I have not the value for 1905), would give the aggregate of the commodities transported at the Soo a value of $381,000,000. The goods handled consisted largely of articles of the least unit value of any transported anywhere, such as iron ore and coal, representing over 27,000,000 tons in 1904 out of a total of 31,500,000.
What is the value per ton of the freight passing through the Suez Canal? We have no means of knowing; but it must be many times greater than the raw materials moved between Lakes Huron and Superior. A large part of it must be general merchandise, which at the Soo is placed at $135 per ton. It would seem to be conservative to estimate the Suez freight at $50 per ton, in which case the value of that traffic would reach $650,000,000, or nearly double the value of Soo freight. It it be put at $30 per ton, the figure would be $390,000,000, or quite equal to the other. So that we see that the actual importance of the two routes measured by the value of the goods moved is probably greatly in favor of the Old World canal.
Again, if the value of the ships using both routes be taken into account, the comparison would be still more in favor of Suez; for there are moving in constant procession many of the most costly ships in the world-great commercial liners, battle ships, and cruiserswhile the ships plying on the Great Lakes are generally the simplest freighters and barges.
As a route of travel, the contrast is still more remarkable. The number of passengers passing the Soo in 1904 was 16,120, while the number passing Suez in 1902 (the last year for which the data are available) was 223,775.
The statement that the Soo transit is three times as important as that at Suez seems to have no sufficient basis of fact to support it. Why, then, should not the Board of Engineers, with all the data available, physical and statistical, have assigned more importance to the traffic figures of the Old World example than to those pertaining to the other? And why should not those gentlemen, chosen to advise upon a solution of the Panama problem as respects type, have endeavored to present a feasible plan for adoption that would insure the realization of a waterway better in every respect than the best that exists, so it be realizable at an expenditure in money within the financial capacity of this great nation and within a reasonable period of time?
If any of those who have formed and expressed opinions upon this question of type are beset with an idea that has controlled or warped their judgment by what has been sometimes called a mental obsession, to which group do they belong?
Now, as to the type whether sea level or with locks:
I have, I think, read about all that has recently been printed by the Government in the way of criticism or commendation of the majority and minority plans for a canal at Panama. What I propose to say as respects this important question will be said as a layman to a lay audience. The President and the Secretary of War have submitted their opinions, and we have also been favored with an expression of judgment by the Isthmian Canal Commission and its present and former chief engineers.
The critics of the majority report admit that a canal at sea level would have certain advantages. I think it may be said that one and all concede that if a sea-level waterway be wide and deep enough it would be superior to any involving excavations, lakes, locks, and lifts; but they discard it as impracticable because of the greater cost.
Some or all those who favor a plan involving 170 feet of lockage admit that the Suez type would be somewhat less exposed to damage in time of war; that the operating and maintenance expenses alone would be less, and that small ships would traverse it quicker than the others. On the other hand, it is claimed that the majority estimate of cost is too low; that there would be very much more liability to accident during construction; that it would require about twice as long to construct; that its transit by large ships would be less speedy; that it would be more difficult to enlarge-in short, that the canal made as proposed by the minority would be safer, more feasible and desirable than the other.
The propriety of a discussion by an officer of the Government of the officially expressed opinions of his superiors should not be permitted or thought of. This is an elementary proposition that no one will question. As I had been informed that I was to be called before this committee and questioned respecting my views upon the subjects that had been receiving attention here, I took occasion to ask the Secretary of War how far he wished me to go in discussing the subject, upon which he had submitted a recommendation to the President.
He asked me to say to this committee that he desired that I feel myself entirely free to elucidate to you in the fullest manner the questions you are considering.
The letter to the Secretary of War transmitting the reports of the Board of Engineers and the review of the same by the Isthmian Canal Commission and its chief engineer are before you. Certain conclusions have been reached by the Secretary from a study of the papers transmitted that seem to me to be based upon misconceptions of fact or a misunderstanding of the arguments and conclusions which are the subject of his review. With your permission, therefore, I will briefly invite attention to some of the more important of his observations and endeavor to show that too much or too little weight has been given to the sea-level and lock-plan arguments.
