The Third Locks Excavation was part of a U.S. Project started in 1939 to add a third set of locks to the Panama Canal. It was abandoned in 1942 to focus on WW II. For some reason, many confused this project with the failed French attempt to build a canal in the 1880s. One look at the size of it should convince a person that they are not observing 1880s technology. The only remnant of the French canal is on the Atlantic side, and it's a tiny little thing. Their canal would have been obsolete by the time they would have finished it! 1880s technology was not up to the task however, especially since they were determined to dig a sea-level canal.
The controversy remains, apparently. I have corresponded with Zonians whose parents worked on this project and they insist that these Third Locks Projects were completely U.S. dug. Others insist that the U.S. Started digging in old French excavations, and hence, the source of calling these projects "French Cut"s. This still makes no sense to me because on the Pacific side the French were dredging the Rio Grande for the Pacific entrance of their planned canal. There would be no reason to excavate a canal parallel to the river. There must have been a 1939/40 newspaper article about this, with a photo. EITHER "U.S. breaks ground for new locks project." OR "U.S. starts new lock project in old French excavation." Until someone unearths such an article, the controversy must remain.
There was a Third Locks Project on each side of the isthmus - Atlantic and Pacific. These photos are all from the Pacific cut. If I find any more, I will post them.
Spud takes a dive:
Driving down to "The Cut":
So this erroneously named "French Cut" became a party spot, with cliffs to dive off of. A simple scuba trip revealed some other interesting facts. The water was 80 ft deep at the base of the cliff (where the party spot is) - and probably deeper out in the middle. It was pitch black down there. A diving light revealed that the bottom was covered with empty beer cans - a carpet, if you will. There were also a couple of cars and a motorcycle (all stripped) down there that someone pushed off the cliff to see the splash. I regret that we never had the chance to dive in other parts of this cut. Who knows what we would have discovered.
Another friend takes a dive:
All photos © 1979 Bud Tristano
Some of my old super8 Films.
I will re-post when I can get better digital transfers: