Panama Canal Essay, Research Paper
Very few human endeavors have ever conceded to change the face of the planet on which we live as did the successful completion of the interoceanic Panama Canal in 1914 by the United States. Such projects before this time had only managed to build up or tear down existing geographical features – the pyramids of Egypt, the Great Wall of China, the trans-continental railroads – but none had ever even aspired to accomplish something so incredulous as splitting the continents. This the United States did and more – the Panama Canal was soon to become a vital link for the entire world. Despite previous failures by other organizations, the United states as a whole was able to overcome the numerous dangers present at the isthmus between North and South America, and build what remains today one of the greatest engineering marvels of the modern world.
The idea of a path between North and South America is older than their respective names. Columbus had searched in vain for a passage through the land that would lead him to the Indies where treasures awaited, and repeated sailors since had done the same. Emperor Napoleon III of France once toyed with the idea of building a canal in France’s land across the sea, but never with much enthusiasm.
No real progress, other than ideas and brainstorms, was made until the nineteenth century, when a French individual felt it was time for a French-owned canal at Panama, then a republic of Colombia. This individual was Ferdinand de Lesseps, the most important foreigner involved with Egypt’s Suez Canal (”the hero of Suez”). Lesseps’ success at Suez made him confident, perhaps too confident, that a canal at Panama would be no different. As he proceeded to convince his countrymen of such, stock for his new company, the Compagnie Universelle du Canal Interoceanique, was sold (after much press coverage had been purchased to boost the company’s name) with unnerving results : the company had only managed to raise 8% of what Lesseps had hoped for – 30 million francs of his requested 400 million francs.