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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Moving Picture Boys At Panama - Chapter 17. The Emergency Dam
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The Moving Picture Boys At Panama - Chapter 17. The Emergency Dam Post by :louis1899 Category :Long Stories Author :Victor Appleton Date :May 2012 Read :2009

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The Moving Picture Boys At Panama - Chapter 17. The Emergency Dam

CHAPTER XVII. THE EMERGENCY DAM

The crashing and splintering of wood, the grinding of one vessel against the other at the concrete pier, the shrill tooting of the whistles, and the confused shouts of the respective captains of the craft made a din out of which it seemed order would never come.

"If I could only get this on a film!" said Joe to himself during a calm moment. But the cameras were below in the cabin, and the tug was now careened at such an angle that it was risky to cross the decks. Besides Joe must think of saving himself, for it looked as though the tug would be crushed and sunk.

"Pull us out of here!" yelled Captain Watson to the man on the lock wall in charge of the electrical towing locomotives. "Pull us out!"

That seemed one way out of the trouble, for the _Nama was being crushed between the Brazilian steamer and the wall. But the order had come too late, for now the tug was wedged in, and no power could move her without tearing her to pieces, until the pressure of the big steamer was removed.

So, wisely, the men in charge of the towing machines did not follow Captain Watson's orders.

"Over this way!" cried Blake to his chum, and to Mr. Alcando, who were standing amid-ships. Joe was at the bow, and because that was narrower than the main portion of the tug, it had not yet been subjected to the awful pressure.

But there was no need of Joe or the others, including Captain Watson, changing their positions. The Brazilian ship now began drawing away, aided by her own engines, and by the tow ropes extending from the other side of the lock wall. The _Nama_, which had been partly lifted up in the air, as a vessel in the Arctic Ocean is lifted when two ice floes begin to squeeze her, now dropped down again, and began settling slowly in the water.

"She's sinking!" cried Blake. "Our cameras--our films, Joe!"

"Yes, we must save them!" his chum shouted.

"I'll help!" offered the Spaniard. "Are we really sinking?"

"Of course!" shouted Captain Watson. "How could anything else happen after being squeezed in that kind of a cider press? We'll go to the bottom sure!"

"Leave the boat!" yelled one of the men on top of the lock wall. "We're going to tow you out of the way, so when you sink you won't block the lock!"

"Let's get out our stuff!" Blake cried again, and realizing, but hardly understanding, what was happening, the boys rushed below to save what they could.

Fortunately it was the opening of many seams, caused by the crushing process, rather than any great hole stove in her, that had brought about the end of the _Nama_. She began to sink slowly at the pier, and there was time for the removal of most of the articles of value belonging to the boys and Mr. Alcando.

Hastily the cameras, the boxes of exposed and unexposed film, were hoisted out, and then when all had been saved that could be quickly put ashore, the tug was slowly towed out of the way, where it could sink and not be a menace to navigation, and without blocking the locks.

"Poor _Nama_" murmured Captain Watson. "To go down like that, and not your own fault, either," and he looked over with no very friendly eyes toward the Brazilian steamer, which had suffered no damage more than to her paint.

"You can raise her again," suggested one of the lock men.

"Yes, but she'll never be the same," sorrowfully complained her commander. "Never the same!"

"How did it happen?" asked Blake. "Was there a misunderstanding in signals?"

"Must have been something like that," Captain Watson answered. "That vessel ought to have stayed tied up on her own side of the lock. Instead she came over here under her own steam and crashed into me. I'm going to demand an investigation. Do you know anyone on board her?" he asked quickly of the Spaniard. "I saw you waving to someone."

"Why, yes, the captain is a distant relative of mine," was the somewhat unexpected answer. "I did not know he was going to take his vessel through the Canal, though. I was surprised to see him. But I am sure you will find that Captain Martail will give you every explanation."

"I don't want explanations--I want satisfaction!" growled the tug captain.

"There goes the _Nama_," called Blake, pointing to the tug.

As he spoke she began to settle more rapidly in the water, but she did not sink altogether from sight, as she was towed toward the shore, and went down in rather shallow water, where she could be more easily reached for repairs.

"It was a narrow escape," Joe said. "What are we to do now, Blake? Too bad we didn't get some moving pictures of that accident."

