Bill Bialkowski presented on the history and current status of the Panama Canal. The canal has underdone considerable development over the years, culminating in major rebuilding in the last few years.
The original (1914) canal had locks 1000 feet long, 110 feet wide, and 42 feet deep; the reworked canal adds locks 1400 feet wide, 180 feet wide, and 60 feet deep. The largest ships capable of transiting the original canal were called "Panamax" ships, while the new locks have led to a new designation for the largest ships, "New Panamax".
Among other craft, the canal currently carries about 1600o ships per year, with about 60 million containers: a massive amount of traffic.
Warships were another complication: the largest ones were unable to pass through the canal, and from 1955 0n all aircraft carriers were too large for the canal. It's still a question whether the USS Nimitz class supercarriers will even fit in the new locks.
Bill delineated the very interesting political and engineering history of the canal, starting with the abortive French effort that was thwarted by lack of engineering expertise (the engineer having only the Suez Canal as background). The Panama Canal, with locks and considerable geological challenges, was another beast altogether.
French canal-building efforts were also derailed by enormous malaria deaths among the workers as well as yellow fever. The vector of malaria transmission -- mosquitoes -- was not understood.
Bill also described the alternative routes that were considered for an Atlantic/Pacific canal (especially through Nicaragua) although the Panama route was eventually chosen using some geopolitical presuasion by the United States.
Bill supplied many other interesting canal facts, and concluded with photos of his own taken on his cruise-ship passage earlier this year.
David Jarvis, a sailor out of Boulevard Club and RCYC, gave the Shellbacks a look at the world of the professional racing sailor.
An experienced racer and sailmaker, David described sailing on America I, the Norwegian Volvo racing team, the 2010 Canada's Cup, the Farr 40 Worlds, New York Invitational, Swan 42s, Melges 32s, and many other boats.
Racing on a J-24 last summer, David won a silver medal at the Pan Am Games in Toronto sailing with Sandy Andrews, David Ogden, and Terry McLaughlin.
The Shellbacks got a clear idea of what happens in top-flight big boat racing, where money matters. Flying ocean racing hulls around the planet on the Antonov N-225 is one way to do things.
David showed the way that the sail inventory of a serious racing team is matched against sailing conditions to completely understand what sail to use in what condition (below), as an example of the detailed analysis and technology applied to these racing efforts. Each coloured region in the image below represents a single sail in a boat's inventory.
By the end, nobody in the audience thought our humble weeknight club racing efforts could be seen as finely tuned. Thanks David!
Ron Jenkins spoke on the topic of airport expansion at Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport. While the jets and runway extension proposal (often called "Porter Plans") was stopped when the federal government under Transport Minister Marc Garneau decided to not make changes to the Tripartite Agreement governing airport operations, PortsToronto (the owner/operator of the airport) has nonetheless pursued other expansion plans.
Numerous airport expansion initiatives have been undertaken and continue:
• 30 Bay Street Office Tower (announced March 28, 2012 – ongoing)
• Pedestrian Tunnel (opened July 30, 2015)
• US Customs Pre-Clearance (announced March 10, 2016 – ongoing)
• Airfield Rehabilitation Project (announced June 8, 2016 – ongoing to 2018)
• Ground Run-up Enclosure (announced June 8, 2016 – ongoing to 2017)
• Terminal Expansion (announced October 13, 2016 – ongoing)
These projects are within PortsToronto's jurisdiction, being outside the Tripartite Agreement governing airport operations, so they can proceed without the City or Federal approval that would be needed to make changes to the Agreement. In sum, they represent active airport expansion at BBTCA.
Today we heard from Shellback member Mike Carter, who recounted the story of his great great grandfather AJH Carter, who was shipwrecked on a voyage from Sydney to San Francisco on April 19, 1888.
Carter had taken passage on the three-masted barque Henry James, a coal carrier, when it ran aground at night on Kingman Reef, about 1040 miles south of Hawaii. Although there was no loss of life the Henry James was lost, and the 41 people aboard were left to their resources on the reef. With the two boats they had used to evacuate the Henry James, they left Kingman Reef and rowed some 36 miles to Palmyra Atoll, a larger landmass where they would be able to subsist. Food consisted of sea cucumber, seabirds (red-footed booby, white booby, and others), coconut crabs, peppergrass, and other native foods.
Seven of the crew decided to take one of the boats to seek help, and headed to Samoa, a 19 day journey in open boat of some 1520 miles as the crow flies, but owing to navigational constraints, somewhat further. They were supplied with 7 lbs of bread, 6 lbs of mutton, 2 bottles of whiskey, 1 pound of cheese, 280 pounds of coconuts, and 10 gallons of water. The expedition did successfully arrive in Samoa, from where a rescue ship was launched.
The remainder of the travellers and crew of the Henry James, including Mike Carter's great great grandfather, were rescued 44 days after the shipwreck, and were taken to Hawaii on the SS Mariposa. AJH Carter eventually made his way to San Francisco, where he was united with Nellie, who eventually became his wife.
The Shellbacks Club will make occasional posts on this blog. If you want something added in a blog post. let us know.