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A Wonderful History of the Panama Canal - Seven Wonders

The Panama Canal definition is a man-made canal in Panama which joins the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. One of the largest and most difficult engineering projects ever undertaken, it had an enormous impact on shipping between the two oceans, replacing the long and treacherous route via the Drake Passage and Cape Horn at the southernmost tip of South America. A ship sailing from New York to San Francisco via the canal travels 9,500 km (6,000 miles), well under half the 22,500 km (14,000 mi) route around Cape Horn. The Panama Canal map is one of the seven wonders of the modern world and one of the wonders of the world.

The first attempt to construct a canal began in 1880 under French leadership. After this attempt failed and saw 21.900 B Vorkers die, the project of building a canal was attempted and completed by the United States in the early 1900s, with the canal opening in 1914. By the time the canal was completed. a total of 27,500 workmen are estimated to have died in the French and American efforts.

An all water route between the oceans was still seen as the ideal solution, and the idea ofa canal was enhanced by the success of the Suez Canal. The French, under Ferdinand de Lesseps, began construction on a sea-level canal (i.e., without locks) through what was then Colombia's province of Panama, on January l, 1880.

The French began work in a rush with insufficient prior study of the geology and hydrology of the region. Disease, particularly malaria and yellow fever, sickened and killed vast numbers of employees, ranging from labourers to top directors of the French company. Public health measures were ineffective because the role of the mosquito as a disease vector was then unknown.

These conditions made it impossible to maintain an experienced work force as fearful technical employees quickly returned to France. Even the hospitals contributed to the problem, unwittingly providing breeding places for mosquitoes inside the unscreened wards. Actual conditions were hushed-up in France to avoid recruitment problems. In 1893, after a great deal of work, the French scheme was abandoned due to disease and the sheer difficulty of building a sea level canal, as well as lack of French field experience, such as downpours causing steel equipment to rust.

The high toll from disease was one of the major factors in the failure; as many as 22,000 workers are estimated to have died during the main period of French construction.