Panama Canal
Overview
 
The Panama Canal is a 77 kilometres (48 mi) ship canal
Ship canal
A ship canal is a canal especially constructed to carry ocean-going ships, as opposed to barges. Ship canals can be enlarged barge canals, canalized or channelized rivers, or canals especially constructed from the start to accommodate ships....

 in Panama
Panama
Panama , officially the Republic of Panama , is the southernmost country of Central America. Situated on the isthmus connecting North and South America, it is bordered by Costa Rica to the northwest, Colombia to the southeast, the Caribbean Sea to the north and the Pacific Ocean to the south. The...

 that joins the Atlantic Ocean
Atlantic Ocean
The Atlantic Ocean is the second-largest of the world's oceanic divisions. With a total area of about , it covers approximately 20% of the Earth's surface and about 26% of its water surface area...

 and the Pacific Ocean
Pacific Ocean
The Pacific Ocean is the largest of the Earth's oceanic divisions. It extends from the Arctic in the north to the Southern Ocean in the south, bounded by Asia and Australia in the west, and the Americas in the east.At 165.2 million square kilometres in area, this largest division of the World...

 and is a key conduit for international maritime trade. Built from 1904 to 1914, the canal has seen annual traffic rise from about 1,000 ship
Ship
Since the end of the age of sail a ship has been any large buoyant marine vessel. Ships are generally distinguished from boats based on size and cargo or passenger capacity. Ships are used on lakes, seas, and rivers for a variety of activities, such as the transport of people or goods, fishing,...

s early on to 14,702 vessels measuring a total of 309.6 million Panama Canal/Universal Measurement System (PC/UMS) tons in 2008. In total, over 815,000 vessels have passed through the canal.
Timeline

1880    Ferdinand de Lesseps begins French construction of the Panama Canal.

1900    The United States and the United Kingdom sign a treaty for the Panama Canal

1902    The U.S. Congress passes the Spooner Act, authorizing President Theodore Roosevelt to acquire rights from Colombia for the Panama Canal.

1902    The United States buys the rights to the Panama Canal from France.

1903    The Hay-Herran Treaty, granting the United States the right to build the Panama Canal, is ratified by the United States Senate. The Colombian Senate would later reject the treaty.

1904    Construction begins by the United States on the Panama Canal.

1906    Theodore Roosevelt is the first sitting President of the United States to make an official trip outside the country. He did so to inspect progress on the Panama Canal.

1909    Workers start pouring concrete for the Panama Canal.

1913    President Woodrow Wilson triggers the explosion of the Gamboa Dike thus ending construction on the Panama Canal.

1914    The Panama Canal opens to traffic with the transit of the cargo ship Ancon.

Encyclopedia
The Panama Canal is a 77 kilometres (48 mi) ship canal
Ship canal
A ship canal is a canal especially constructed to carry ocean-going ships, as opposed to barges. Ship canals can be enlarged barge canals, canalized or channelized rivers, or canals especially constructed from the start to accommodate ships....

 in Panama
Panama
Panama , officially the Republic of Panama , is the southernmost country of Central America. Situated on the isthmus connecting North and South America, it is bordered by Costa Rica to the northwest, Colombia to the southeast, the Caribbean Sea to the north and the Pacific Ocean to the south. The...

 that joins the Atlantic Ocean
Atlantic Ocean
The Atlantic Ocean is the second-largest of the world's oceanic divisions. With a total area of about , it covers approximately 20% of the Earth's surface and about 26% of its water surface area...

 and the Pacific Ocean
Pacific Ocean
The Pacific Ocean is the largest of the Earth's oceanic divisions. It extends from the Arctic in the north to the Southern Ocean in the south, bounded by Asia and Australia in the west, and the Americas in the east.At 165.2 million square kilometres in area, this largest division of the World...

 and is a key conduit for international maritime trade. Built from 1904 to 1914, the canal has seen annual traffic rise from about 1,000 ship
Ship
Since the end of the age of sail a ship has been any large buoyant marine vessel. Ships are generally distinguished from boats based on size and cargo or passenger capacity. Ships are used on lakes, seas, and rivers for a variety of activities, such as the transport of people or goods, fishing,...

s early on to 14,702 vessels measuring a total of 309.6 million Panama Canal/Universal Measurement System (PC/UMS) tons in 2008. In total, over 815,000 vessels have passed through the canal. It has been named one of the seven modern wonders of the world by the American Society of Civil Engineers
American Society of Civil Engineers
The American Society of Civil Engineers is a professional body founded in 1852 to represent members of the civil engineering profession worldwide. It is the oldest national engineering society in the United States. ASCE's vision is to have engineers positioned as global leaders who strive toward...

