The Submarine Explorer by Louie Celerier

The submarine “Explorer” is a submersible built by Julius H. Kroehl and Ariel Patterson in Brooklyn, New York for the Pacific Pearl Company in Panama. The keel was laid down in 1863, was completed in 1865 and placed in service in 1866. In 1869, the submarine was abandoned in the Pearl Islands Archipelago, where it had been working, and its hull still rests there.

Construction

The “Explorer” is 39.4 feet long, 12 feet high and has a beam of 11 feet. The bottom of the craft bottom is perfectly flat and has two hatches 4-1/2 feet wide by 6 feet long for harvesting operations. It had a displacement of 80 tons and carried a complement of 3 to 6 men. The submarine was hand powered, had a single propeller and could achieve a maximum speed of 4 knots.

The design of the craft included a large volume external high pressure air chamber (200 PSI) as well as water ballast tanks. The water ballast was used to submerge while the pressure air pressurized the crew’s compartment to the pressure of the water at working depths of up to 103 feet allowing them to open the hatches on the floor and giving them access to the oyster on the

ocean floor. This air pressure was also used to empty the ballast tanks when the vessel was ready to surface.

The Harvesting Operation

As the submarine approached the bottom, the hatches were opened for the purpose of gathering the oysters. The water was kept out of the vessel by the pressured air contained in the chambers. As the sub rested on the bottom, the oysters were collected by the crew and stowed away. They moved around the ocean floor by means of the 3-foot diameter propeller cranked by hand.

Diving Fever

The problem of decompression was still not clearly understood in 1869 and again and again, the reports after a dive or two would report, “all the men were again down with fever.” A contemporary (August 1869) newspaper account of dives in the Pearl Islands documents 11 days of diving to 103 feet, spending 4 hours per dive, and ascending with a quick release of the pressure to ambient (sea level) pressure. Modern reconstruction of “Explorer’s” system suggests an ascension rate of 1 foot per second which would have brought the men to the surface in less than two minutes. The result was decompression sickness. Using present day U.S. Navy diving standards, a two-hour dive (half of the documented time spent by the men in “Explorer”) at a depth of 103 feet would require a surfacing schedule of one hour, 32 minutes and 40 seconds with staged stops at 30 feet, 20 feet and 10 feet. As it was, in 1869 the men were all sick from their fast ascents with the submarine operations grinding to a halt.

History Of “Explorer”

After construction, the submarine “Explorer” was partially disassembled and shipped to the Panama Pacific side of the Isthmus in December 1866. There, in the Gulf of Panama, laid the Pearl Island Archipelago with its rich pearl bearing oyster beds. Since the early days of the Spaniards, men had been diving for the treasure without the aid of any breathing apparatus. But, since the advent of a somewhat practical submarine design during the American Civil War, The Pacific Pearl Company thought the submarine was the answer to the mass harvesting of pearls.

Once in Panama City, the submarine was assembled and one of its builders, Julius Kroehl, carried out experimental dives in the Bay of Panama (not to be confused with the Gulf of Panama). These dives cost him his life as he contracted the “diving fever” and died in September 1967. The submarine languished on the beach until 1869, when a new engineer and crew took it to the Pearl Islands to harvest oyster shells and pearls. The 1869 dives to depths and profiles that would inevitably lead to decompression sickness, resulted in the entire crew succumbing to the “fever”. Because of this, the craft was laid up in a cove on the shores of the island of San Telmo in the Pearl Islands and remains there to this day.

The submarine’s rusting hull was well-known to the locals, but they had presumed it to be a remnant of World War II. In 2001 the remains of the submarine piqued the interest of archaeologist James P. Delgado of the Institute of Nautical Archaeology. Since then, many studies of the wreck have been carried out and a 2007 report summarized preservation options of the vessel for the Panamanian government and recommended the recovery, preservation and public display of the raft in Panama. Metal analysis confirms the craft is in critical stage and faces irreversible deterioration and loss.

SOURCES

Photos and Material

1. “Sub Marine Explorer”, Wikipedia and google
2. “Misadventures of a Civil War Submarine”, by James P. Delgado, 2012.
3. The Wait Institute.
4. The Hunley Store.
5. Institute of National Archaeology.

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Geotourism in Chagres National Park

Early in the morning, we get to the Chagres River, the main reservoir of drinking water for the cities of Panama and Colon, also supplies water for the operation of the Panama Canal. Here we board a dugout canoe with motor and travel up the River to the Embera Drua village.

