Panama Essay, Research Paper
The Panama Canal
The history of the Panama Canal goes back to the 16th century. After realizing
the riches of Peru, Ecuador, and Asia, and realizing how long it took the gold to reach
the ports of Spain, someone suggested to Charles V, that by cutting out a piece of land somewhere in Panama, the trips would be made shorter. A survey of the isthmus was ordered and subsequently a working plan for a canal was drawn up in 1529. The wars
in Europe put the project on permanent hold.
In 1534 a Spanish official suggested a canal route close to that of the now
present canal. Later, several other plans for a canal were suggested, but no action
was taken. The Spanish government abandoned its interest in the canal.
In the early 19th century the books of the German scientist Alexander von Humboldt revived interest in the project, and in 1819 the Spanish government formally authorized the construction of a canal and the creation of a company to build it. The discovery of gold in California in 1848 and the rush of miners stimulated America s interest in digging the canal.
Various surveys that were made between 1850 and 1875 showed that only
two routes were practical, the one across Panama and another across Nicaragua. In
1876 an international company was put together; two years later it got permission
from the Colombian government to dig a canal across the isthmus. The international company failed, and in 1880 a French company was organized by Ferdinand Marie de Lesseps, the builder of the Suez Canal in Egypt.
Although de Lesseps was not an engineer, he was appointed chairman for
the construction of the Panama Canal. Upon taking charge, he organized an Inter-
national Congress to discuss several schemes for constructing a ship canal. De
Lesseps opted for a sea-level canal based on the construction of the Suez Canal.
He believed that if a sea-level canal worked when constructing theSuez Canal, it
must work for the Panama Canal.
In 1899 the US Congress created an Isthmian Canal Commission to examine
the possibilities of a Central American canal and to recommend a route. The commission
first decided on a route through Nicaragua, but later changed its mind. The Lesseps company offered its assets to the United States at a price of 40 million dollars. The United States and the new state of Panama signed the Hay-Bunau-Varilla treaty,
by which the United States guaranteed the independence of Panama and secured a perpetual lease on a 10-mile strip for the canal. Panama was to be compensated by an initial payment of $10 million and an annuity of $250,000, beginning in 1913. This
strip is now known as the Canal Zone.
Some interesting facts I found were:
* A ship traveling from New York to San Francisco can save 7′872 miles using the Panama Canal instead of going around South America.
* In 1994 there where 14′029 transits, which carried 170.8 million long tons of
cargo and paid US $ 419.2 million in tolls.
* The highest Canal toll was US $ 141,344.91 paid by the Crown Princess and the lowest toll ever paid was 36 cents by Richard Halliburton for swimming the Canal in 1928.
* The average time spent in transit from port to port is approx. 8 – 10 hours.
* Until Lake Mead was formed by the building of the Hoover Dam, Gatun Lake, the lake formed by the Panama Canal was the largest artificial body