The Construction of the Panama Canal A Great Engineering Work in History

Topics: Panama Canal

The canal is joining the atlantic and pacific oceans. It runs from Cristobal on lemon bay, a part of the Caribbean sea, to Balboa, on the Gulf of Panama. The canal is slightly more than 64 km long, not including the dredged approach channels at either end. The minimum depth is 12.5 m, and the minimum width is 91.5 m. The construction of the canal ranks as one of the greatest engineering works of all time. In history people had interest in a shorter route from the Atlantic to Pacific.

This began with the explorers of Central America early in the 16th century. Hernan Cortez was a spanish conqeror of mexico who suggested a canal across the Isthmus of Tehuantepec. Other explorers had favored routes through Nicaragua and Darien. The 1 st for a canal through the Panama was started by Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, Who in 1523 ordered a survey of the isthmus. A working plan for the canal was drawn up as early as 1529, but was shown to the king.

In 1534 a spanish offical suggested a canal route close to that of the present canal. Later more of the canal plans were suggested but no action was taken upon any of these plans suggested.

Later on there is more in the canal. The Spanish goverment abandoned its interest in the canal but in the early 19 th century the books of the Germam scientist Alexander von Humboldt brang back the interest in the project of the canal, and in 1819the Spanish goverment formally athorized the construction of a canal and the creation of a company to build it.

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Nothing came of this effort, however, and the revolt of the spanish colonies soon took control of possible canal sites out of spanish hands. The republics of Central America tried to interest groups in the United States and Europe in building a canal, and it became a subject of perennial debate in the congress of the United States. The discovery of gold in California in 1848 and the rush of would-be miners started the United States interest in digging the canal. Various surveys made between 1850 and 1875 indicated that only two routes were practical, the one across Panama and that across Nicargua. In 1876 an international company was organized. Two years later it obtained a consession from the Colombian goverment. Panama was then part of Colombia to dig a canal across the isthmus.

The United States involvement was the international company failed, and in 1880 a French company was organized by Ferdinand Marie de Lesseps, the builder of the Suez Canal. His company went bankrupt in 1889. United States interest in a Atlantic-Pacific canal however continued. In 1899 the United States congress created an Isthmian Canal comission to examine the possibilities of a Central American canal and to recommend a route. The commission 1 st decided on the Nicaragua route, but reversed its decission in 1902 when the reorganization Lesseps company offered its assets to the United States at the price of $ 40 million. The united States goverment negotiated with the Colombian goverment to obtain a strip of land 9.5 km wide across the isthmus, but the Colombian Senate refused to ratify this consession. In 1903 , however, Panama revolted from Colombia. That same year the United States and the new state of Panama signed the Hay – Bunau – Varilla Treaty by which the United States guaranteed the independance of Panama and secured a perpetual lease on a 16 – km strip for the canal. Panama was to be compensated by an initial payment of $ 10 million and an annuity of $ 250,000, beginning in 1913. The figure was later revised upward in 1936 to $ 430,000, and in 1955 to $ 2 million per year.

The construction of the canal in 1905 the Isthmus Canal Commission decided to build a canal with locks rather than a sea level channel, and this plan was approved by the United States Congress the following year. President Theodore Roosevelt put the construction work under the direction of the United States Army Corps of Engineers . Colonel George W. Goethalls was named to head the project.

It was estamated that the canal would be completed in ten years, however, it was in operation in the summer of 1914. The construction involved not only excavating an estamated 143 million cu m of earth , but also sanitizing the entire canal area , Which was infested with mosquitos that spread yellow fever and malaria . The sanatation was under taken by Clonel William C. Gorgas of the United States Army Medical Corps , who almost eliminated the dissease . An unexpected difficulty in the actual construction was the prevailence of slides of earth from the banks of the canal , partially in the Gaillard cut . REexcavating after these such slides added about 25 % to the estamated amount of earth moved. The final cost of the canal was $ 336 million. In 1977 the United States and Panama agreed on two treaties to replace their 1903 agreement. These treadies provided for Panama’s sovereignty over the canal zone shortly after their ratification and it control of the canal itself at the beginning of 2000, but left the United States the right to defend the canal even thereafter. The treaties took affect in 1979.

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The Construction of the Panama Canal A Great Engineering Work in History. (2021, Dec 25). Retrieved from

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