Recent towing tank investigations carried on independently by both the British and the German builders of large and fast ocean steamers, have established the fact that in ships of the largest dimensions and high speed, a liberal amount of beam in proportion to length is conducive to speed. This accounts in part for the great beam, 88 feet, of the two latest Cunarders; moreover, a tentative design was drawn up recently in Germany for a vessel similar to these, in which the unprecedented beam of 90 feet was found to give the best results. There is no reason to suppose that a beam of 88 feet and a length of 790 mark the limit of size in future ocean steamers. On the contrary, the builder df the "Lusitania" recently assured the writer that, as the result of his observations, while crossing in that ship, he was more than ever convinced that there was every advantage of speed, safety, comfort, and economy to be derived from great size, always excepting, of course, the increased difficulty of handling at the terminal ports. The same authority stated that he confidently looked for ships to grow ultimately to. a iengtn of 1,000 feet, with other dimensions in proportion. If this be soand it is a prediction that has frequently been made by those who build and operate large ocean steamshipsthe statement should have a controlling influence in the deliberations which are now being had to determine what increase to make in the width of the Panama locks. Should the present proportions of beam to length be adopted in a 1,000-foot ship, she would have a beam of not less than 110 feet; and since draft will always be limited by the depth of channels, it is certain that in the future full advantage will be taken of the benefits conferred by great beam. This would indicate that, if we would build for the future, the Gatun locks should certainly be made not less than 115 feet in width. The 1,000-foot ship may not come for twenty-five years; although at the present rate of increase, it is quite conceivable that it may make its appearance before another decade has passed. Such great public works as the Panama canal should be built, as far as possible, for all time. The duties which we owe to posterity are little less imperative, at least in certain relations of life, than those which we owe to the present generation; and if by a moderate increase in cost we can spare posterity a great future expenditure, and, what is more important, an enormous amount of delay and congestion in the operation of this international waterway, it is clearly our duty to do so. Nor is it to the point to affirm that the growth of future steamship dimensions will be confined to the Atlantic Ocean. There are abundant reasons to believe that the most striking development of the world's trade during the twentieth century will be witnessed in the Pacific Ocean, and will be due to the development of the Oriental peoples and the fabulously rich r.atural resources of the countries they inhabit. The ships that carry this trade will be of large capacity. The tendency of all construction is toward concentration, the building in units of ever-increasing dimensions; and though we may not see 25-knot passenger steamers making the trip from the Atlantic to the Pacific by the Panama canal, there is every probability that th3 intermediate type of freight-and-passenger steamer of large size and moderate speed, as the trade with the Pacific via the canal is developed, will grow to unprecedented proportions. An increase of the locks from 100 to 115 feet would, of course, add a considerable sum to their cost ; but it would not involve any structural difficulties which could not be met by the provision of greater thickness and strength in the concrete walls and floor, and in the lock gates.
This article was originally published with the title "Build Gatun Locks for the Future"