.

One of the largest and most difficult engineering
Engineering
Engineering is the discipline, art, skill and profession of acquiring and applying scientific, mathematical, economic, social, and practical knowledge, in order to design and build structures, machines, devices, systems, materials and processes that safely realize improvements to the lives of...

 projects ever undertaken, the canal had an enormous impact on shipping
Shipping
Shipping has multiple meanings. It can be a physical process of transporting commodities and merchandise goods and cargo, by land, air, and sea. It also can describe the movement of objects by ship.Land or "ground" shipping can be by train or by truck...

 between the two oceans, replacing the long and treacherous route via either the Strait of Magellan
Strait of Magellan
The Strait of Magellan comprises a navigable sea route immediately south of mainland South America and north of Tierra del Fuego...

 or Cape Horn
Cape Horn
Cape Horn is the southernmost headland of the Tierra del Fuego archipelago of southern Chile, and is located on the small Hornos Island...

 at the southernmost tip of South America
South America
South America is a continent situated in the Western Hemisphere, mostly in the Southern Hemisphere, with a relatively small portion in the Northern Hemisphere. The continent is also considered a subcontinent of the Americas. It is bordered on the west by the Pacific Ocean and on the north and east...

. A ship sailing from New York
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

 to San Francisco via the canal travels 9500 km (5,903 mi), well under half the 22500 km (13,980.9 mi) route around Cape Horn.

The concept of a canal in Panama dates to the early 16th century. The first attempt to construct a canal began in 1880 under French
French Third Republic
The French Third Republic was the republican government of France from 1870, when the Second French Empire collapsed due to the French defeat in the Franco-Prussian War, to 1940, when France was overrun by Nazi Germany during World War II, resulting in the German and Italian occupations of France...

 leadership, but was abandoned after 21,900 workers died, largely from disease (particularly malaria
Malaria
Malaria is a mosquito-borne infectious disease of humans and other animals caused by eukaryotic protists of the genus Plasmodium. The disease results from the multiplication of Plasmodium parasites within red blood cells, causing symptoms that typically include fever and headache, in severe cases...

 and yellow fever
Yellow fever
Yellow fever is an acute viral hemorrhagic disease. The virus is a 40 to 50 nm enveloped RNA virus with positive sense of the Flaviviridae family....

) and landslide
Landslide
A landslide or landslip is a geological phenomenon which includes a wide range of ground movement, such as rockfalls, deep failure of slopes and shallow debris flows, which can occur in offshore, coastal and onshore environments...

s. The United States launched a second effort, incurring a further 5,600 deaths but succeeding in opening the canal in 1914. The U.S. controlled the canal and the Canal Zone
Panama Canal Zone
The Panama Canal Zone was a unorganized U.S. territory located within the Republic of Panama, consisting of the Panama Canal and an area generally extending 5 miles on each side of the centerline, but excluding Panama City and Colón, which otherwise would have been partly within the limits of...

 surrounding it until the 1977 Torrijos–Carter Treaties provided for the transition of control to Panama. From 1979 to 1999 the canal was under joint U.S.–Panamanian administration, and from 31 December 1999 command of the waterway was assumed by the Panama Canal Authority, an agency of the Panamanian government.

While the Pacific Ocean is west of the isthmus
Isthmus
An isthmus is a narrow strip of land connecting two larger land areas usually with waterforms on either side.Canals are often built through isthmuses where they may be particularly advantageous to create a shortcut for marine transportation...

 and the Atlantic to the east, the 8- to 10-hour journey through the canal from the Pacific to the Atlantic is one from southeast to northwest. This is a result of the isthmus's "curving back on itself" in the region of the canal. The Bridge of the Americas
Bridge of the Americas
The Bridge of the Americas is a road bridge in Panama, which spans the Pacific entrance to the Panama Canal. Completed in 1962, at a cost of US$20 million, it was the only non-swinging bridge connecting the north and south American land masses until the opening of the Centennial Bridge in 2004...

  at the Pacific end is about a third of a degree of longitude east of the end near Colon on the Atlantic.

