Kat Historia (En)

    The Minister of Public Works Tomas Castrillon Muñoz presented to the Colombian Congress the bill to build the Atrato-Truando Canal in 1964. It was approved and signed by President Guillermo Leon Valencia and converted into Law 53 of 1964, which was published in the Official Gazette No. 23161.

    Under this provision, the services of two New York companies were hired: Civil Engineers of Tippets-Abbett-McCarthy-Stratton and economists Robert R Nathan, Associates.

    The Engineers consulted with the Lawrence Livermoore National Laboratory and recommended nuclear explosions to cross the Serrania de Baudo. This was not accepted.


    "Colombia is, truly the golden key between the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans, key that everyone would want to hoard to open the interoceanic canal to which they smile and at the same time fear all the nations of the world. Colombia, that of the monster Canal, that of glorious legends, that of enormous wealth, seedbed of millions, Babylon of commerce".  Nicolas Aristizabal Llanos, 1912.

    Juan de la Cosa and Vasco Nuñez de Balboa, in 1500 and 1501 toured the Caribbean Coast from Cabo de la Vela to the Gulf of Uraba, and settled on the latter point for some time. Product of the exploration was the subjugation of the Uraba and Darien chiefs in 1504 by Juan de la Cosa, who also ventured through the mouths of the Atrato river. Six years later, in 1510, Alonso de Ojeda arrived on the Gulf of Uraba coasts and in the eastern sector built a fortress called San Sebastian de Uraba.

    On the initiative of Vasco Nuñez de Balboa, they went to the opposite coast and founded Santa Maria La Antigua, converted by them into the base where the explorations and expeditions of the time began.

    According to Father Ramirez , the first to suggest a communication between the Gulf of San Miguel and the Atrato River, was "one such Saavedra" contemporary of Balboa (Ramirez, JE, 1967).

    In the year 1514, the King of Spain gave orders to the new Governor Pedrarias Davila, to discover the South Sea. [The King did not know that it had already been discovered in 1513 by Vasco Nuñez de Balboa]. The King wrote: "three or four seats are made from the village of Our Lady Santa Maria del Darien, to the said South Sea, in the parts that seem most profitable in the Gulf of Uraba, to cross and trample the land of the one part to the other, and where with less difficulty people can walk, and in places that seem to be healthier, and have good water and seats, according to the instruction you took: and the seat that is ought to make ... in the South Sea, it must be in the port that is best found and most convenient for the contracting of that gulf. "

    [Letter from the Catholic King to Pedrarias Davila, 1514, On the means of facilitating communication between the Darien Coast and the South Sea, Simancas Archive, Spanish Archives Portal, Madrid.] In 1524 Hernan Cortes wrote to Carlos V suggesting to dig a channel to shorten trips to Ecuador and Peru. The Portuguese Antonio Galvao made a preliminary project in 1529 but the technology of the time made it impossible.

    In 1536, Pedro de Heredia made an expedition through the Atrato River and to the Abibe mountain range.

    In 1788 the first interoceanic canal in America was the Cura Canal, named for having been built by Gabriel Arrachategui, a Catholic priest, by joining the Atrato and San Juan rivers through the Raspadura ravine. The width of the canal is only two meters but it served to carry armament and ammunition to Cartagena in the Colombian War of Independence.

    In 1827 Robert Stephenson, the son of George Stephenson visited Bogota and proposed to the Liberator Simon Bolivar the construction of the Panama Isthmus railway, but for various reasons, the idea was not carried out.

    In 1828 Simon Bolivar ordered the Governor of Choco Colonel Jose Maria Cancino to build the San Pablo canal with peaks and a shovels, which consisted of 46 km between the Atrato and San Juan rivers. The order has not yet been fulfilled, despite the fact that the Military Engineers Battalion # 15 is stationed in Las Animas, in the center of the isthmus. This would be a canal to link the San Juan-San Pablo-Quito and Atrato rivers. Only a 5 km excavation is needed, to align and dredge three meters deep on the San Pablo and Quito rivers to service barges and tugs.

