Traveling Central America The Panama Canal

The country of​ Panama holds a​ unique strategic geographic location,​ and it​ has tried its best throughout the​ ages to​ exploit this to​ the​ full. From the​ time of​ the​ Portobello fairs to​ the​ first transisthmian railroad to​ the​ present waterway,​ often considered to​ be the​ eighth wonder of​ the​ world.

A canal linking the​ Atlantic with the​ Pacific oceans had been a​ dream since the​ first Spanish colonizations. in​ fact it​ was Charles V of​ Spain who first envisaged a​ shortcut through the​ Panamanian jungle to​ ease the​ difficult crossing. So in​ 1524 he ordered a​ survey of​ the​ land. However what inspired the​ king initially was not so much the​ possibilities for trade,​ so much as​ how to​ bring back to​ Spain with least difficulty the​ hoards of​ treasure recently discovered in​ Peru. Unfortunately for him,​ earth-moving techniques were to​ need major improvement before his idea could be undertaken.

It was not until 1826 when the​ United States started investigating a​ treaty with South American countries to​ "protect the​ companies intending to​ open a​ communication system between both oceans",​ that the​ building of​ a​ canal attracted worldwide interest,​ with France,​ England and the​ United States looking for locations and means to​ avoid the​ long,​ difficult and dangerous voyage around Cape Horn. the​ first attempt at​ this was the​ construction of​ the​ Transisthmian Railroad in​ 1855,​ which eliminated about 8,​000 miles from the​ journey.

The first attempt at​ a​ canal was in​ 1854 by a​ multinational expedition comprising the​ United States,​ France,​ England and New Granada. But the​ impenetrability of​ the​ jungle was to​ take its toll and the​ attempt failed with many resultant deaths. But not to​ be daunted in​ this most crucial endeavor,​ in​ 1878 the​ French obtained a​ concession from Colombia to​ build a​ waterway. Yet again,​ after seven years of​ fighting disease and other jungle problems,​ the​ attempt was to​ fail with yellow fever,​ malaria and various plagues holding sway. This project,​ with the​ idea of​ building a​ level canal,​ was ultimately abandoned at​ the​ turn of​ the​ century.

Eventually the​ creation of​ a​ canal was to​ become a​ military imperative for the​ United States who commenced (fruitless) negotiations with Colombia in​ 1902. Finally,​ Panama declared its independence from Colombia in​ 1903 and the​ project went ahead. the​ monumental construction took 10 years to​ complete at​ a​ cost of​ $387 million.

The Panama Canal is​ 50 miles in​ length running from northwest to​ southeast. About 8 hours is​ needed for a​ typical vessel to​ transit the​ canal,​ whilst being lifted gradually to​ a​ height of​ 85 feet through three sets of​ locks – the​ Gatun,​ Pedro Miguel and Miraflores.

Operating the​ gigantic locks consumes vast amounts of​ fresh water. For every ship passing along the​ waterway,​ around 52 million gallons of​ water flows into the​ locks then out to​ sea. This comes from the​ Gatun and Madden lakes. the​ lock gates,​ themselves engineering wonders,​ consist of​ pairs of​ towering leaves from 47 to​ 82 feet high,​ 65 feet wide and 7 feet thick. Their weight is​ from 400 to​ 700 tons,​ yet each can be opened or​ closed in​ 2 minutes,​ powered by electric motors.

To navigate the​ canal,​ a​ ship’s captain must relinquish responsibility for his vessel to​ a​ Panama Canal Pilot. Currently over 250 pilots steer over 14,​000 ships through the​ canal each year. the​ total time spent in​ the​ canal is​ around a​ full day. Navigating through the​ canal is​ not cheap for vessels,​ averaging several 10s of​ thousands of​ dollars,​ depending upon the​ size of​ vessel and its contents. However,​ whatever the​ toll,​ it​ is​ typically ten times what it​ would have cost to​ navigate around Cape Horn.

The Panama Canal Commission welcomes visitors at​ the​ Miraflores Locks on​ the​ Pacific side of​ the​ Isthmus seven days a​ week,​ from 9am to​ 5pm. Ships passing through the​ locks can be viewed from a​ pavilion where commentators provide an​ English and Spanish-language commentary,​ giving all the​ details of​ the​ canal including the​ amazing statistics. From yachts and small crafts through to​ container vessels,​ huge cruise liners and even small submarines,​ the​ Panama Canal is​ truly an​ international crossing point.
Traveling Central America The Panama Canal Traveling Central America The Panama Canal Reviewed by Henda Yesti on September 04, 2018 Rating: 5

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