The maximum size of vessel that can use the canal is known as Panamax
Panamax
Panamax and New Panamax are popular terms for the size limits for ships traveling through the Panama Canal. Formally, the limits and requirements are published by the Panama Canal Authority titled "Vessel Requirements"...

. A Panamax cargo ship typically has a DWT
Deadweight tonnage
Deadweight tonnage is a measure of how much weight a ship is carrying or can safely carry. It is the sum of the weights of cargo, fuel, fresh water, ballast water, provisions, passengers, and crew...

 of 65,000–80,000 tonne
Tonne
The tonne, known as the metric ton in the US , often put pleonastically as "metric tonne" to avoid confusion with ton, is a metric system unit of mass equal to 1000 kilograms. The tonne is not an International System of Units unit, but is accepted for use with the SI...

s, but its actual cargo is restricted to about 52,500 tonnes because of draft
Draft (hull)
The draft of a ship's hull is the vertical distance between the waterline and the bottom of the hull , with the thickness of the hull included; in the case of not being included the draft outline would be obtained...

 restrictions in the canal. The longest ship ever to transit was the San Juan Prospector, now Marcona Prospector, an ore-bulk-oil carrier
Ore-bulk-oil carrier
An Ore-bulk-oil carrier, also known as combination carrier or OBO, is a ship designed to be capable of carrying wet or dry cargoes. The idea is to reduce the number of empty voyages, in which large ships only carry a cargo one way and return empty for another. These are a feature of the larger...

 that is 973 ft (296.57 m) long, with a beam of 106 ft (32.31 m).

History


Early proposal

The earliest mention of a canal across the Isthmus of Panama
Isthmus of Panama
The Isthmus of Panama, also historically known as the Isthmus of Darien, is the narrow strip of land that lies between the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean, linking North and South America. It contains the country of Panama and the Panama Canal...

 dates to 1534, when Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor
Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor
Charles V was ruler of the Holy Roman Empire from 1519 and, as Charles I, of the Spanish Empire from 1516 until his voluntary retirement and abdication in favor of his younger brother Ferdinand I and his son Philip II in 1556.As...

 and King of Spain
Spain
Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...

 ordered a survey for a route through Panama that would ease the voyage for ships traveling to and from Spain
Spain
Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...

 and Peru
Peru
Peru , officially the Republic of Peru , is a country in western South America. It is bordered on the north by Ecuador and Colombia, on the east by Brazil, on the southeast by Bolivia, on the south by Chile, and on the west by the Pacific Ocean....

, as well as give the Spanish a tactical military edge over the Portuguese. During his expedition of 1788–1793, Alessandro Malaspina
Alessandro Malaspina
Alessandro Malaspina was an Italian nobleman who spent most of his life as a Spanish naval officer and explorer...

 demonstrated the feasibility of a canal and outlined plans for its construction.

Given the strategic location of Panama and its isthmus
Isthmus
An isthmus is a narrow strip of land connecting two larger land areas usually with waterforms on either side.Canals are often built through isthmuses where they may be particularly advantageous to create a shortcut for marine transportation...

 separating two great oceans, other forms of trade links were attempted over the years. The ill-fated Darien scheme
Darién scheme
The Darién scheme was an unsuccessful attempt by the Kingdom of Scotland to become a world trading nation by establishing a colony called "New Caledonia" on the Isthmus of Panama in the late 1690s...

 was an attempt launched by the Kingdom of Scotland
Kingdom of Scotland
The Kingdom of Scotland was a Sovereign state in North-West Europe that existed from 843 until 1707. It occupied the northern third of the island of Great Britain and shared a land border to the south with the Kingdom of England...

 in 1698 to set up an overland trade route
Trade route
A trade route is a logistical network identified as a series of pathways and stoppages used for the commercial transport of cargo. Allowing goods to reach distant markets, a single trade route contains long distance arteries which may further be connected to several smaller networks of commercial...