The boat journey of 45 minutes takes us through lush rainforest of the Chagres National park. From the boat it is possible to admire the beauty of the rich and flourishing nature; there is a complete silence, broken only by the sounds of the water and of the birds. The river is the only way to get to the Emberá village, otherwise it is possible to walk through the forest but that will take no less than 4 hrs. During the rainy season the river will rise a lot, while during the dry season the level of the water will be very shallow, causing problems to pass through some places.

The Emberá community was founded in the Chagres national Park in 1975, and today counts 115 inhabitants, of which 30 are kids. In 1996 a school was built also thanks to the contribution of organizations, tour operators and individuals who strongly support the protection and conservation of the environment end the life of the Indigenous communities. There are often volunteers who spend some time within the village, offering help and doing researches.

When we arrive, a representative of the Emberá community explain us everything about their history, way of living, traditions, dances, music, together with the help of some women that show us how they make handcrafts using palms fibers, woods, leaves, rocks, etc..

All the handicrafts they make are on sale at their small picturesque market.
We have also the chance to get our body painted, as the Emberá usually do, using a particular ink made of ashes and plant pigments. The tattoos will last about 8 days.

At lunchtime we sit together enjoying the delicious freshwater fish, Tilapia and Sargento, accompanied by crispy platanos y a bunch of fresh fruits, such as pineapple, passion fruit, watermelon, bananas..

After lunch we move to another open air building, where the Emberá women will perform local dances on the music played by the men using artesian flutes and drums. The first dance is performed in between them, while in the following ones everybody will take the floor and show their dancing skills!

Once we have done with that, unfortunately It’s time to board again on the piraguas and go back to the “real word”, but confident with the fact that our soul is fulfilled with the best emotions and feelings that the wonderful people of the Emberá community were passionately able to transmit to us.

Léa Maillard & Paola Alzatti.

Panama Canal Watershed adventure

From $495.00 per person min. 8 people
Fix departure rates: Every Friday from October to December 2010

Day 1: Friday – Welcome to Panama & Sightseeing tour of Panama City
Welcome to Panama! Upon your arrival you will be met by an EcoCircuitos Tour Representative that will assist you during arrival and transfer. Before heading to your hotel in Panama City, you will have a short sightseeing tour of Panama La Vieja; the modern city of Panama; followed by a transfer to the hotel located in Amador Area. Once arrival to the hotel, please check-in and overnight. Lodging will be at COUNTRY INN AMADOR, Standard Room. (NO MEALS)

Day 2: Saturday – Embera Indigenous Encounter at Chagres River
Early in the morning you are picked up at the lobby of your hotel by our guide and transferred to El Corotu on the shores of Madden Lake. Here, you board a motorized piragua (dugout canoe) and travel up the Chagres River to the Embera indigenous village of Embera Drua. The boat journey takes you through the rainforest of the 320,000-acre Chagres National Park, which is the largest of the National Parks protecting the Panama Canal Watershed. Along the Chagres River, you may be able to spot Little Blue and Green Heron, Great Egret, Anhingas, Neotropical Cormorant, Amazon, Ringed, and Green Kingfishers, along with Keel-billed Toucans and Ospreys flying above. At the Embera village you will be greeted with dancing and music. You will learn about Embera customs and their relationship with nature. There will be handcrafts available for sale and you will have a chance to be painted with the traditional jagua, a natural dye the Embera use to adorn their bodies. After a traditional Embera lunch you will be heading back to Panama City. Optional: short hiking in a botanical trail at the community. Duration: 8 hours. Departure: 8:00 AM
Include: ground and river transportation, entrance fees to the Chagres National Park, traditional lunch at the community, donation and specialized guide.
What to bring: Sunscreen and insect repellent, Light synthetic clothes (easy to dry), walking shoes or river sandals, swimming suit, rain jacket and an extra pair of clothes.
Overnight at COUNTRY INN AMADOR, Standard Room. (B,L)

Day 3: Sunday – Panama Canal Morning Expansion Tour
Today you will have a tour to visit the project of expansion of the Panama Canal. Afternoon free for your relaxation and exploration of the city on your own. Overnight at COUNTRY INN AMADOR, Standard Room. (B)

Day 4: Monday – Transcontinental Railway & the Pirate Trail
Depart from the hotel at 9.00AM and start and cross the Isthmus via the Trans-Isthmian Highway. Stop at Gatún to explore the locks and the lake. Afterwards, cross the Panama Canal by drawbridge and keep going till Fort San Lorenzo. Constructed by the Spaniards in the 16th century, San Lorenzo was occupied by British pirates over the years due to its strategic location on the Chagres River. Sir Henry Morgan conquered San Lorenzo and used it as the entrance point to sack Panama City in 1671.
Afterwards you will be transferred to Colon Train Station for your ride back to Panama City.
The trip is every weekday throughout the year with departures at 5:15PM from Colon City to Panama City. Re-creating the experience of the famous California Golden steam age and enjoy the most beautiful scenery: observe the rainforest and the heart of the canal from the comfort of your train cabin. Include: Private transportation, Historical Guide, lunch in a local restaurant, train ride, entrance fees to Gatún Locks Visitor Center and San Lorenzo National Park. Tour Remarks: transcontinental train ride is only available during week days. Overnight in Country Inn Amador or similar, Standard Room. (B,L)

