Opening of Panama Canal 1914


On the east side of the American continent is the Atlantic Ocean. On the west side is the Pacific Ocean. Any ships that had to travel from Atlantic to the Pacific had to go around the entire continent. Typically, any ship that traveled from Atlantic to the Pacific first went to the southern-most tip of South America and then entered the Pacific Ocean. This took about 5 months and the ships had to travel nearly 8,000 miles.

The American government planned a project to save time and money that was used on this journey. So the Panama canal was constructed which linked the two oceans and reduced the journey to only 48 miles.

When was the Panama Canal constructed?

The original work on the Panama Canal was envisioned by the French. The French began work in 1881 but they couldn’t complete it and so they abandoned the construction. At the start of the 20th century, the US government seriously started considering the project because it could be immensely beneficial for the American and global economy.

By 1904, the government had finalized the plan and work on the canal began. It took the next ten years to complete the canal and connect the Atlantic and Pacific oceans through a man-made canal. The construction was completed in 1914 and ships started using the canal in August, 1914.

Why was the canal built at Panama?

Panama is the place where the land area between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans is the narrowest. This meant that constructing a canal here would require the least possible amount of work in order to connect the two oceans. This is why Panama was chosen as the place where the canal should be constructed. Although this was the narrowest strip of land between the two oceans, it required a lot of hard work in order to complete the project.

How was the canal built?

The construction of the Panama Canal was a very important and a very huge project. It required a lot of manpower and a lot of resources. At all times during the construction, thousands of people worked on the project. At the peak of construction work, nearly 45,000 people were working on this project.

In order to allow ships to easily pass through the canal and go from Atlantic Ocean to Pacific Ocean, the engineers working on the canal had to create huge locks on either side of the canal. These locks raise the ships nearly 85 feet above sea level when they enter the canal and then lower them back to the sea level when the ships reach the other side.

Workers for the project came from all over the world. However, the funds required for the construction of the canal were provided by the US government. The engineers who led the construction work also came from USA. In all, nearly $375 million was spent on the construction of the canal.

Do ships use it today?

Yes. Panama Canal remains one of the waterways with maximum traffic. Every year, nearly 12,000 ships travel through the canal. This route saves them the trouble of going all the way around South America.

The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal, 1870-1914 Paperback – October 15, 1978

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