PANAMA._ Floating symbols and archaeological treasures unearthed during the extension of the Panama Canal, are today attested to a century of history created by the hands of African, Chinese and Caribbean immigrants.
The 77km long wonder of the engineering world, that crosses Panama at its most slender point, is the shortest maritime route between the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean.
The waters of the canal, fed by the Chagres Basin, shine a light on not only relics of the French and U.S. presence, but also on the passing of time itself, seen since the inauguration of the spectacular work on the August 15, 1914.
Since then people and stories that transcend both time and space have, whilst stimulating trade and economic exchanges between far flung corners of the globe, brought this place to life.
THE STORY OF A GIANT FLOATING CRANE
Right alongside the Miraflores Locks at the very heart of the Panama Canal, a giant symbol of Adolf Hitler’s fascist Germany, the Titan crane, looms like an unrivaled witness to history.
Built to provide support for the Third Reich’s Navy in the conflict zone in 1941 at the height of World War 1, the 5,000 ton platform with a height of 112m still astounds those who navigate this century old waterway.
Although now more than seventy years old and confined by it’s enormity to a smaller zone, Titan still stands and is operating as it did on day one.
According to her captain, Braulio Giron, Panama Canal Authority Crane Operations Chief, the size of this mass of iron is such that it cannot pass under the Americas Bridge and just barely manages to pass under the Centenario.
The floating symbol, whose future beyond the year 2025 that authorities have set to replace it is uncertain, would also become trapped under the new bridge the crosses the Canal on the Atlantic coast.
Despite its 74-year history, being the oldest crane that operates on the Canal, at 100% of its 350 metric ton capacity, the time to consider a substitute is approaching.
This has led many to wonder what will become of the emblematic floating plant, although her captain thinks she might simply be left anchored at the northern port of Colon, as her predecessor Hercules was, “without any suitors interested in buying or putting her to use”.
Buried by time and lost within the dense tropical jungle surroundings of the Panama Canal estuary shores, more than two thousand pieces of archeological interest – from every era of local history -- have been unearthed by excavations undertaken as part of the waterway extension project.
An iron bridge dating back to a failed French XIX century attempt to construct a canal, tunnels, drains and a dam structure -- all remnants of the old transisthmian railroad -- stand out amongst the pieces hidden in the vegetation.
In addition to the remains of buildings of such historical significance, are notable ceramics, dish fragments, stone tools such as knives and axes, mortar grenades, cannon balls and train wagons used during the initial Canal excavations.
A one hundred year old refuse incinerator, U.S. army built defense trenches from 1913 and 1914, a 1903 Springfield rifle and a stone crushing plant for the manufacture of cement were also uncovered.
According to the Canal Authority’s environmental specialist, Zuleika Mojica and archaeologist Tomas Mendizabal, responsible for field investigations, pieces date from 1,000 years BC to pre-Columbus and colonial eras, the U.S. occupation and republican eras.
Mendizabal assured that “there are materials from every known period of the country’s history”, citing the example of a collection of some 500 bottles of soda, juice, medicine, milk and other bottles that will be true treasures in 100 years time”Share on FB Share on TT