"Well, maybe it's a good thing we didn't," returned his chum. "The Canal is supposed to be so safe, and free from the chance of accidents, that it might injure its reputation if a picture of a collision like that were shown. Maybe it's just as well."

"Better," agreed Captain Watson. "As you say, the Canal is supposed to be free from accidents. And, when everything gets working smoothly, there will be none to speak of. Some of the electrical controlling devices are not yet in place. If they had been that vessel never could have collided with us."

"I should think her captain would know better than to signal for her to proceed under her own power in the Canal lock," spoke Joe.

"Possibly there was some error in transmitting signals on board," suggested Mr. Alcando. And later they learned that this was, indeed, the case; or at least that was the reason assigned by the Brazilian commander for the accident. His vessel got beyond control.

"Well, it's lucky she didn't ram the gates, and let out a flood of water," said Joe to Blake a little after the occurrence.

"Yes, if that had happened we'd have had to make pictures whether we wanted to or not. But I wonder what we are going to do for a boat now?"

However, that question was easily settled, for there were other Government vessels to be had, and Blake, Joe and Mr. Alcando, with their cameras, films and other possessions, were soon transferred, to continue their trip, in the _Bohio_, which was the name of the new vessel. The _Nama was left for the wrecking crew.

"Well, this isn't exactly the quiet life we looked for in the canal zone; is it, Blake?" asked Joe that night as he and his chum were putting their new stateroom to rights.

"Hardly. Things have begun to happen, and I've noticed, Joe, that, once they begin, they keep up. I think we are in for something."

"Do you mean a big slide in Culebra Cut?"

"Well, that may be only part of it. I have a feeling in my bones, somehow or other, that we're on the eve of something big."

"Say, for instance--"

"I can't," answered Blake, as Joe paused. "But I'm sure something is going to happen."

"No more collisions, I hope," his chum ventured. "Do you know, Blake, I've wondered several times whether that one to-day was not done on purpose."

Blake stared at his chum, and then, to Joe's surprise replied:

"And I've been thinking the same thing."

"You have?" Joe exclaimed. "Now I say--"

"Hush!" cautioned Blake quickly, "he's coming!"

The door of their stateroom opened, and Mr. Alcando entered. He had a room across the corridor.

"Am I intruding?" he asked. "If I am--"

"Not at all. Come in," answered Blake, with a meaning look at his chum.

"I wanted to ask you something about making double exposures on the same film," the Spaniard went on. "You know what I mean; when a picture is shown of a person sitting by a fireside, say, and above him or her appears a vision of other days."

"Oh, yes, we can tell you how that is done," Joe said, and the rest of the evening was spent in technical talk.

"Well, what were you going to say about that collision?" asked Joe of Blake when Mr. Alcando had left them, at nearly midnight.

"I don't think it's exactly safe to say what I think," was Blake's response. "I think he is--suspicious of us," he finished in a whisper. "Let's watch and await developments."

"But what object could he--"

"Never mind--now," rejoined Blake, with a gesture of caution.

Several busy days followed the sinking of the _Nama_. The moving picture boys went through the Miraflores locks, making some fine films, and then proceeded on to the Pacific Ocean breakwater, thus making a complete trip through the Canal, obtaining a series of pictures showing scenes all along the way. They also took several views in the city of Panama itself.

Of course theirs was not the first vessel to make the complete trip, so that feature lost something of its novelty. But the boys were well satisfied with their labors.

"We're not through, though, by any means," said Blake. "We have to get some pictures of Gatun Dam from the lower side. I think a few more jungle scenes, and some along the Panama Railroad, wouldn't go bad."

"That's right," agreed Joe.

So they prepared to make the trip back again to Colon.

Once more they were headed for the locks, this time to be lifted up at Miraflores, instead of being let down. They approached the central pier, were taken in charge by the electrical locomotives, and the big chain was lowered so they could proceed.

Just as the lower gate was being swung open to admit them to the lock, there was a cry of warning from above.

"What's that?" cried Joe.

"I don't know," Blake answered, "but it sounds as though something were going to happen. I didn't have all those feelings for nothing!"

Then came a cry:

"The upper gate! The upper gate is open! The water is coming down! Put the emergency dam in place! Quick!"

Joe and Blake looked ahead to see the upper gates, which were supposed to remain closed until the boat had risen to the upper level, swing open, and an immense quantity of foamy water rush out. It seemed about to overwhelm them.

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