The Corinth Canal.

The Corinth Canal.

A correspondent of The Evening Post, writing from Athens, gives the following description of the present condition of the canal across the Isthmus at Corinth :

“ Here we were at the entrance of one of the most stupendous works of the nineteenth century, or of any century. I looked upward and inward. The prism of the excavation is a little less than four miles long and perfectly straight. The ground rives rather abruptly at either end, and continues to rise gradually to a point about midway, where it is 260 feet above water level, i. e., 100 feet higher than Niagara Falls. 1 he cut is to be carried twenty-two feet below water level, and the width at bottom is to be eighty-six feet. The slope of the bank is sixty degrees, the material, a calcerous tufa, hav’ng the appearance of an indurated clay, being perfectly secure at that inclination and not washing perceptibly by rain.

“ Engineers will understand what is implied by a cut of this magnitude, but laymen can appreciate it only by standing at the base of the excavation and looking upward. 1 did not gel the full effect as it will be eventually, because there is still about sixty feet vertically to lie taken out ; but the impression one receives when passing through the canal in its present slate, and reflecting that this is all the work of man and not of the Cyclops, is uitc overpowering.

” Looking inward, that is, toward the western end, the canal seemed to be tilled with fog, and I supposed that there must be a mist driving it in from the Gulf of Corinth. Hut this appearance was due to the dust caused by the workmen who were digging down the sides of the prism, standing on a series of steps extending from bottom to top. There was a shower of earth falling along a space of half a mile near the centre of the cut. This material was disposed of by steam dredges which lifted the loose earth in buckets on an endless chain and deposited it in cars to be drawn by locomotives to the dumping grounds. This is the widening process.

“ The deeening process is quite different. For the latter a trench is first sunk, wide enough and long enough to receive a train of cars. At the end of the trench inward a tunnel is excavated to receive the train. From the top of the tunnel to the surface of the superincumbent ground, where the laborers stand, may lie twenty or twenty-live feet vertically. Then shafts are sunk at regular intervals down to the tunnel, along the line of the railway track, and the earth is shoveled into these openings and finds its way with the least amount of manual lalmr into the cars. The openings gradually assume a funnel shape like mill hoppers extending the full width of the prism, and accordingly a person desiring to traverse the canal must skirt the perimeter of these hoppers at the risk of deposing his mortal clay along with that of the Corinthian isthmus in the cars lielow. Experience hail made Mr. Mavrocordato, the engineer in charge, an adept in this kind of spiral exercise. Nor did he seem to lie at all disturbed by the blasting operations that were going on both overhead and under foot. My own nerves were somewhat shaken. My Turkish dragoman was the first to retire, which he did on a plea of sore eyes and affliction thereunto from the dust. With some help from the shovelers, I surmounted eight of these funnels, all that were then in operation, and soon found myself on the Corinthian side of the cut. I knew that returning would be as tedious as go o’er, and so I found it, but there wa-> no mishap and no great fatigue in either direction.

” The material taken out is a calcareous tufa, but is not of uniform color, ft is firm enough in situ to require blasting, but the blasts arc of low power, merely loosening, not shattering, the material. In one place only a wall of true limestone is encountered, a part of the backbone of Greece, but here it is only a few feet in thickness. Probably the material is of the kind that an engineer would choose for such work if he could have his choice, as it is not really refractory, and yet has no tendency to slide.

** The present Corinth canal—there was an old one begun by the Emperor Nero, A.I). 1867, on exactly the same line— was initiated by a French company in 1882, the Comptoir d’Kscompte being its financial agent. When the latter failed in consequence of the great copper speculation, the work on the canal stopped for want of funds. After an interval of two years it passed into the hands of a Greek company which has found the means for completing it. Twelve hundred men are now employed upon it. These are Armenians, Italians and Montenegrins. The wages paid is equal to sixty cents per clay of our money. I saw them taking their mid-day meal. It consisted only of bread, water and a few olives. Mr. Mavrocordato tells me that the canal will be finished within three years, and that it will admit the largest merchant ships now in use in the Mediterranean, and will enable any two of them to pass at any point. Being a sea level canal it can be operated at the lowest cost.”




One of the most interesting as well as difficult engineering undertakings of our times is that of cutting a ship-canal through the Isthmus of Corinth, of which work a correspondent of the New York Tribune gives some interesting details. The idea is an old one, but it has been left to our day to carry out a project which interested the Greek republics and which troubled the brain of a Roman emperor. The Isthmus of Corinth is about three miles wide at its narrowest place, connecting two busy’ seas, and has always provoked the attention of shrewd-minded men.

