Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Panama Canal: Culebra (Gaillard) Cut

Culebra (Gaillard) Cut
Panama Canal

N 09° 02.417 W 079° 38.714

Short Description: 

The Culebra Cut, once called the Gaillard Cut, is an artificial waterway created by cutting through the the Isthmus of Panama at the continental divide.

Long Description:

The Panama Canal was constructed between 1881 and 1914. There are three sets of locks, two lakes and one long rock cut along the Panama Canal. Each has historic name of the area in which they are built. The Culebra Cut (Gaillard Cut) begins at the south end of Gatun Lake and continues until you reach the Pedro Miguel Locks. Culebra is the name of the mountain through which the cut is made and Galliard was David du Bose Gaillard who led the excavation.

Continental Divide

The Culebra Cut is the narrowest part of the Panama Canal. The 12.7 km long passageway was excavated through the rock of the continental divide along the Isthmus of Panama. To the west of the cut are the Rocky Mountains and the Andes Mountains are on the east. At the continental dived the cut is noticeably terraced.

The excavation of the Culebra Cut was begun by the French under Ferdinand de Lesseps in 1881 in the attempt to build a sea level can connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. They excavated 18,646,000 cubic yards of material before abandoning the project. To do this they lowered the summit from 210 feet 194 feet. The United States took over the project on May 4, 1904. Sixty million pounds of dynamite were required to complete the cut and a railroad system was constructed to to haul away the enormous amount of dirt and rock. The Culebra Cut was completed on May 20, 1913. The summit was lowered from 194' to its present day 39' above sea level.

Terraced Cut at Continental Divide
The stamp was issued for the Canal Zone by the United States in 1939 as part of a set of 16 stamps to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the opening of the Panama Canal in 1914. It shows the Culebra Cut, facing north, at the continental divide.

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