The Excursion to The Panama Canal: Geology & Stone History

Although the Panama Canal zone is only 50 miles long separating the North American from the South American continents, it is filled to the brim with history, tragedy, trial and error, birds, flora and fauna of a tremendous biodiversity - and, the subject of this blog: the geology of that 50 miles that made it possible, not easy , to create the world's most important shortcut - The Panama Canal.

 The fundamental geology of the canal zone consists of NOT a tough Granite bedrock but of Basalt, sandy Limestone, some Sandstone and "loosely formed" Shale and Slate. These kinds of rocks - although contributing to some " mudslides and cave ins" - made if at least possible for the turn of century technology of the time to use MORE dynamite than was used in ALL the wars of  the USA - up to the opening of the canal in 1914!  Had Granite been the bedrock, it is doubtful the Canal would have been built at that time. Am I correct ?

 Today, one sees Granite counters and floors in kitchens and lobbies throughout the USA, but the shaping and cutting technology has improved at least tenfold from the turn of the century.  Basalt, Limestone, Shale and Slate - especially when "loose" - are much, much easier to move around, cut and dredge.  But, then again, I wasn't there and the 20,000 plus men and women (mostly Afro, Indian and/or Asian mix)  died during the building of the Great Shortcut.

 -Mike Pavilon