While the canal of the Isthmus of Corinth will be of the utmost benefit to Greece, and while all the country is most interested in the undertaking, especially King George, the whole affair is in the hands of a French company. The French company that has undertaken to pierce the Isthmus of Corinth was organized in 1881 under the honorary presidency of M. de Lesseps, and with General Turr as president and resident manager of the work. The technical name of the company is “ Societe Internationale du Canal Maritime de Corinthe.” The Greek government gave sanction to the undertaking and conceded the land for the canal, as well as all the uncultivated land on either side of the survey, with the single condition that the work should be carried through to its completion by the company, and that the Greek government should never be called upon for a subsidy. The actual work of digging began with appropriate ceremonies in the month of May, 1882. The capital of the company is 30,000,000 francs. The president, General Turr, is a man of great energy. He is a Pole by birth and fought under Garabaldi.

When the work was begun it was not looked upon as a very serious matter, but after several years of digging they came upon the solid rock that connects the Peloponnesus with the main land. This proved to be a very hard quality of schist or granite, and very soon the contractors, who had not reckoned on this, were obliged to throw up their contracts and retire. This occasioned some delay, but new contractors, in February last, the work again began with renewed vigor. They are now making great progress, when we take into consideration the difficulties found in the materials they are at work upon. They are extracting 7500 cubic metres of rock each day. They employ a corps of 2800 men and fifteen engines, each drawing from sixty to seventy trucks. They are at work from one end to the other of the cutting, which stretches exactly 6300 metres from sea to sea. The width is forty metres, and they intend to go down eight meters below sea level, giving the canal the same depth of water as is found in the Suez Canal. But the difficulties of cutting this canal are much greater than those that were found in constructing the Suez canal. In that case it was a matter of digging out the sand of the desert ; here it is a question of blasting. All night long explosions can be heard, and the day is spent in removing the debris. Gunpowder is found to be the best for blasting purposes, and dynamite for shattering the rocks. The highest point of the cutting at La Calotte is ninety-seven metres above water level. At this point the engineers have found their hardest nut to crack. On the average they have got down to a point fourteen metres above sea level, and hence the task before them is to go down through solid granite twerty-two metres more for a length of 6300 metres. It will take three years at a most moderate estimate to accomplish this.

One of the satisfactory things about this work is that there is comparatively no sickness among the workmen, and the terrible experiences of the Suez undertaking, and the even more awful ones at Panama are not repeated. Of course, there are many accidents, as there are in any large quarry, and many cases of amputation. But the company has done everything it can to care for the sufferers. There is a regularly established hospital and a good physician resident. The 2800 men are made up mostly of Montenegrins, Italians and residents of Asia Minor. There are very few Greeks employed, they being too lazy to work. It is true the Greek prefers to live by his wits rather than by manual labor, and he has no conception of the dignity of such labor.

At the western end of the canal, on the Gulf of Corinth, about two miles north of New Corinth, a town of about 3500 inhabitants, are situated all the large depots and offices of the canal company. Here a new town is growing up, called Isthmia, and in future will probably stretch all along the shore of the isthmus to New Corinth. The depth of water a short distance from the shore is thirty fathoms, and there are no drifting sands to obstruct the canal or the docks. There will be no such difficulty here as is found at Suez. The sides of the canal will be solid granite, and there will be no washing away or necessity of dredging. The largest docks will be at the eastern end. The tariff of the canal will be put down to a low figure, so as to catch all the coasting trade, and it is fully expected that, in spite of the great expense of the work, it will pay well in the end.

In ancient days, especially in Roman times, Corinth was the greatest city in Greece, and its commerce did not flag much behind that of Alexandria and Antioch. Its future promises to far outrival its past. The canal company is so desirious of getting rid of the waste granite on hand that the finest building material is at the disposal of anyone who will take the trouble to cart it away. Hence, building is going on in every direction, and on every vacant plot of ground about Corinth one sees large piles of stone awaiting the mason’s trowel. The safe thing about it is that there seems to be no danger of overdoing the matter. The demand will be greater than the supply for years to come.

Three, and possibly four years, must intervene before the throb of a new vigor will animate this ancient isthmus and more than restore to it its former prestige. In the meantime the Greek kingdom will have been opened out more fully and will have learned how to profit by this windfall ; for this little nation could never have undertaken such an engineering work and carried it through to success by its own power. In taking up this enterprise and carrying it to a successful issue, the West is but paying a small portion of that immense debt it owes to the genius of the forefathers of the modern Greeks.

BURYING THE Wires.—The progress made thus far in New York in laying conduits and transferring wires from poles to the ground is indicated by Chief Engineer Kearney of the Board of Electric Control, who said recently : “ We have spent over$750,ooo in laying the electrical subways, and have dug about twenty-nine miles of trenches, which contain about 312 miles of single ducts. Through these conduits have been drawn between 4000 and 5000 miles of telegraph and telephone wires, all of which are in use ; and the conduits which are still unused among those reserved for the telegraph and telephone companies are being filled with wires as fast as they can get their cables from the manufactory.” Additional subways are being laid in the lower parts of the city. Above Fourteenth street iron pipes are used, laid in cement; elsewhere vitrified pipes and wooden logs, likewise imbedded in cement.