Posted by: pennyinparadise | October 27, 2008

Panama Canal

Bird's Eye View of the Land Between Two Oceans

Bird's Eye View of the Land Between 2 Oceans

In 1879 an international congress was held in Paris, which not only chose the route for the Panama Canal, but appointed Ferdinand de Lesseps as President of the Panama Canal Company.   Lesseps, a Frenchman, had successfully engineered and built the Suez Canal in the Middle East, which joined the Mediterranean and Red Seas, and was opened in 1869.   This made Lesseps the logical person to take on the Panama Canal.  Unfortunately, the two canals were seriously different.   First of all, the Suez was simply a long ditch in the sea level sands of the Middle East……Panama had a continental divide mountain range between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans that required ships to be elevated and then dropped back down to sea level.   Secondly, the climate of the tropics carried cholera, malaria and yellow fever…unknown in the desert.  Thirdly, the wet terrain and constant landslides bankrupt the Panama Canal Company in 1888, and a year later it entered liquidation.   By 1892 it was discovered that 150 French officials including Lesseps had practiced corruption, and were tried and found guilty of the crime.

Fernando de Lesseps

In 1903 the people of the isthmus between Colombia and Costa Rica wanted the US to build the canal, but Panama was part of Colombia who did not want the project.   A peaceful coup was launched and Colombia turned over the isthmus to the new Republic of Panama.   In 1904, the US bought the assets of the bankrupt French Panama Canal Company and began the job of cleaning up the city, having realized that the death toll of the killer diseases of the tropics must first be resolved before beginning construction.   The US paved the streets of Panama City, removing mud and standing water.   They also built water treatment and sewer systems that aided in the clean up of disease.

Yellow Fever containment 1905

Yellow Fever containment 1905

Fumigating for mosquitos and disease carrying insects 1905

Fumigating for mosquitos and disease carrying insects 1905

In 1906 the building of the canal started in earnest, with the invention of technologies never before seen on the earth.   The narrow Culebra Cut was dredged and hundreds of thousands of workers were brought in to do the work, most from the Caribbean islands.   Landslides were common, delaying work for days and weeks while the bolders and mud were cleared away.

Culebra Cut Landslide 1913

Culebra Cut Landslide 1913

The Chagres River was dammed to create a huge Lake Gatun, to receive and maintain a watershed for the Canal.    Every ship passing through the canal empties 52 million gallons of water into the oceans;  26 million into the Pacific and 26 million into the Atlantic.   The Canal operates 365 days a year, 24 hours a day, with 2 lanes of traffic and is 80 meters long from Pacific and Atlantic.   Over 300 ships a year pass through the canal, each dumping 52 million gallons of water into the oceans.   This requires a huge amount of water in Gatun Lake, and makes Panama very protective of their rain forest area.

Gatun Lake

Gatun Lake

In 2007 the citizens of Panama voted to allow the Panama Canal Authority to built a third lane, in order to accommodate the Super PanaMax freighters that can  not fit into the two existing lanes.   This third lane will have the newest technology, which will allow most of the water dumped from the locks to be recirculataed and recycled through the new canal locks.

Gatun Locks on the Caribbean Side

Gatun Locks on the Caribbean Side

Locks holding back the entire Pacific Ocean

Locks holding back the entire Pacific Ocean

Modern cruise ship in the Miraflores Locks on the Pacific side

Modern cruise ship in the Miraflores Locks on the Pacific side

40 ft. containers stacked high with gringo furniture

40 ft. containers stacked high with gringo furniture

In the early days of the canal, these locomotives were hitched to front, center and back of vessels on both sides, to keep the ships from bumping into the sides of the locks.    Lock maintenance is critical and any collisions in the canal or locks can shut them down for days.

Original locomotive for guiding ships in the canal

Original locomotive for guiding ships in the canal

Below is the modern day locomotive that does the same job as the originals.    These locomotives cost about $6,000,000 each.   Every ship has 6 of these connected to their front, center and back on both sides of the lock.

Modern locomotive guiding car carrier through the locks

Modern locomotive guiding car carrier through the locks

The lock chambers are 33.53 meters wide x 304.8 meters long.   The maximum dimension of a ship that can transit the Canal is 32.3 meters in beam x 294.1 meters long, depending on the type of ship.

The famous ship Queen Elizabeth 2 took her final voyage through the Panama Canal and was greeted by small craft of every kind.

QE2 passes under the Centinnel Bridge on her final trans canal voyage

QE2 passes under the Bridge of the Americas on her final trans canal voyage

In March of 2008 the newest bridge over the Canal waterway is the Centennial Bridge..photo below.

Map of the route of the Panama Canal

Map of the route of the Panama Canal

There is a live action video camera where you can see what’s going on at this moment.

Ships pay according to their tonnage, for transiting the Canal.   The highest toll paid to date was $350,000.  The smallest toll ever paid was by oil industrialist Richard Halliburton, who swam through the entire canal in 1928 for which he paid 36 cents, based on his weight of 140 pounds.  To read more about Halliburton’s many exciting adventures, click here.

To see more photos of the historic building of the Canal click here

By August 15, 1914 the Panama Canal was officially opened by the passing of the SS Ancon. At the time, no single effort in American history had exacted such a price in dollars or in human life. The American expenditures from 1904 to 1914 totaled $352,000,000, far more than the cost of anything built by the United States Government up to that time. Together the French and American expenditures totaled $639,000,000. It took 34 years from the initial effort in 1880 to actually open the Canal in 1914. It is estimated that over 80,000 persons took part in the construction and that over 30,000 lives were lost in both French and American efforts.

By August 15, 1914 the Panama Canal was officially opened by the passing of the SS Ancon. At the time, no single effort in American history had exacted such a price in dollars or in human life. The American expenditures from 1904 to 1914 totaled $352,000,000, far more than the cost of anything built by the United States Government up to that time. Together the French and American expenditures totaled $639,000,000. It took 34 years from the initial effort in 1880 to actually open the Canal in 1914. It is estimated that over 80,000 persons took part in the construction and that over 30,000 lives were lost in both French and American efforts.

By August 15, 1914 the Panama Canal was officially opened by the passing of the SS Ancon. At the time, no single effort in American history had exacted such a price in dollars or in human life. The American expenditures from 1904 to 1914 totaled $352,000,000, far more than the cost of anything built by the United States Government up to that time. Together the French and American expenditures totaled $639,000,000. It took 34 years from the initial effort in 1880 to actually open the Canal in 1914. It is estimated that over 80,000 persons took part in the construction and that over 30,000 lives were lost in both French and American efforts.


Responses

  1. Il est vraiment préférable (et valorisant) de s’en tenir à une perte régulière même si elle est
    plus longue dans le temps.


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