Saturday, November 03, 2007


The Path Between the Seas by David McCullough

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

"Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumps, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight that knows not victory or defeat." --Theodore Roosevelt
This extremely well-researched book covers the history of one of man's greatest creations: The Panama Canal, specifically the years 1870 through 1914. I have not yet read a historian who presents an epic, historical story better than McCullough does here. The sheer volume of details could have been overwhelming but the author presents all the facts in a manner that was fascinating and attention-grabbing. Here's just a few of the things I learned during my reading: The canal was begun by the French, particularly Ferdinand de Lessup, who built the Suez Canal. It was originally planned as a sea-level canal, a' niveau and sans 'ecluses (without locks). The death toll, especially during the French years, from diseases like yellow fever and malaria was in the tens of thousands. When the American finally became involved in the early 1900's, the desired route was through Nicaraugua. The coup d'etat which created the Republic of Panama was supported by the United States Government, specifically T. R. Roosevelt: "Attorney General Knox, having been asked by Roosevelt to contruct a defense, is said to have remarked, "Oh, Mr. President, do not let so great an achievement suffer from any taint of legality." I felt sadness because of the bigotry and racism shown towards to the vast majority of workers who were blacks from near-by Caribbean islands, and found Roosevelt's callousness particularly disillusioning. The sheer immensity of the project: the cubic yards of dirt that had to be removed, the volumes of equipment and manpower, the planning and execution of feeding, housing and medically providing for the thousands of people who worked on the project--Americans, Barbadians, Jamacians, French, etc., the materials that went into building the locks, the gates and all the safety features were mind-boggling. The incredible engineering amd creative skills that were brought to the table and that developed over the years inspired admiration.
There have been changes in the Canal Zone since McCullough wrote this book in 1977. I believe it was finally turned over to Panama after a 1090-year lease. And even though it was completed in 1914 just at the beginning of World War I which overshadowed its completion, the Canal truly changed the face of transportation and shipping for the entire world. This book celebrates the triumph of man over nature and his great peseverance and ingenuity. John Stevens, who was the American chief engineer over the project for two years and really organized the work to begin in 1904, said something with which all the remarkable men who took part in the endeavor would have agreed--for all that had happened to the world since Panama.
"His faith in the human intellect and its creative capacities remained undaunted, Stevens wrote. The great works had still to come. 'I believe that we are but children picking up pebbles on the shore of the boundless ocean."
Rating: 4.75
Posted by Framed at 12:23 PM

Tristi Pinkston said...
Wow -- this one's going on my list. Thanks!
7/24/2007 1:45 PM
Lesley said...
Sounds like an amazing book about an amazing feat. On to my wishlist it goes!
7/24/2007 6:44 PM
SuziQoregon said...
Oh I want to read this one. I've read two of his books (John Adams and The Great Bridge) and thoroughly enjoyed both of them. I see he also has one about the Johnstown Flood.
7/24/2007 8:44 PM
Literary Feline said...
This does sound interesting, Framed! I have heard good things about David McCullough as a writer but have not yet read anything by him.
7/24/2007 9:38 PM
Joy said...
Wow! So glad this was a winner for you. :) I've only read his book 1776.And congratulations on finishing the Non-Fiction Five Challenge!!! I hope you enjoyed it.
7/25/2007 1:25 PM
Chris said...
Sounds really interesting. Btw, I've tagged you for a meme on my blog.
7/25/2007 6:56 PM

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?