Day 5: Tuesday – Departure
At the appropriate time the tourists will be transferred to the Tocumen International Airport for their flight back home. They will arrive to the airport approximately 2 hours before their departure time. (B)

Arrival dates:
October 8, 22
November 12, 19
December 3, 10, 17

Ask for our 7 day program.
For more information annie@ecocircuitos.com
http://www.ecocircuitos.com

Tropical Christmas

EcoCircuitos Panama is more than pleased to invite you to enjoy Christmas Holidays in our unique country. Get to know our history and the Panama Canal; have a cultural encounter and get to know the Tropical Rainforest during Christmas time!!!

Day 1, December 20, Welcome to Panama At the appropriate time an EcoCircuitos Representative will be waiting for you at the Tocumen International Airport for transfer to the Hotel. Once arrival, please check in and overnight at Country Inn Dorado, Junior Suite Room.

Day 2, December 21, Historical Tour, Panama La Vieja & Casco Antiguo
Breakfast at the hotel – Depart from the hotel to visit Panama Viejo, the first city founded in the isthmus by Spanish conquerors at the beginning of colonization. The remaining ruins are the ones left by Pirate Henry Morgan, who sacked the town in 1671. We will then head to the second colonial city of Panama, Casco Viejo, built in 1673 and will walk around the French Plaza and its monuments. The architecture of this area is exquisite including French, Italian and Spanish styles. Includes: transportation, bilingual guide, entrance fee to Panama La Vieja Visitor Center and Tower Duration: 3 – 4 hours – Available from Tuesday to Sunday. Departure time: 9:00 AM or 1:00 PM

Day 3, December 22 The Caribbean Side; the Kuna Kingdom an Indigenous Encounter – Today very early in the morning you will be transferred your hotel in Panama City to Albrook Domestic Airport to take your flight to San Blas. Once arrival, you will be met by a representative from the lodge for your boat transfer to the lodge. Check-in and overnight at Dolphin Lodge, Uaguinega. Standard Room 1 Day tour included to a nearby island for beachcombing or snorkeling (gear available for rental). All meals included. No drinks or water included.

Day 4, December 23, San Blas Islands, Dolphin Lodge – Days to enjoy at your leisure on the island, taking it easy or visit with the local Kuna Community. One day tour is included. 1 Day tour included to a nearby island for beachcombing or snorkeling (gear available for rental). All meals included No drinks or water included.

Day 5, December 24, The Rainforest Experience, Gamboa Rainforest Resort At the appropriate time, transfer to the local airstrip for your return flight to Panama City. Once arrival, transfer to the local airstrip for your return flight to Panama City. At the appropriate time, transfer to the local airstrip for your return flight to Panama City. Check-in time is at 3.00PM. Arrival to Gamboa Rainforest Resort; where you will stay for the next 2 nights in One Standard Room. This resort features Gatun Lake tours, an aerial tram ride through the forest canopy, animal exhibitions and more.

Day 6, December 25, Gamboa Rainforest Resort – Free day Breakfast at the hotel Day to enjoy at your leisure exploring the area or relaxing in the hotel’s spa, pool or on Gatun Lake. Optional tours include: Arial tram, night tours, birding tours, boat tours, kayaking, fishing.

Day 7, December 26, Departure Panama- Breakfast at the hotel At the appropriate time the tourists will be transferred to the Tocumen International Airport for their flight back home. They will arrive to the airport approximately 2 hours before their departure time. (Breakfast)

Price per person – Double occupancy $ 1,025.00 – minimum 4 pax ***Prices are subject to 5% ITBM government taxes and banking fees

The program includes: – Meet and greet at the international airport – 6 nights of lodging + taxes – Domestic flights (as mentioned above) – Entrance fees to the attractions as mentioned above – Private transportation with a/c throughout the tour – Meals as specified each day: B=breakfast, L=lunch or D=dinner – Information kit – Lodging taxes

The program does not include: – Optional activities – International airfare and taxes – Departure taxes ($20.00 per person for Panama and $26.00 for Costa Rica) – Meals not specified in the itinerary – Personal equipment – Extras in hotels (laundry, phone calls, room service, etc.)