Book probably from between 1950 and 1980. A nuclear bomb destroys the Panama Isthmus. The Gulf Stream stops, disastrously changing the world's weather.

  • 1
    It's not the one you're looking for, but the Isthmus of Panama was destroyed (by a volcanic eruption) in "Shifting Seas" by Stanley Weinbaum.
    – user14111
    Jan 24, 2023 at 2:23
  • In John Barnes's Mother of Storms (1994) there is widespread destruction after a nuclear detonation in the Arctic causes catastrophic weather and a lot of the action moves to Central America.
    – Spencer
    Jan 24, 2023 at 2:29
  • Do you read German? The Panama Isthmus was blown up in Hans Dominik's "Atlantis" (1925, so quite a bit before your time frame, but then Dominik's books were still popular long after WW2, and new editions were sometimes edited to make them appear more contemporary, and to remove some of the more over racism). Gulf stream is diverted, but the world saved by miraculous ancient technology. Not sure that the book has ever had a translation, though. Jan 24, 2023 at 9:08
  • Thank you for your your answers. The book I was looking for is Schoonover's Central Passage.
    – Charles
    Jan 24, 2023 at 17:29

2 Answers 2


Central Passage by Lawrence Schoonover, published in 1962.

Central Passage

Annoyingly I cannot find my copy to provide supporting quotes, but I managed to find a review in P. Schuyler Miller's article The Reference Library in the July 1962 edition of Analog:

As a matter of fact, the gimmick in "Central Passage" is a good one and relatively new in non-SF circles. The "20-Minute War" of "Central Passage" - which is touched off by a prestige-seeker in a Red satellite - destroys seven hundred miles of the Isthmus of Panama. The Gulf Stream begins to pour into the Pacific, instead of circling back to warm the coasts of North America and Europe, the clouds of dust and steam from the holocaust shut off the sun's radia­tion, and the world is in for another Ice Age.

In the early part of the book the author follows the fortunes of two families: the Youngs - American Navy, stationed in Panama but fortunately in Jamaica at the time of the touch-off, and the Bolducs - Gaspesian fishermen with a tradition that may go back before Columbus. The fortunes of Narcisse Bolduc, his wife, and their ten children as they make their way from the Gaspe down the ruined coastline of the United States to the stub-end of Guatemala, where an international task-force is trying to replace the isthmus, are especially interesting, if unsurprising to Old Holocaust Hands like the readers of Analog.

Meanwhile the author has been dutifully, if not very subtly - to us OHH - planting clues to the Big Shock that is the theme of the last third of his novel, "The Intruders". Little Bill Young Jr., born at the very moment of the Panama burst, is incredibly precocious. So, it appears, is Angelique Bolduc, born as the radia­tion from the bombed cities of Canada began to bathe the Gaspe. They have brown eyes, they see the ultra­violet spectrum - another of the author's points that is precisely the reverse of what he intends - they are telepathic and extraordinarily intelligent, they mature at a terrific rate. They are "Homo Supersapiens"­ and in the final chapters their parents see them hunted down and murdered in cold blood.

  • Thank you. Central Passage is the book. I can't believe I remember do little of it. I'll have to find a copy to re-read.
    – Charles
    Jan 24, 2023 at 17:24

While I don't think that this is the book you remember, I have to mention the 1925 novel Atlantis (German Wikipedia) by the German classic SF writer Hans Dominik. It explores exactly the idea that large explosions (meant to widen the Panama Canal) destroy the Isthmus, leading to a rerouted Gulf Stream. This may well be the first time this idea was explored. I'm paraphrasing the German Wikipedia page here:

Through a mixture of intrigue, scheming and sabotage, the planned widening of the Panama Canal by gigantic explosions is performed in a dangerous fashion, braking up the Isthmus between the Americas. The gulf stream is rerouted and a panic ensues in Northern Europe. A mass exodus threatens a decline of the white race. The damage is reverted though by the heroic deeds of a German with telekinetic powers, who also raises Atlantis in the process.

I enjoyed reading Hans Dominik 50 years ago. When I was revisiting some of his work as an adult though, I found it rather unpalatable. While I'm all for making heroes of engineers, the second underlying theme that's driving the stories is his chauvinism. Some of that had been edited out in the editions I was reading back then; being confronted with it in newer editions spoiled the experience.

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    Dominik was way ahead of his time. Project Plowshare was a legitimate US program to explore using nuclear bombs for peaceful uses, and had sereval proposed uses - including widening the Panama canal. OTOH Raising Atlantis? Hmmm.
    – Peter M
    Jan 24, 2023 at 15:29
  • @PeterM He sure was. Jan 24, 2023 at 16:16
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    Thank you. Dominik sounds quite interesting. The book I was looking for is Schoonover's Central Passage.
    – Charles
    Jan 24, 2023 at 17:28

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