, but was defeated by the generally inhospitable conditions, and abandoned in July of 1699. However, the discovery of gold in California created a great deal of interest in a crossing between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Finally, the Panama Railway was built across the isthmus, opening in 1855. This overland link became a vital piece of infrastructure, greatly facilitating trade and largely determining the later canal route.

Also in 1855, William Kennish
William Kennish
William Kennish , was a poet, engineer, explorer, scientist, inventor, and the first person hired by the United States government to explore a route for a Panama Canal....

, a Manx-born engineer in the employ of the United States government, surveyed and issued a report on a route for a proposed Panama Canal. His report was published in a book entitled The Practicality and Importance of a Ship Canal to Connect the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

French construction attempt

An all-water route between the oceans was still seen as the ideal solution, and the idea of a canal was enhanced by the French success of the Suez Canal
Suez Canal
The Suez Canal , also known by the nickname "The Highway to India", is an artificial sea-level waterway in Egypt, connecting the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea. Opened in November 1869 after 10 years of construction work, it allows water transportation between Europe and Asia without navigation...

 (which took 10 years to build the 102 mile canal, more than twice the length of the Panama Canal). The French
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

, under Ferdinand de Lesseps
Ferdinand de Lesseps
Ferdinand Marie, Vicomte de Lesseps, GCSI was the French developer of the Suez Canal, which joined the Mediterranean and Red Seas in 1869, and substantially reduced sailing distances and times between the West and the East.He attempted to repeat this success with an effort to build a sea-level...

, began construction on a sea-level canal (i.e., without locks) through what was then Colombia
Colombia
Colombia, officially the Republic of Colombia , is a unitary constitutional republic comprising thirty-two departments. The country is located in northwestern South America, bordered to the east by Venezuela and Brazil; to the south by Ecuador and Peru; to the north by the Caribbean Sea; to the...

's province of Panama, on January 1, 1880. The French began work in a rush, with insufficient prior study of the geology
Geology
Geology is the science comprising the study of solid Earth, the rocks of which it is composed, and the processes by which it evolves. Geology gives insight into the history of the Earth, as it provides the primary evidence for plate tectonics, the evolutionary history of life, and past climates...

 and hydrology
Hydrology
Hydrology is the study of the movement, distribution, and quality of water on Earth and other planets, including the hydrologic cycle, water resources and environmental watershed sustainability...

 of the region. Excavation was conducted at such a steep angle that, in some years, rain-induced landslides poured nearly as much material into the canal as had been removed. In addition, disease, particularly malaria
Malaria
Malaria is a mosquito-borne infectious disease of humans and other animals caused by eukaryotic protists of the genus Plasmodium. The disease results from the multiplication of Plasmodium parasites within red blood cells, causing symptoms that typically include fever and headache, in severe cases...

 and yellow fever
Yellow fever
Yellow fever is an acute viral hemorrhagic disease. The virus is a 40 to 50 nm enveloped RNA virus with positive sense of the Flaviviridae family....

, sickened and killed vast numbers of employees, ranging from laborers to top directors of the French company. Public health measures were ineffective because the role of the mosquito
Mosquito
Mosquitoes are members of a family of nematocerid flies: the Culicidae . The word Mosquito is from the Spanish and Portuguese for little fly...

 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 with downpours that caused steel equipment to rust. The high toll from disease was one of the major factors in the failure; as many as 22,000 workers were estimated to have died during the main period of French construction (1881–1889).

Beyond the hygienic and technical difficulties, financial mismanagement and political corruption
Panama scandals
The Panama scandals was a corruption affair that broke out in the French Third Republic in 1892, linked to the building of the Panama Canal...

 also contributed to the French failure.

U.S. construction

At this time, various interests in the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 were also expressing interest in building a canal across the isthmus, with some favouring a route across Nicaragua
Nicaragua
Nicaragua is the largest country in the Central American American isthmus, bordered by Honduras to the north and Costa Rica to the south. The country is situated between 11 and 14 degrees north of the Equator in the Northern Hemisphere, which places it entirely within the tropics. The Pacific Ocean...

 (see Nicaragua Canal
Nicaragua Canal
The Inter-Oceanic Nicaragua Canal was a proposed waterway through Nicaragua to connect the Caribbean Sea and Atlantic Ocean with the Pacific Ocean...

 and Ecocanal
Ecocanal
The Nicaraguan Ecocanal is a project under construction in Nicaragua to build deepwater port facilities on the Atlantic Ocean coast, to link to the existing seaport of Corinto on the Pacific Ocean. They would be connected by a rail system to transport containerized and bulk cargo overland...

