Panama Canal History
The Panama Canal only took ten years, $382 million and a near miracle to complete. From conception to construction, the project changed hands several times over the course of 400 years, resulting in a magnificent final product that over 13,000 ships conveniently pass through each year. Experience a Panama Canal cruise with Princess and you, too, will become a part of history.
Did you know....?
A Burgeoning Necessity
Prior to Spanish conquistador Balboa's discovery of the narrow Isthmus of Panama, the only known international trade route between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans was the treacherous journey around Cape Horn. Balboa's findings sparked an idea to create a safe shortcut across the strip of land.
The Canal Concept
In 1880, the French, led by Suez Canal builder Ferdinand de Lesseps, dug 11 of 50 miles needed for a sea level canal, but disease, money and engineering problems forced them to abandon the project. Seizing an opportunity, the U.S. gained control and began working on a lock-based canal in 1904.
A Decade of Construction
The U.S. hired thousands to work on the canal when industrialization offered advanced machinery for digging and constructing the giant sets of locks. It took 10 years and over $350 million to complete, with approximately 26,000 lives being lost to malaria and yellow fever during its construction.
The Land Divided…The World United
On August 15, 1914, John A. Constantine sailed the SS Ancon from Cristobal, briefly navigated into Caribbean waters, and turned into Panama's jungle, bound for the Pacific. Thus, under a banner that read “The Land Divided; The World United”, the first official crossing of the Panama Canal was made.
Mechanics of the Canal
Through the force of gravity, water in the canal gradually raises ships through each set of locks up to 85 feet above sea level. Here ships reach the surface of Gatun Lake, where they float across the Continental Divide and are gradually lowered back through the locks into the opposite ocean.
The Canal’s Future
The Panama Canal is currently undergoing further expansion. A new set of locks will allow transit of larger “post-Panamax” vessels and the Gatun Lake water supply will also be increased. Slated for completion by 2014, the project will undoubtedly enhance one of the world's most vital trade routes.
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Panama CanalWatch Video (01:47)