United States Congressional Serial Set. Reports of Explorations and Surveys to Ascertain the Practicability of a Ship-Canal between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, by the Way of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec

Description

Report of Explorations and Surveys, to Ascertain the Practicability of a Ship-Canal Between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, by the Way of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec is a report prepared by the United States Navy for the United States Senate concerning an expedition to southern Mexico undertaken by the navy in October 1870‒May 1871. The Isthmus of Tehuantepec is the place at which the distance between the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans is the shortest, and it thus was considered a prime possible location for an interoceanic canal. The expedition was under the command of Captain Robert Wilson Shufeldt and included both naval officers and civilian experts. The volume includes a summary report by Shufeldt and two detailed reports by members of the expedition, one by the chief civil engineer on the technical challenges of building a canal across the isthmus, and another by several experts on the geology, climate, flora and fauna, and inhabitants of the region through which the canal would pass. In his introduction, Shufeldt put forward strong strategic and economic arguments for building the canal in this location. “A canal through the Isthmus of Tehuantepec is an extension of the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean. It converts the Gulf of Mexico into an American lake. In time of war it closes the Gulf to all enemies. It is the only route which our Government can control. So to speak, it renders our own territory circumnavigable. It brings New Orleans 1,400 nautical miles nearer to San Francisco than a canal via Darien [i.e., Panama], and such is the character of the intervening waters, that it permits a canal boat to load in Saint Louis and discharge her freight in California with but little more than the risk of inland navigation.” For a variety of technical and political reasons, the Isthmus of Tehuantepec ultimately was not chosen as the site for a canal. The report contains 20 maps and meteorological tables, which are placed at the end of the volume, as well as 11 illustrations. Also included is the diplomatic correspondence between the American secretary of state, Hamilton Fish, and the Foreign Minister Lerdo de Tejada of Mexico, in which the former requests and the latter grants permission to conduct the survey on Mexican territory.

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Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C.

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Report of Explorations and Surveys, to Ascertain the Practicability of a Ship-Canal Between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, by the Way of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec

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151 pages : maps, illustrations ; 31 x 24 centimeters

Last updated: July 12, 2017