As to the question of a winding waterway and tortuous navigation—those being some words that the Secretary has used in his letter as applied to the sea-level plan:
The total curvature of some existing and proposed canals, expressed in degrees of arc, is as follows: What I mean by that is, that when you turn a certain curve, you also make a change of direction measured by a certain number of degrees. Each curve has its own angular measurements. Adding together all those angular measurements gives the total angular measurements for the canal route. That will explain what I am going to say.
The proposed Panama sea-level canal has 597o of curvature, as proposed by the majority. The proposed Panama lock canal has 6370 of curvature, as proposed by the minority. The existing Kiel sea-level canal—that is, the state canal of Germany, which connects the North Sea and the Baltic, and which has been built primarily for the purpose of enabling the German fleet of war vessels to pass and repass without going through the Danish channels—has "830° of curvature in a distance of about 60 miles. I have the exact distance here somewhere. The existing Suez Canal has 530° of curvaturethe present one.
Senator TALIAFERRO. In what distance?
The minority claim that all sailing courses in their lock plan are straight lines, and that moving vessels will simply change direction at points where these straight lines meet. But curves are shown on the lock plan at each change of direction. A vessel changing direction in these curves will not come to a full stop in the angle and take up the new direction as from a fixed point. If she did that, she would have to be pulled and pushed about with tugs; she would have to turn as on a pivot. They do not propose anything of that kind; but she will sail around the curve, and if her course is as plotted on the lock-plan map, she must sail these curves and make the angular changes, 24 in number. I think General Ernst yesterday counted them up and only noticed 18. There are 24 on their schedule of curves, which I have before me, compiled by the minority.
Senator MORGAN. On the lock canal ?
General Davis. On the lock canal; 24 of these changes of direction, as against 19 in the sea-level plan, or 21 per cent more winding and tortuous navigation for the lock than for the sea-level sailing courses.
This defect of the lock plan is claimed to be cured and more than cured by making the channels broader. But there is a difference of opinion as to this. I quote from Admiral Goodrich, of our Navy, Admiral Ryder, of the British navy, and Sir John Stokes, of the royal engineers, who was the senior for about twenty years of the British members of the board of directors of the Suez Canal, in which, as you know, England owns nearly one-half the stock, and is therefore represented in the board by her own appointees.
The present Admiral Goodrich (now stationed, I think, in California, commanding the North Pacific Station) passed through the Suez Canal a good many years ago; and in his report to the Secretary of the Navy this is what he says about the navigation. I will ask you to remember that at that time the Suez Canal had a bottom width of 72 feet and a depth of 26 feet. [Reading:]
“ Two causes of bad steering are to be apprehended, one the effect of the ebb current in the southern section, which begins to be felt 12 miles from Suez and reaches 3 miles an hour at the terminus. Another imminent source of grounding is due to unequal width of the deep-water section, which is particularly noticeable at the sidings. So long as the channel is of uniform width a vessel steers steadily and without the use of the rudder. If the course be straight, vessel will follow the mid-channel, for the reason that the reflex pressure from the banks is equal on both sides."
Senator TALIAFERRO. General Davis, what does he mean by the vessel steering without the use of the rudder?"
General Davis. Just what he says—that when that vessel is started off on a straight course in the canal you can let the rudder alone and the vessel will take care of herself. That is a fact.
Senator TALIAFERRO. Is it?
General Davis. I do not mean to say that they do not keep their hands on the rudder; but he says here that they will steer without the use of the rudder.
Senator Dryden. Does that refer to a vessel propelled by steam? General Davis. Oh, yes; oh, yes.
Senator MORGAN. Does that mean that the vessel is really steered by the propeller?
General Davis. No, sir; it means that the pressure of water on both sides is exactly equal, and there is no prompting on the part of the vessel to go to one side or the other, for the place of least resistance is right in the center of the canal. Senator MORGAN. They go for the point of least resistance?
General Davis. They go for the point of least resistance, and if they should go toward the bank they would meet with resistance. If they should go toward either bank they would meet with resistance, so the place where the vessel can go ahead easiest is reached in the center of the canal, and that is what Admiral Goodrich says. [Reading:]
"So long as the channel is of uniform width a vessel steers steadily and without the use of the rudder; if the course be straight, vessel will follow the midchannel, for the reason that the reflex pressure from the banks is equal on both sides; but where the width is increased by an enlargement wholly on one side the pressure varies,