www.thetravel.com

10 Things You Didn't Know About The Panama Canal

The Panama Canal is found in Panama, South America. It is an artificial waterway that joins the Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean. The idea was to create a shortcut route between Europe and Asia, a task that seemed like science fiction at that time. The canal is a conduit for maritime trade.

RELATED: 10 Best Places To Visit In South America

A French construction company was the first to begin construction on the canal and failed to deliver on the construction. The project is said to be one of the most challenging and tedious of all time. Civil engineer associations refer to the project as one of the seven wonders of the world. We will be highlighting ten things you didn't know about the Panama Canal.

Continue scrolling to keep reading

Click the button below to start this article in quick view

Start Now

10 The Panama Canal Is Utterly Different From The Suez Canal

After the successful construction of the Suez Canal in Egypt, Count Ferdinand De Lesseps, a French contractor, was the engineer employed to build the Panama Canal in 1880. The plan was to construct a sea-level canal with no locks. This would allow ships to travel at different levels of water.

In no time, they got caught in a web of difficulties such as the unstable weather conditions (dry season and rainy season), the spread of diseases by mosquitos which infected the workers with malaria and yellow fever and by the year 1888 funding for the project was withdrawn. Count Ferdinand De Lesseps and his team couldn't continue on the project due to the challenges. The horrific experience brought an end to their sojourn in the Canal area.

9 A Part Of The Panama Canal Fell In Colombian territory

In an attempt to further the Panama Canal project, the USA purchased the remains of the French assets in the area for $40 million in the year 1902. The government of Theodore Roosevelt, the then president of the United States, sent a proposed treaty to the Colombian government for rights to purchase and work the part of the canal area in Colombian territory (Panama was part of the Columbia at the time).

The proposal was rejected and this caused the USA government to back a Panamanian independence movement, a diplomatic move that aided the approval of a deal to have rights to the canal area when a new government was installed in 1903.

8 There Was A Second French Take-Over

Many writers don't reflect or recognize the second French take-over. Compagnie Nouvelle du Canal de Panama was created in 1894 to take over the project. In order to abide by the terms and conditions of the Colombian Panama Canal concession, maintenance of pieces of equipment to keep them in saleable conditions, and to continually run the Panama railroads, thousands of people were employed to work on the canal.

As desired results couldn’t be attained, the company put up the canal assets for sale. The continuous activity on the canal at this time was to maintain their franchise.

7 The Panama Canal Was Handed Over To The Panama Government For Total Control In 1999

Due to the treaty signed between the USA and the Panamanian government in 1903, the Panama Canal was to be controlled and operated in perpetuity by the USA. Many have believed the canal belongs to the USA because they built it. However, the Panamanian government and people have grown to have a different view and rioted when they were not allowed to fly the national flag along with the US flag.

RELATED: 10 Reasons Why Egypt Is One Of The Most Fascinating Countries In The World

Trouble ensued and soon diplomatic ties between the two were severed. So, in 1999 on the 31st of December a treaty was signed between the governments that handed over the Panama Canal to the Panama government However, the US continues to hold the right of military action should it be needed to protect the canal.

6 The Human-Made Waterway Provides Routes For Giant Ships In 2007

Over the years, bigger ships than the canal were designed for couldn't transit through the 100-year-old waterway that cut across Panama. In 2006, the government of Panama approved a referendum to expand the Panama Canal. They presented an idea of doubling the existing capacity to allow bigger ships to make their way through.

In 2007, work began on the waterway and two new sets of locks that could contain the mega-ships carrying about 14,000 containers were added. An Italian steel company supplied sixteen massive gates, weighing in at an average of 3,100 tons each. An estimated $5.3 billion was spent on the project expansion. The expansion opened and the first ship went through on April 26, 2016.

5 The lock-and-lake idea was introduced by Phillipe Bunau-Varilla the second French engineer

Confronted with unprecedented obstacles and absence of technical know-how, Ferdinand De Lesseps ran out of ideas. The template used for the construction of the Suez Canal in Egypt was not applicable to the Panama Canal.

The involvement of Phillipe Bunau-Varilla, the manager of the New Panama Canal Company was a blessing to all, and he believed that a lock-and-lake waterway would work. This idea was presented to De Lesseps, and it was adopted. Phillipe Bunau-Varilla persuaded and supervised the transition of the Panama Canal to the government of Theodore Rosevelt who had shown a keen interest in the canal project and in no time, they were able to reach a reasonable agreement.

4 The Panama Canal Was An Idea Of The Spanish

Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor and King of Spain are recorded to be the first person to mention a canal across the Isthmus of Panama. In 1534, he asked that a survey be conducted, one that will provide a route for ships traveling between Spain and Peru.

RELATED: 20 Of The Most Impressive Spanish-Speaking Cities You Need To Visit

 

Politically, this would give Spain a military advantage over Portugal. Several efforts were made but to no avail. In 1788 Thomas Jefferson, the US minister to France at the time postulated that the Spanish should build a canal as it would serve as a short cut route for ships instead of going around the southern part of South America. Alessandro Malaspina came up with a possible construction plan in 1793. However, the plan never came to fruition.

3 Gatun Lake Provides The Water Needed To Raise And Lower Vessels

Gatun Lake was formed in 1913, and it is the biggest manmade lake in the world and played a major role in the construction of the Panama Canal. A such, we can conclude that without the lake the Panama Canal would not be possible.

Barro Colorado Island is the largest island in the lake. The lake provides several millions of liters of water to operate the canal locks whenever a ship passes through. The rainforest around the lake serves as the best defense of the Panama Canal, until today, human interference in this area is low, and accessibility is low.

Animals and plants are safe in their natural habitat. Fishing is a popular recreational event on Gatun Lake, which also provides drinkable water for Panamanians.

2 The Three Locks Of The Panama Canal Is A journey Taking Between 8-9 Hours

Thousands of miles of voyages are cut short and US East Coast trips to Japan by ship are shortened by 3,000 miles and eight days while Ecuador to Europe is shortened by 5,000 miles.

The 50-mile canal makes it a shorter trip for vessels to cross from the Atlantic to the Pacific Oceans, saving thousands of miles sailing around the tip of South America and the dangerous waters around Cape Horn. This helps in saving both fuel costs and transit times. The three locks of the Panama Canal can be a journey between 8-9 hours.

1 The Panama Canal Project Was The Most Expensive Project Embarked Upon By The USA At The Time

A project considered to be one of the most expensive in the history of the USA, about 3.5-million cubic meters of concrete was used in building the locks and about 240-million cubic yards of rock were formed during the time of the American construction phase.

On August 15, 1914, the Panama Canal was officially opened. However, the ceremonial event wasn't as colorful as envisaged due to the outbreak of WWI. The first phase of the Panama Canal Project cost the USA about $350 million and about 5,609 workers were reported killed by disease or accidents.

Next: 10 Things You Didn’t Know About The Bermuda Triangle

More in Destinations