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.”