Boy Scouts Beyond The Seas
What It All Looks Like
When our steamer slid quietly up to the dock at Colon, the first thing we noticed among the crowd awaiting us was a guard of honour of American Boy Scouts. They looked very much like our own Scouts, except that instead of shorts and stockings they wore breeches and canvas gaiters. But they looked in face and eyes just like any British boys, and they put oil something bigger than a Scout’s smile when I shook hands with them-it was a big grin of welcome.
There are no fewer than nine troops of them between Colon and Panama.
Colon, like other towns on the canal, at first looks like a town of gigantic meat safes among palm trees, for every house is surrounded and covered in with wire gauze to keep mosquitoes out, and in that way they are fever-proof.
The work at the great locks and dam at Gatun is wonderful, because of the enormous size of everything. The dam, for instance, is one mile and a half long and half a mile thick!
The Calebra Cut, where the trough has been made through the mountains, is also a wonderful sight. Along the bottom are several lines of railway with continual trains of trucks running to and fro, getting the earth and rubbish out as fast as the great steam shovels can dig it, and the hundreds of boring drills can get it blasted.
It is a wonderful sight to see a steam shovel lift a big rock weighing nearly a ton in its “mouth,” balancing it very carefully so that it does not fall, while it swings it quietly over to a truck, and then gently lowers it into the train, and shoves it and butts it into its place for travelling comfortably.
For mile after mile these wonderful engines are at work on different levels, digging out the sides and bottom of the future waterway. And high up on the banks, or in the bush on either side, one passes poor old discarded locomotives, cranes, boilers, and trucks, thrown out to rot and rust and become overgrown with jungle, since they are worn out and done for. It is quite sad to see them.
But it helps to show one what an enormous amount of money must have been spent on the work.
Even out to seaward beyond the ends of the canal great dredgers are at work opening up the channel underwater, and huge breakwaters are being built to protect the mouth of the canal against bad weather.
The Death of Francis Drake
Porto Bello was a great pirates’ resort, because it was a town to which much of the gold from Peru came to be embarked for Spain in the old days. So it saw a good deal of fighting by the defenders of the gold against the attacks of the buccaneers.
But one great point of interest in it to us Britons is that here the great sea scout Drake died and was buried.
He died and was buried in a manner worthy of such a hero. On January 28th, 1596, his fleet arrived in Porto Bello, and Drake lay sick to death of fever on board his ship. But he would not give in to death. He called for his clothes, and he put on his full uniform and sword. He was going to show his men that he was still full of pluck and spirit – he would “never say die till he was dead.” But the deadly weakness overcame him; he could only stagger a pace or two, and then he had to be lifted back on his bed. And there he lay, dressed for action, as his spirit passed away.
They did not take him ashore to be buried, but they gave him a seaman’s funeral at sea; and along with him on either side they sank two ships to keep guard over him at the bottom.
So there lies Drake in a sailor’s grave, like a Viking of old, with his ships, off the “ Beautiful Port” – Porto Bello.