) and others advocating the purchase of the French interests in Panama. Eventually, in June 1902, the U.S. Senate voted in favor of pursuing the Panamanian option, provided the necessary rights could be obtained. (It is claimed that the vote was swayed by William Nelson Cromwell
William Nelson Cromwell
William Nelson Cromwell was an American attorney active in promotion of the Panama Canal and other major ventures.He was born in Brooklyn, New York, and raised there by his mother, Sarah M. Brokaw, a Civil War widow...

.)

On January 22, 1903, the Hay-Herran Treaty
Hay-Herran Treaty
The Hay–Herran Treaty was a treaty signed on January 22, 1903 between United States Secretary of State John M. Hay of the United States and Dr. Tomás Herrán of Colombia...

 was signed by United States Secretary of State
United States Secretary of State
The United States Secretary of State is the head of the United States Department of State, concerned with foreign affairs. The Secretary is a member of the Cabinet and the highest-ranking cabinet secretary both in line of succession and order of precedence...

 John M. Hay and Dr. Tomás Herrán
Tomás Herrán
Tomás Herrán y Mosquera was a Colombian diplomat, a signatory to and namesake of the Hay–Herran Treaty.At the time of the Hay–Herran Treaty, Herrán was Colombian chargé d'affaires to the United States. Herrán's papers were later published as The Letters of Tomás Herrán and the Panama Crisis,...

 of Colombia. It would have granted the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 a renewable lease
Lease
A lease is a contractual arrangement calling for the lessee to pay the lessor for use of an asset. A rental agreement is a lease in which the asset is tangible property...

 in perpetuity from Colombia
Colombia
Colombia, officially the Republic of Colombia , is a unitary constitutional republic comprising thirty-two departments. The country is located in northwestern South America, bordered to the east by Venezuela and Brazil; to the south by Ecuador and Peru; to the north by the Caribbean Sea; to the...

 on the land proposed for the canal. This is often misinterpreted as the "99-year lease" due to misleading wording included in article 22 of the agreement that refers to property within the land but does not pertain to the control of the canal and the right for the United States to renew the lease indefinitely. It was ratified by the United States Senate on March 14, 1903, but the Senate of Colombia
Senate of Colombia
The Senate of the Republic of Colombia is the upper house of the Congress of Colombia, with the lower house being the Chamber of Representatives of Colombia...

 did not ratify the treaty. Philippe Bunau-Varilla, chief engineer of the French canal company, told Roosevelt and Hay of a possible revolt and hoped that the U.S. would support it with troops and money. President of the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 Theodore Roosevelt
Theodore Roosevelt
Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt was the 26th President of the United States . He is noted for his exuberant personality, range of interests and achievements, and his leadership of the Progressive Movement, as well as his "cowboy" persona and robust masculinity...

 changed tactics, promising support for the separation of Panama from Colombia
Separation of Panama from Colombia
The Separation of Panama from Colombia was formalized on 3 November 1903 with the establishment of the Republic of Panama from the Republic of Colombia's Department of Panama.-Prelude:...

. On November 2, 1903, U.S. warships blocked sealanes for Colombian troops from coming to put down the revolt, while dense jungles blocked land routes. Panama achieved independence on November 3, 1903 when the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 sent
Overseas interventions of the United States
The United States has been involved in a number of overseas interventions throughout its history.- Before the Cold War :The Barbary Wars of the 18th and early 19th centuries were the first was waged by the United States outside it's boundaries after the War of Independence...

 naval forces to encourage Colombia
Colombia
Colombia, officially the Republic of Colombia , is a unitary constitutional republic comprising thirty-two departments. The country is located in northwestern South America, bordered to the east by Venezuela and Brazil; to the south by Ecuador and Peru; to the north by the Caribbean Sea; to the...

's surrender of the region. The United States quickly recognized them. Also, on November 6, 1903, Phillipe Bunau-Varilla
Philippe-Jean Bunau-Varilla
Philippe-Jean Bunau-Varilla , commonly referred to as simply Philippe Bunau-Varilla and Monsignor Brun Varilla, was a French engineer and soldier...

