San Francisco and the Nicaragua Canal

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Vandewater; and we advise all parties who may be so unfortunate as to be brought into business contact with either to guard themselves by written contract. Resolved, That we recognize in Capt. Lucas the skillful mariner, the able commander, and the perfect gentleman. Resolved, That the passengers generally, and the ladies in particular, feel under especial obligations to Capt.

Bailey for the untiring exertions he has used to render the voyage both comfortable and pleasant. Resolved, Last, though not least, that the California, Isthmus, and United States papers generally, be requested to publish these proceedings pro bono publico. Signed W. RABE, M. Daily Alta California , September 18, We reached San Juan del Sud on the 16th, at noon.

A south wester would make fearful work among the shipping, but from all I can learn here, none are to be apprehended. The beach resembles that at Taboga more than any place I have seen. Soon after we dropped anchor, the Hon. Wright and Dr. Upon going ashore, we learned from Mr. At daylight of the 17th the passengers commenced their disembarkation, and as soon as possible obtained their mules and set forward. Great delay was occasioned by the weighing of baggage, obtaining checks to be posted upon each package and getting receipts for the amount of transportation.

At about nine o'clock our party got started for Virgin Bay, twelve miles distant, which we reached at 2 P. The first four miles of the road leads through the woods, and is the only bad portion of it. There are several hills none however of much magnitude to ascent, and in many places the mud is some six or eight inches deep; and there are two or three shallow streams to cross of about six or eight feet in width. The next four or five miles runs through a fine undulating country, with occasionally a copse of trees or bushes, well sodded, and a good hard road.

The remainder of the road is through a level country much of it marshy, obliging us to walk our mules, but they got through without the least inconvenience. There is but one ranch on the road and but scantily supplied with eatables. The only safe plan is to lay in a stock of provisions before starting. The settlement at Virgin Bay consists of six or eight ranches, pretty well supplied with hammocks and provisions. I should judge it to be a healthy place.

The baggage went safe, but some of the passengers got thrown off, and were well soaked. About four hours were occupied in getting us off, and at 10 o'clock we got underway. There were about two hundred of us on board, and we found ourselves very much crowded, especially as it commenced raining at this time the first during the day and those on the upper deck were compelled to take shelter on the main deck. No meals were furnished on board this boat. From Virgin Bay we took a south easterly course to San Carlos, about 60 miles distant, where we entered the San Juan river.

This point we reached at 8 o'clock A. These are very large, and carried from 18 to 20 passengers, with their baggage. We took these boats at 1 P. The first is named Toro, and is 10 miles down from where we left the Director. I understand it is the intention of the company to have the steamer in future come down to this rapid. This rapid is much the larger of the three, but is not, in my opinion, as bad as several on the Chagres river, and we got through it without the least trouble. The second rapid bears the name of Castillo Viejo - old castle - a fort, standing on the shore, and the rapid is supposed to have been made by the Spaniards throwing stores and munitions in here at the time of Lord Nelson's attack upon the country; it is certain he was not able to pass this point.

She has two inch cylinders and 3 feet stroke. Here also nothing could be had to eat, excepting one biscuit apiece, and the passengers began to be riotous; but some provident ones having supplied themselves, a division was made, and we lay down to sleep. At 3 o'clock next morning, Tuesday, 19th August, the boat got up steam, and reached San Juan de Nicaragua, 60 miles run, at noon. The river is of an average width of say mile: it is much more straight than the Chagres; the scenery, perhaps not quite so romantic.

As to the healthiness of the country, that from the Pacific to the Lake, and along the shores of the Lake, I should think must be decidedly so, from its general features. As we approach the Atlantic, however, it becomes low and must be taken as a place for fever. You will perceive that we were just fifty one hours making the crossing, and that the distance is miles. There is an English man-of-war in the harbor, and several square-rigged vessels, sloops and schooners.

Fitch, whose misstatement and aspersions of my character, too favorably known to suffer by such insinuations, make it incumbent upon me to answer, which I now intend to do, by giving a description of the trip. In positive contradiction of Mr. Vandewater to Panama and back again, on business, as I understand, of the company, and that consequently he did not participate in our main sufferings, that is , the protracted stay at Rivas, and on the sea shore.

