At the top of the island of Isla Grande Colon the French built a lighthouse in 1893. De Lesseps meant the lighthouse to be one of the guiding markers to help ships find the canal and his partner Gustave Eiffel designed the origional lamp for the structure.
Now it is a rusting hulk full of holes that look out on the coast. It shudders and sways just enough to send your heart into your throat when the gusts from the sea hit. After sitting still for just long enough, the vultures will comes close enough to give you a look.
Eiffel was initially charged with corruption in the failed venture to build the Panama Canal in the 1880’s:
In 1887, Eiffel became involved with the French effort to construct a canal across the Panama Isthmus. The French Panama Canal Company, headed by Ferdinand de Lesseps, had been attempting to build a sea-level canal, but came to the realization that this was impractical. The plan was changed to one using locks, which Eiffel was contracted to design and build. The locks were on a large scale, most having a change of level of 11 m (36 ft). Eiffel had been working on the project for little more than a year when the company suspended payments of interest on 14 December 1888, and shortly afterwards was put into liquidation. Eiffel’s reputation was badly damaged when he was implicated in the financial and political scandal which followed. Although he was simply a contractor, he was charged along with the directors of the project with raising money under false pretenses and misappropriation of funds. On 9 Feb 1893 Eiffel was found guilty on the charge of misuse of funds, and was fined 20,000 francs and sentenced to two years in prison…although he was acquitted on appeal…
Colombus sailed this coast on his fourth voyage, stopping at Isla Grande in 1502. His journal notes it as the only island in the area with fresh water. Drake, in his lead coffin, lies somewhere nearby.
I came up through the jungle, drenched in sweat for the January sunrise.