The Panama Canal

The Panama Canal 1. The panama canal ? It is the canal across the Isthmus of Panama, in Central America, that allows vessels to travel between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans ? The waterway measures 82 km (50 mi), including dredged approach channels at each end. ? The Panama Canal handles a large volume of world shipping and enables vessels to avoid traveling around South America, reducing their voyages by thousands of miles and many days ? Built by the United States from 1904 to 1914, the Panama Canal posed major engineering challenges ? The canal consists of artificially created lakes, channels, and a series of locks, or water-filled chambers, that raise and lower ships through the mountainous terrain of central Panama ? It was the largest and most complex project of this kind ever undertaken at that time, employing tens of thousands of workers and costing $350 million ? The canal cuts through the central and most populated region of Panama, and it has been a point of dispute between the governments of Panama and the United States through most of its existence. ? Under a 1903 treaty, the United States controlled both the waterway and a large section of the surrounding land, known as the Panama Canal Zone, ? riots and international pressure led the United States to negotiate two new treaties, which were signed in 1977 and took effect in 1979. The treaties recognized Panama’s ultimate ownership of the canal 1.

Traveling through the panama ? The canal consists of dredged approaches and three sets of sets of locks at each end; ? The canal employs about 240 highly trained and experienced pilots to handle the complex job of steering ships through the waterway. As soon as the pilot takes over, the ship is under canal jurisdiction. ? Very large or hard-to-maneuver ships may require two or more pilots and assistance from tugboats. ? The ship travels south-southeast about 7 miles and enters the first lock at Gatn ? Line handlers at the lock attach steel mooring cables that are controlled by powerful electric locomotives, called mules. The mules guide the ship through the locks and steady it while the chambers are filled with water ? To conserve water, smaller ships often go through the locks together ? The entire trip through the canal takes between 8 and 10 hours plus waiting time.

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? The canal operates 24 hours a day year-round. Each ship that travels through the canal pays a toll based on its capacity 2. Traffic volume ? A large volume of the world’s ships, cargo, and passengers travel through the canal every year ? A wide variety of general cargo vessels and specialized ships pass through the canal ? The most common are bulk carriers for ore, grain, and liquids; automobile carriers; container ships; refrigerated ships; tankers; liquid-gas carriers; and passenger liners ? Many naval vessels, fishing boats, barges, dredges, floating drydocks, and ocean-going tugs also use the canal ? The size of ships using the Panama Canal has steadily increased. About 27 percent of the vessels that use the canal are built to the maximum dimensions that can pass through it (a category called “Panamax”) ? However, some of the world’s commercial and military ships are too large for the canal. Since the 1940s, new U.S. battleships and aircraft carriers have been built exceeding the canal’s dimensions 3. Military uses ? The canal was built in part for military reasons, to give the U.S.

Navy rapid access to both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans ? Many U.S. Army, Navy, and Air Force bases were built in the canal zone to defend the vital channel. However, since World War II (1939-1945) the canal has been considered vulnerable to attack ? A single bomb or a scuttled ship could disrupt canal traffic for a long period, and the jungles along the canal could be used by guerrilla forces ? Therefore, the canal was considered less valuable as a military asset 4. Canal administration ? The canal is operated by the Panama Canal Commission, a U.S. government agency under the Department of Defense ? The commission was established in 1979 to manage the canal during the 20-year transition from U.S. to Panamanian control ? The commission manages and maintains the canal and all its related functions and equipment ? Tolls and other canal fees generally pay all the costs of running and maintaining the waterway ? The treaties also guarantee the permanent neutrality of the Panama Canal, allowing ships of all nations to use it even in time of war ? The treaties also guarantee the permanent neutrality of the Panama Canal, allowing ships of all nations to use it even in time of war 5. History 1.

FRENCH ? In the late 1870s a private French company won a concession from Colombia to build a sea-level canal in Panama and soon raised enough money to begin construction 1. The company was directed by Ferdinand de Lesseps, a French engineer and diplomat who had overseen construction of the Suez Canal in Egypt ? Excavation in Panama began in 1882, but the company quickly ran into problems caused by the difficult terrain, climate, tropical diseases, labor shortages, and a flawed design ? In 1888 it ceased work and went into bankruptcy. Reorganized a few years later as the New Panama Canal Company, it barely managed to keep the concession and prevent the equipment from deteriorating. At that stage, the French company sought another sponsor for the project. 2. United States ? The United States had long been interested in a Central American canal, to link its east and west coasts and expand trade ? However, it did not have the money or the will to build one before 1900 ? The Spanish-American War in 1898 heightened military interest in a canal ? Panama signed a treaty with the United States giving permission for the canal project 6.

Construction ? Canal construction began in 1904 ? Most of the excavation and construction was done by private contractors ? The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers supplied the technical guidance, and Colonel George W. Goethals served as chief engineer from 1907 to 1916. ? The canal commission recruited more than 50,000 laborers, mostly from nearby Caribbean islands, to work on the canal. In all, another 100,000 people migrated to Panama during the construction era, adding to the diversity of Panama’s population ? Malaria and yellow fever had killed thousands of workers during the French canal attempt.

But a U.S. campaign, directed by Army medical officer William Gorgas, drained or sprayed mosquito breeding grounds and built sewage and water systems. Within two years the diseases were brought under control ? The overall cost of the canal was about $350 million, the largest and costliest work ever undertaken by the U.S. government. It became one of the world’s premier feats of engineering. ? The first ship traveled through it from the Atlantic to the Pacific on August 15, 1914 7.

Since completion the u.s. and panamanians have been in conflict over the control of the canal. The land and ownership was slowly given back until all of it was turned over to panama in 1999 History Essays.


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