Wright again presiding; that every publicity possible was given, the bell being rung throughout the whole ship, and passengers invited to attend; that Mr. I do not know what interest Mr. Fitch has, if any, direct or indirect, in this line, and whatever may be Mr. Fitch's experience or notions of comfort, he ought to know that it entirely depends upon what persons are used to. But so much in vindication of me, and the description of the trip will settle the hash. I had only been in the States about twelve days when I heard of the disastrous May fire, by which I was, as many others, a heavy sufferer; and although anxious to stay with my children as long as possible, I conceived that I should immediately return.

The Vanderbilt line was then the rage; but being rather doubtful about their newspaper puffs, I took the extraordinary precaution to write to Mr. Vanderbilt from Philadelphia, and a copy of the answer is to be found below. In due time I took a ticket at the office for San Juan on the Atlantic, for which I paid fifty dollars, some paid fifty, some seventy, some even one hundred, and a few forty-five dollars, for first cabin passage! On board I found Mr. Wright, his lady and child, and Mr. Vanderbilt himself.

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Wright, as well as myself, expressed in each other's presence to Mr. Vanderbilt, our necessity and desire to go straight and quick through, and that we would go to Chagres if there was any possibility of unusual detention or hardship. Vanderbilt said that we would get through before any other passengers who had started about the same time for California, insisted upon our going, and tendered us a free passage, and we went on.

We had been ten days from New York; on the eleventh we went on board the famous iron steamer. We had gone about half a mile, when she struck; the passengers animated with a laudable desire, with the exception of a few, jumped into the water, and after three hours' hard labor to drag her over, trying to lift her up, or pull her along, they were exhausted and "gave up ship;" when the captain of an English man-of-war, fortunately in the harbor, gallantly came to our assistance with a part of his crew, and after renewed exertions of all we got over it, and five running hours were consumed in going one mile.

On we went. During the night there were no accommodations for sleeping, not a single berth; the room styled the cabin, pretty well filled with baggage, was occupied by the ladies as best they might, and the gentlemen picked out the softest plank on deck and laid down.

San Francisco and the Nicaragua Canal by William L. Merry - Free Ebook

No cooking stove being on board, we, of course, fared accordingly. Second day, being the day after passing one rapid successfully, we came to a halt at another. During the whole evening Mr. Vanderbilt tried unsuccessfully to get the board over, and on the third day, having spent a miserable night under the same privations, we were packed in bungies, each man squeezing himself in the best way he could, in good old Chagres river-fashion. We went our way rejoicing, consuming nearly the whole day in going nine miles, against an immense strong current - a good rain coming down bountifully upon us "kept us cool.

To my astonishment I found the lake a boisterous expanse of water, running as high as the angry Atlantic. The ladies made a screen on deck of blankets, the rest of the passengers laid down on deck. But the water washing over us continually, made us get up pretty soon, and between sea-sickness, previous hunger, cold, wet and fatigue, we had a pretty night of it.

Next morning we hove in sight of the shore, where a red flag was stuck up, and cast anchor a few hundred yards off shore. Vanderbilt went ashore, intending, as he said, to see us landed. They swam to the shore, and made no further attempt to land us from that quarter. Two or three hours more we waited, when we concluded we would land in the steamer's boat; and going in to the shore stern foremost, we all ultimately landed, some getting wet all over, some partly, and one, Mr.

White, being carried ashore by a native who spilled him, got a handsome ducking. At that shore there was no house, and after waiting some time, some took horses and others walked into the town of Rivas, situated about four miles from the lake, inland. This town is a small settlement, containing probably fifty or a hundred houses, built low, and encircling immense yards, one building occupying about as much space as the square bounded by Clay, Montgomery, and Commercial streets.

It is true that the lying natives talked about ten thousand inhabitants, but the whole province of Rivas, being one of the seven of the Republic, does not, in fact, probably contain as many. There we staid four days, at two dollars a day, on pretty good fare. The passengers being informed of the price of forty dollars for transit, ten cents per pound for baggage, of the want of provisions on the route - there being but one shed from San Juan de Nicaragua to Rivas - refused to go - they having the option to land at San Juan or at Panama.

One hundred and fifty ultimately came over, and they may describe their hardships themselves.