, Panama's ambassador to the United States, signed the Hay-Bunau Varilla Treaty
Hay-Bunau Varilla Treaty
The Hay–Bunau-Varilla Treaty was a treaty signed on November 18, 1903, by the United States and Panama, that established the Panama Canal Zone and the subsequent construction of the Panama Canal...

, granting rights to the United States to build and indefinitely administer the Panama Canal. Although Bunau-Varilla was serving as Panama's ambassador, he was a French citizen and was not authorized to sign treaties on behalf of Panama without Panamanian review. This treaty would later become a contentious diplomatic issue between Panama and the U.S..

The United States, under President Theodore Roosevelt
Theodore Roosevelt
Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt was the 26th President of the United States . He is noted for his exuberant personality, range of interests and achievements, and his leadership of the Progressive Movement, as well as his "cowboy" persona and robust masculinity...

, bought out the French equipment and excavations for US$40 million and began work on May 4, 1904. The United States paid Colombia $10 million in 1921 and (later $250,000 per annum), seven years after completion of the canal, for redress of President Roosevelt's role in the creation of Panama, and Colombia recognized Panama under the terms of the Thomson-Urrutia Treaty
Thomson-Urrutia Treaty
The Thomson-Urrutia Treaty was signed on April 20, 1921 between the United States and Colombia. Based on the terms of the agreement, the U.S. paid Colombia 25 million dollars in return for Colombia's recognition of Panama's independence.-External links:***...

.

Isthmian Canal Commission

The U.S. Government created the Isthmian Canal Commission
Isthmian Canal Commission
The Isthmian Canal Commission was an American administration commission set up to oversee the construction of the Panama Canal in the early years of American involvement. Established in 1904, it was given control of the Panama Canal Zone over which the United States exercised sovereignty...

 to oversee the construction of the Panama Canal in the early years of American involvement. Established in 1904, it was given control of the Panama Canal Zone
Panama Canal Zone
The Panama Canal Zone was a unorganized U.S. territory located within the Republic of Panama, consisting of the Panama Canal and an area generally extending 5 miles on each side of the centerline, but excluding Panama City and Colón, which otherwise would have been partly within the limits of...

 over which the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 exercised sovereignty. The commission reported directly to Secretary of War
United States Secretary of War
The Secretary of War was a member of the United States President's Cabinet, beginning with George Washington's administration. A similar position, called either "Secretary at War" or "Secretary of War," was appointed to serve the Congress of the Confederation under the Articles of Confederation...

 William Taft.

Joseph Bucklin Bishop
Joseph Bucklin Bishop
Joseph Bucklin Bishop , was an American newspaper editor , Secretary of the Isthmian Canal Commission in Washington, D.C. and Panama , and authorized biographer and close friend of President Theodore Roosevelt...

, an associate of Theodore Roosevelt
Theodore Roosevelt
Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt was the 26th President of the United States . He is noted for his exuberant personality, range of interests and achievements, and his leadership of the Progressive Movement, as well as his "cowboy" persona and robust masculinity...

 and a strong editorial advocate for U.S. participation in the Canal project was appointed Executive Secretary of the Isthmian Canal Commission
Isthmian Canal Commission
The Isthmian Canal Commission was an American administration commission set up to oversee the construction of the Panama Canal in the early years of American involvement. Established in 1904, it was given control of the Panama Canal Zone over which the United States exercised sovereignty...

 in Washington, D.C. the following year. Bishop was tasked with managing the Commission’s day-to-day matters but also with ensuring public support for the canal through public relations and by keeping the project’s official history. Bishop’s promised $10,000 annual salary was relentlessly criticized by Roosevelt’s opponents in Congress, mostly because it was twice what each of them made. Opposition newspapers joined in the criticism. In the summer of 1907, when escalating allegations of cronyism surrounding Bishop’s appointment threatened appropriations for Panama Canal construction, Secretary of War, William Howard Taft
William Howard Taft
William Howard Taft was the 27th President of the United States and later the tenth Chief Justice of the United States...

