isla grande colon

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 isla grande colonarea with fresh water. Drake, in his lead coffin, lies somewhere nearby.

I came up through the jungle, drenched in sweat for the January sunrise.



  1. Comment by Jim O'Donnell

    Jim O'Donnell Reply January 15, 2013 at 10:10 pm

    I hear how cold it is back home and…I honestly feel just a twinge of guilt for sitting her in a pair of shorts only, sweating.

    • Comment by Gary Storch

      Gary Storch Reply January 15, 2013 at 10:40 pm

      Have a good cup of coffee for me when you arrive in Boquette.

    • Comment by Daniela Klein

      Daniela Klein Reply January 16, 2013 at 1:14 am

      sure you are.. for maybe one, two second tops…… :)

    • Comment by Lexa Harpell

      Lexa Harpell Reply January 16, 2013 at 8:29 am

      Don't lie to us… are just teasing those in the northern hemisphere…

    • Comment by Jim O'Donnell

      Jim O'Donnell Reply January 16, 2013 at 2:02 pm

      Daniela Klein ….come on! At least THREE seconds!

    • Comment by Jim O'Donnell

      Jim O'Donnell Reply January 16, 2013 at 2:03 pm

      Lexa Harpell ….maybe….. I really couldnt imagine better weather than what I've seen here.

    • Comment by Jim O'Donnell

      Jim O'Donnell Reply January 16, 2013 at 2:03 pm

      Cheryl Bleick – …..pants on fire…..

    • Comment by Jim O'Donnell

      Jim O'Donnell Reply January 16, 2013 at 2:04 pm

      Gary Storch I will be sure too. AND….I think I've been invited (still confirming) to a cooking class with the top chef in Panama!

  2. Comment by Jess Van Wickel

    Jess Van Wickel Reply January 16, 2013 at 12:39 am

    Did not know! Cool!

    • Comment by Jim O'Donnell

      Jim O'Donnell Reply January 16, 2013 at 2:01 pm

      I love this kind of stuff!

  3. Comment by Karolina Idrisova

    Karolina Idrisova Reply January 16, 2013 at 9:14 am

    Love the picture – thanks for the new info!

  4. Comment by Taos Rag

    Taos Rag Reply January 16, 2013 at 3:48 pm

    Jim: Always enjoy your posts. In Santa Rosalia in Northern Baja has a church designed by Gustave Eiffel. A very interesting discovery in my travels.

    • Comment by Jim O'Donnell

      Jim O'Donnell Reply January 16, 2013 at 4:01 pm

      Really? That is fascinating. He was a hot item in his day and had things all over. I think there is also a lighthouse designed by him in the middle of the Gulf of Bothnia right on the Swedish-Finnish border. I've heard of it but never saw it. next time I'm in Finland I'll see if I can take a boat out there.

  5. Comment by Marina Ehrman

    Marina Ehrman Reply January 16, 2013 at 4:11 pm

    Isla Colon , is in the Caribbean sea , no in the Atlantic.

  6. Comment by Steve Collins

    Steve Collins Reply January 16, 2013 at 9:56 am

    I feel a twinge of warmth from your guilt. Great shot! And thanks for the dose of history, too.

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