San Francisco Call, Volume 87, Number 46, 15 January 1900 — THE HEPBURN CANAL BILL. [ARTICLE]

At any rate, I understood from responsible sources, that great disturbances took place on the lake as well as the river. From this time begins our positive right to complain. It was there where we stuck again, and to that and the subsequent conduct of Vanderbilt and Vandewater, that this card is owing.

Vandewater promised to return on the 10th of August, and offered to pay our board in the meantime at Rivas. After he had left, he sent word by Captain Baldwin that he could not be back before the 13th, but would be there certain, then. Our board became immediately so miserable that the passengers requested me to attend to the matter, when we found out that Mr. Vandewater had accorded our board for one dollar and a quarter, from the time he assume the payment; and the landlord very properly observed that he was bound to reduce his expenditures.

The hotel was kept by an English ex-captain of dragoons, and a faint idea might be formed by travelers, of the cookery under his direction, executed by indolent natives. On the 12th we started for San Juan del Sud, about twenty miles from Rivas - a road pleasant enough in dry weather, but horrible when wet; some took one, some two days to go. At the shed in San Juan del Sud, we staid three days after the time appointed. On the 16th, the steamer came, being twenty-one days later than promised in the subjoined letter.

The accommodations, or in fact the want of them, on the steamer, beggars all description. I have been on the Pacific sea six times; never saw the like in my life, any where. The price of wines, which were abominable, was raised during the passage, as Mr. Fitch knows; and we were advised, under the direction of Mr. Vandewater, who had assumed a full sway on board the ship, interfering with every thing, that we must buy sugar at the bar, if we wanted to make lemonade.

At Acapulco no beef was taken in, there being still some half-dead cows on board, whose natural end was only anticipated by the butcher a day or two. Eight dozen chickens were laid in there, and when within three days from this port, matters and things became so woeful that nothing but the fact of a passenger having three dozen chickens as freight on board saved us from positive starvation.

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The firemen were in perfect uproar; they took, in the night, a pig killed for the passengers, a turkey which had found its way there, and some chickens; and nothing but the extraordinary exertions of Capt. Lucas, with whom we all sympathized in his trying condition, got the ship on. I further state, upon the authority of Capt. Lucas and the head steward, that the necessary requisition had been made in Panama, and that Mr. Vandewater had only bought a small part of it. I also must again mention, that the passage money exacted from passengers at San Juan was as great, and in many instances greater than that paid by the passengers at Panama; and Vandewater himself forced the other line to raise the price.

Suffice it to say, we are here, thank God! I have other business to do than to write letters of this kind, but am willing and ready, if it should be to the interest of the community, and if requested by a respectable party, to give a more public and full exposition of the gross and wanton frauds imposed upon us on the route; but I hope that no more of the employees or persons interested, directly or indirectly, in the welfare of the company, will make themselves notorious by aspersions on my character and motives, which I believe my character here does not warrant.

Probably Mr. Fitch knows that I was presented by Mr.

Vanderbilt with a free passage on the Pacific, and when it was found out that I would not suffer the community to be imposed upon, passage money was demanded of me, and paid by me. The shortest trip, we believe, ever made by the Panama route, was thirty-one days. The trip by the Nicaragua has actually accomplished it in twenty-nine; and several days yet may be saved in perfecting the transit of the isthmus.

A CARD. In the first place, we were informed, by Vandewater, the agent of the line at San Francisco, that we would be put through in said line in twenty-two or three days - that there was a good road across the Isthmus - that we could cross the Isthmus in two or three days - that everything was arranged and a good road. San Juan del Sud, we found the roads almost impassable, and no adequate means in the control of said company to put us across the Isthmus. Their agents at San Juan told us mules would be in, sufficient to carry us across, and our baggage, in a day or two; in consequence of which, we purchased through tickets, from San Juan del Sud to New York, and paid them for the passage, and took tickets through for the Isthmus and Atlantic.

We stopped at San Juan three or four days for the expected mules of the company and were compelled to make the best of our way across the Isthmus, being again in the foils of the serpent. The agents told us to go to Rivas, instead of Virgin Bay, as provisions were scarce at the Bay, and stop for the steamer on the lake. We will not describe the scene across the Isthmus. We stopped at Rivas from five to six days, the boat on the lake having been due at Virgin Bay four or five days.

