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13 February 2006

Panama City: The Canal

Day 133 - Monday 30th January 2006

No visit to Panama City would be complete without seeing the very thing that the country is famous for. Stretching 50 miles from Panama City to Colon, across the narrowest point in Central America, the Panama Canal was completed in 1914 at a cost of approximately $375 million.


The idea of a gateway between the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans was first thought about in the 16th century, by the Spanish settlers who were transporting goods from Peru back to Europe. However it wasn’t until 1880 when the French first began an unsuccesfull attempt to link the two oceans. The French effort was blighted by problems such as overcoming the different levels of the terrain, the climate, where there is 3000mm of rain per year and an average temperature of 25۫ºC, continuous mud slides, not to mention the endemic malaria and yellow fever in the region.

These issues eventually led the French to abandon the project in 1899, and it wasn’t until 1904 that the US took up the initiative and began their attempt to construct the canal. Advances in technology and machinery meant that more earth could be removed at a time, thus the removal of 200 million cubic metres of earth was made possible. Also the development in medicine meant that the epidemics of malaria and yellow fever were better controlled. A total of 56,307 people worked on the construction of the canal, which took 10 years and was finally completed in 1913.

Vessels transiting the canal have to go through three sets of locks, which first raise the level of the ship to the Gatun Lake and then lower the ship back to the sea level. The whole transit process from Atlantic to Pacific or vice versa takes about 12 hours including waiting time.

I cant really do the history of the place and the whole thing justice, so if anyone is interested in the history of the canal take a look at this linkdescriptions before I returned to my hostel and looked around the immediate area, which happened to be the banking district., and where the money of the city is located.

Not much else happened during the afternoon, I said goodbye to Markus who was off to Colombia on a sail boat. Apart from that it was pretty uneventful, the heat was just too much to do anything strenuous.

One Comment on 'Panama City: The Canal'

  1. i expect to see lots of cuttings in your scrap book for this one master Roy and I hope that your homework ‘what I did at the weekend’ is far more interesting than your last attempt. You do lead a particularly dull life….LOL!!! Good to see you are not glossing over the details!! Take it easy

    Posted by Kee on:

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