Obrázky stránek

the Southern Ocean, and, by our possession of it, Spanish America is divided in two." This plan was entirely frustrated, not by the Spaniards, who were overcome at every point, but by the climate. The force had entered upon the campaign in the rainy season and the men fell victims to fever in appalling numbers. Of the full complement of Nelson's ship, the "Hinchinbrook," two hundred in number, all but ten were buried in Nicaragua, or soon after the arrival of the expedition in Jamaica. Nelson himself suffered a long illness, that enfeebled him for years and permanently impaired his health.

Up to the close of the eighteenth century, no actual progress had been made toward the establishment of water communication between the Atlantic and the Pacific. The discussion of the subject had been vague and the plans proposed quite impracticable. Of the numerous surveys that had been made, not one threw any valuable light on the matter. Indeed, they rather befogged the consideration of the subject by disseminating the wildest theories and the grossest falsehoods regarding the conditions. As late as 1788, Manuel Milla, a Spanish engineer, surveyed the Darien route and reported to

his government that a canal could be constructed over it with ease and that no considerable elevations would be encountered in the way. Humboldt, who spent several years at the beginning of the nineteenth century in the territory which is now Mexico and Central America, expressed his great surprise that, after three hundred years of Spanish occupation, so little was known about the physical features of the country. He declared that the elevation of no single mountain, plain, or city from Mexico to Granada was precisely known.





THE problem of an interoceanic ship canal began to be studied with the precision of scientific investigation at the beginning of the nineteenth century. The interest of all Europe was aroused by the publication of Humboldt's" Political Essay on New Spain," in which he strongly urged the prosecution of the project. He suggested no fewer than nine routes, but, strangely enough, omitted mention of one of the most obviously feasible, that which would have its Atlantic terminus in Caledonia Bay. One of Humboldt's waterways would have extended through the Mississippi, Missouri, and Columbus rivers. As a passage for the small vessels of his time, it was not so extravagant a proposition as it appears to-day. Although the scientist did not express any individual preference, it may be inferred from his remarks that he especially favored the route up the Chagres

« PředchozíPokračovat »