News them came that the steamer and gone over the falls, and we must make the best of our way across the lake and down the river, a distance of two hundred miles. But, thanks to an overruling Providence, we at least got across, after a journey of five days, to Don Carlos. We then started down the river, and we were compelled to row all night, and we got to Gray Town in some thirty-six hours. We will not describe our situation on board of that boat, which crossed the Atlantic a moving pestilence, whose putrid carcass was strewn with the dead and the dying during the passage, and we happen to be spared, as monuments of God's mercy, to tell the tale.

On our arrival at New York, we called upon Mr. Lien, the Secretary of the Transit Company across the Isthmus, to refund us or money. He informed us that he was not authorized to do so, and had nothing to do with the ocean steamers; but that they the Directors would hold a meeting and decide upon the matter next day, but that we must call at Vanderbilt's office for the money we had paid for the Atlantic.

This is but a faint outline; and, if provoked, further disclosures will be made with reference to said route. We were fort-five days from San Francisco to New York. And we here invoke the travelling community, if they value comfort, health, convenience and life, touch not the unclean thing, but deal with honorable men, who, if you are detained, will indemnify you, as they have heretofore done, by paying you a reasonable amount. Done at the Merchant's Hotel, Saturday, November 29, Jacob Hoage, Pennsylvania; Thomas A. Robinson, Philadelphia; William H. Kirkhoff; Thomas P.

Young, St. Charles, Illinois; Daniel J. Henderson, M. Johnson, Paterson, New Jersey; E. NoteIndisputable reference can be given, in the city and country, where the above signers reside, if requisite. Nicaragua contains about 49, square miles. Its population is estimated at ,, of which by far the largest portion are females. Not more than 20, of the people are whites, the rest being Indians, Negroes, and mixed races. Last week, in company with a few friends, we made a visit to the famous Lake of Masaya. Rising early and fortifying ourselves with a cup of strong coffee, we left our posada near the plaza of Masay, and proceeded on foot towards the lake.

It is about half a mile distant from the plaza. We had no difficulty in finding the road, for there is a constant stream of water carriers parsing to and fro, between the lake and the town, from morning to night, and we at once fell into the current. Napoleon III wrote an article about its feasibility in the middle of the 19th century. The United States abandoned plans to construct a waterway in Nicaragua in the early 20th century after it purchased the French interests in the Panama Canal.

The Panama Canal was built and that is now the main connecting route across Central America. Because the steady increase in world shipping may make it an economically viable project, speculation on a new shipping route has continued. Several possible routes have been proposed for the Nicaragua Canal, all making use of Lake Nicaragua.

All the above proposed routes lead from port at or near Bluefields in the Caribbean Sea to Morrito , a small town located on the eastern shore of Lake Nicaragua. At that point, ships would enter a manmade canal and navigate 18—24 kilometers across the isthmus of Rivas to reach Brito , a port on the Pacific Ocean in the Department of Rivas.

The idea of constructing a manmade waterway through Central America is old. The colonial administration of New Spain conducted preliminary surveys as early as , under the supervision of a Spanish explorer named Gormara. Nothing came of this initial attempt, but the idea was revived in by the Spanish Crown and surveys were made again, this time under the supervision of an officer named Galisteo. Construction did not occur, as the crown was unable to secure adequate funding. That year, FRCA government authorities hired surveyors to chart the route and contacted the government of the United States to seek financing and the engineering technology needed for building the shipping route, to the advantage of both nations.

While officials in Washington, D. The United States was worried about the poverty and political instability of Nicaragua, as well as the rival strategic and economic interests of the British government, which controlled both British Honduras later Belize and the Mosquito Coast. On August 26, , the Nicaraguan government signed a contract with the United States businessman Cornelius Vanderbilt. It granted his Accessory Transit Company the exclusive right to construct a waterway within 12 years and gave the same company sole administration of a temporary trade route in which the overland crossing through the isthmus of Rivas was done by train and stagecoach.

The temporary route operated successfully, quickly becoming one of the main avenues of trade between New York City and San Francisco. Civil war in Nicaragua and an invasion by filibuster William Walker intervened to prevent the canal from being completed. Continued interest in the route was an important factor in the negotiation of the Clayton—Bulwer Treaty of The canal idea was discussed seriously by businessmen and governments throughout the 19th century.

