Exploring the History of the Panama Canal
The Panama Canal is truly a marvel that personifies tragedy. The waterway connects the Atlantic Ocean with the Pacific Ocean through a land lock system, which reduces travel time while subsequently increasing safety. With the previous route, ships would face severe weather and dangerous conditions to reach the Pacific Ocean.
In the late 1800s, France began working on the canal under the leadership of Ferdinand de Lesseps. Lesseps proved to be victorious building the Suez Canal leading others to believe the Panama Canal would be another achievable feat. This was not the case. The difference in the climates was not considered. The Isthmus of Suez was an arid desert, unlike Panama, which was a tropical jungle experiencing heavy rains, high heat and humidity plagued with tropical diseases causing a high mortality rate amongst the workers. Lesseps was unfamiliar with the geographical terrain and would learn he was not equipped to tackle the land. Eventually, the project was failed due to lack of financial backing leading to the collapse of the company.
In the early 1900s, the United States struck a deal to continue building the canal. As a result of plan devised by the engineer, John Frank Stevens to manage the inevitable flooding of the waterway by the Chagres River. He proposed constructing a high-level canal with locks and a dam from Gamboa to Gatún. The dam would be used to stop the waterway from flooding by controlling the runoff.
In 1914, the United State completed was today is known as the Panama Canal. Even though the United States figured out a way forward, it did not come without its own failures. The canal zone was still not a safe place for the West Indian workers from the hazardous work conditions to the tropical diseases to racial discrimination. The lure of financial mobility was a false reality.
Resources to learn more about West Indian involvement and history is available at:
VISITING THE PANAMA CANAL
In visiting the Panama Canal, I opted out of paying to visit the museum. Instead, I paid to watch the film that covered the "history" of the canal at the IMAX Theater (adjacent). The film was about 45 minutes and cost around $10.
I then ate lunch at Miraflores Restaurant at the Panama Canal. The lunch wasn't good and was pricey. However, being able to sit that close to the canal watching the ships go by was a breathtaking experience.