    In 1849 President Jose Hilario Lopez signed the contract for the construction of the Panama Railroad with a US company. The 77-kilometer line began to be built in 1850 and was completed five years later. The success was immediate by the large number of travelers from the eastern coast of the US who were heading to participate in the California Gold Rush.

    The union of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans by a canal at sea level, without locks or tunnels to allow the crossing of large ships classified as Ultra-Large Container Ships (ULCS) of more than 18,000 TEU (Acronym in English corresponding to the 20-foot Container Equivalent Unit).

    Fig. # 1.

    The United States Commission for the Interoceanic Canal studied thirty possible sites to build canals in 1970 and concluded that the only place where the seas can be joined at sea level is Route # 25, which corresponds to the Atrato -Truandó rivers in Colombia.

    In 1550 the Portuguese Antonio Galvao in his book pointed out four sites where the interoceanic union could be built.

    Alexander von Humboldt on his exploration trips to Latin America drew six possible communication sites between the South Sea and the Atlantic Ocean (1808).

    "On June 1, 1825, the Congress of the Republic of New Granada (now Colombia) passed a law granting exclusive privileges to open a canal through the Isthmus of Darien". It was an honor to request the Executive Power for Mr. Patrick Wilson, Mr. Edward Cullen, as representatives of Mr. Charles Fox, John Henderson, and Thomas Brassey of London. The document was signed by the President of the Republic of New Granada Jose Hilario Lopez, and Foreign Secretary Jose Maria Plata. Humboldt's ideas influenced Frederick M. Kelley, a banker from New York who possibly using the authorization granted to the English, financed seven expeditions to discover the route. 

    1. The exploration of the Atrato-San Juan route was done in 1852 by Philadelphia Engineer John C. Trautwine who published a regional map (Fig. 2).
    2. The expedition under the command of Mr. Mark B. Porter in 1853.
    3. Expedition commanded by Colonel James Lane in 1853.
    4. Expeditions commanded by Colonel James Lane in 1854.
    5. The route through the Atrato-Truando rivers was discovered in 1855 by Captain William Kennish: a distance of 130 miles for a canal 200 feet wide and 30 feet deep.

    In 1858, the US Congress passed a law signed by President James Buchanan whereby Lieutenant N. Michler was sent with 22 scientists to confirm the findings of Captain William Kennish.

    The report was presented to the US Congress in 1861 when the Civil War began and the project was archived.

    The two final expeditions sponsored by Mr. Frederic M. Kelley were:

    1. Gulf of San Blas in 1863 financed by Mr. Cyrus Buttler and Mr. Like T. Merritt, and commanded by Mr. Norman Rude.
    2. On the seventh expedition, Mr. McDougall found the 30-mile long interoceanic route along the Bayamo River that would need a 7-10-mile tunnel.

    Frederick M. Kelley presented this information in his speech on the occasion of the tribute that the New York Chamber of Commerce paid to Ferdinand de Lesseps at the Hotel Delmonico on March 1, 1870.

    Several books by Mr. Kelley in English and French were forgotten. It is possible that there is a copy in the Jesuit Library in Bogota, because Father Jesus Emilio Ramirez, SJ refers to Kelley in his 1967 article. This information, which was forgotten, was lost for many years but was recovered by the library  Google digital.

    We translated Kelley's book into Spanish and it was published by the Digital Library of the National University of Colombia in 2013. (Fig. 3)

    In 1858, the United States Congress issued a law signed by President James Buchanan to send a new expedition to confirm the findings found by Kennish and Kelley. The results were presented in 1861 when the United States Civil War began and these projects were archived. (Fig. 4)

    In 1949, the Governor of the Panama Canal published the study on the Atrato-Truando Canal, ordered by law 280 of the 79th Congress of the United States of North America. It begins with the description of the area, the geological studies and comparison of the costs between the Atrato-Truando route and the routes of Panama, San Blas and Caledonia. The Atrato Truando route was previously estimated at $ 5’260,783,000 USD. Previously Michler (1861) had compared the costs published by Kelley and Kennish with those of his own expedition.