Many workers were reported in hospital owing to tropical illnesses. In , the newly named United States Nicaraguan Canal Commission proposed the idea of building the canal, as did the subsequent Isthmian Canal Commission in In addition to the promise of earlier completion of the Panama Canal, opponents of the Nicaraguan canal cited the risk of volcanic activity at the Momotombo volcano.

They favored construction of a canal through the Isthmus of Panama. In , taking advantage of a year with increased volcanic activity in the Caribbean Sea, Cromwell planted a story in The New York Sun reporting that the Momotombo volcano had erupted and caused a series of seismic shocks. This caused concern about its possible effects on a Nicaraguan canal. Cromwell arranged for leaflets with stamps featuring Momotombo to be sent to every Senator as "proof" of the volcanic activity in Nicaragua.

An eruption in May on the island of Martinique resulted in 30, human fatalities. This catastrophe persuaded most of the United States Congress to vote in favor of constructing the canal in Panama, leaving only eight votes in favor of Nicaragua. The decision to build the Panama Canal passed by four votes.


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Nicaraguan president Zelaya later tried to arrange for Germany and Japan to finance the building of a canal that would traverse Zelaya Department. Having settled on the Panama route, the United States opposed this proposal. Since the Panama Canal opened in , the Nicaragua route has been reconsidered. From to a United States Army Corps of Engineers survey team of men surveyed the route of a future canal, called the Forty-Niners route because it followed closely the route that miners took in the s California Gold Rush.

Costa Rica protested that Costa Rican rights to the San Juan River had been infringed, and El Salvador maintained that the proposed naval base would affect both it and Honduras. Both protests were upheld by the Central American Court of Justice in rulings that were not recognized by either Nicaragua or the United States.

Nicaragua Canal (Nicaragua)

Both nations repealed the Bryan—Chamorro Treaty on July 14, Between and , with war in Europe underway, a new study was made for the construction of a barge canal. Three variants were considered, with minimum channel depths of six, ten, and twelve feet. The idea of a larger canal, with part of the excavating work to be done with atomic bombs, was revived in the s as part of Operation Plowshare.

In , Nicaragua's National Assembly unanimously approved an exploration concession, Law , [23] for the construction of a shallow-draft waterway along the San Juan River, known as the Ecocanal. This project is loosely based on the —40 study. However, CINN was unable to obtain financing to begin construction.

It is possible that these schemes could exist in parallel to the proposed inter-ocean canal. In , the Nicaraguan government again proposed a canal through the country—large enough to handle post-Panamax ships of up to , tons, as compared to the approximately 65, tons that the Panama Canal can accommodate. The scheme met with strong opposition from environmentalists, who protested the damage that would be done to the rivers and jungle. The project was similar to the original plans, except that the United States government would buy the land for investors to begin construction on the project.

In addition to the governmental waterway proposal, private proposals have been based on a land bridge across Nicaragua. The Intermodal System for Global Transport SIT Global , involving Nicaraguan and Canadian and American investors, proposed a combined railway, oil pipeline, and fiberoptic cable; a competing group, the Inter-Ocean Canal of Nicaragua, proposes building a railway linking ports on either coast. The construction of the canal alone would more than double Nicaragua's GDP excluding other investments as a result of the canal's construction. Some sources suggest that construction of the canal would enable Nicaragua to become one of the wealthiest countries in Central America, and one of the wealthiest countries in Latin America in per capita terms.

Supporters believe that all of Central America would benefit from the construction of the canal. In , Russian President Dimitry Medvedev suggested that Russia would be interested in pursuing the construction of the interoceanic waterway. However, no progress has been made to date and the construction of the Third Set of Locks for the Panama Canal has apparently dampened Russian enthusiasm for the project.

History of the Nicaragua Canal

The feasibility study examined the route that followed the San Juan River. The study suggested that this route would both be cheaper and also offer environmental benefits over other routes. This because it would not be necessary to create an artificial lake to foresee the locks of water, and it would also require but the moving of small amounts of soil compared to the other routes.

Also, it would not require the digging of a new canal which would cause the San Juan river to receive less water which again has ecological consequences. By , no significant construction had taken place.



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