, surely with Roosevelt’s quiet consent, ordered Bishop out of Washington to Panama where the partisan political heat would be less intense. “I accept your decision without reluctance,” Bishop informed Taft, “and shall go to the Isthmus, not sadly but cheerfully”. It would not be his first trip to Panama. In the fall of the previous year, Bishop had gone ahead to advance Roosevelt’s historic inspection tour, the first time a sitting President had journeyed outside the U.S.

Joseph Bucklin Bishop would, except for month-long summer breaks, remain on the isthmus for seven years, serving clandestinely at first as Theodore Roosevelt’s “eyes and ears”. He reported back on the “astonishing” progress that Army Corps of Engineers Colonel George Washington Goethals
George Washington Goethals
George Washington Goethals was a United States Army officer and civil engineer, best known for his supervision of construction and the opening of the Panama Canal...

 and his team were making excavating the “big ditch” and building dams and locks. Before long, Bishop became Goethals’s trusted aide, serving as his first line of defense against workers with complaints and grievances. But Bishop’s greatest achievement in Panama would be as founding editor of The Canal Record, a weekly newspaper for the thousands of workers in Panama. His regular reports of cubic yards dug by rival work divisions, and the competitive baseball games they played created a spirit of healthy competition that lifted worker morale and productivity. The “good news” of The Canal Record also built vital public support on newspaper editorial pages back home and in the halls of the United States Congress
United States Congress
The United States Congress is the bicameral legislature of the federal government of the United States, consisting of the Senate and the House of Representatives. The Congress meets in the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C....

 where annual appropriation
Appropriation (law)
In law and government, appropriation is the act of setting apart something for its application to a particular usage, to the exclusion of all other uses....

s were required to keep the canal project moving forward.

Planning and construction begins

John Frank Stevens
John Frank Stevens
John Frank Stevens was an American engineer who built the Great Northern Railway in the United States and was chief engineer on the Panama Canal between 1905 and 1907.- Biography :...

, Chief Engineer from 1905 to 1907, successfully argued the case against the incredibly massive excavation required for a sea-level canal like the French had tried to build and convinced Theodore Roosevelt of the necessity and feasibility of a canal built with dam
Dam
A dam is a barrier that impounds water or underground streams. Dams generally serve the primary purpose of retaining water, while other structures such as floodgates or levees are used to manage or prevent water flow into specific land regions. Hydropower and pumped-storage hydroelectricity are...

s and locks
Lock (water transport)
A lock is a device for raising and lowering boats between stretches of water of different levels on river and canal waterways. The distinguishing feature of a lock is a fixed chamber in which the water level can be varied; whereas in a caisson lock, a boat lift, or on a canal inclined plane, it is...

. One of Stevens' primary achievements in Panama was in building the infrastructure necessary to complete the canal. He had the Panama Railway rebuilt and upgraded with modern heavy-duty equipment. Implementing the recommendations of Walter Reed
Walter Reed
Major Walter Reed, M.D., was a U.S. Army physician who in 1900 led the team that postulated and confirmed the theory that yellow fever is transmitted by a particular mosquito species, rather than by direct contact...

 and Dr. William Gorgas, Stevens also built proper housing with screens for canal workers and oversaw investment in extensive sanitation and mosquito
Mosquito
Mosquitoes are members of a family of nematocerid flies: the Culicidae . The word Mosquito is from the Spanish and Portuguese for little fly...

-abatement programs that minimized the spread of the deadly mosquito-spread diseases—particularly malaria
Malaria
Malaria is a mosquito-borne infectious disease of humans and other animals caused by eukaryotic protists of the genus Plasmodium. The disease results from the multiplication of Plasmodium parasites within red blood cells, causing symptoms that typically include fever and headache, in severe cases...

 and yellow fever
Yellow fever
Yellow fever is an acute viral hemorrhagic disease. The virus is a 40 to 50 nm enveloped RNA virus with positive sense of the Flaviviridae family....

. The mosquito had been identified as the vector (disease spreading agent) by Cuban physician and scientist Dr. Carlos Finlay
Carlos Finlay
Carlos Juan Finlay was a Cuban physician and scientist recognized as a pioneer in yellow fever research.- Early life and education :...

 in 1881. Finlay's theory and investigative work had recently been confirmed by Dr. Walter Reed while in Cuba
Cuba
The Republic of Cuba is an island nation in the Caribbean. The nation of Cuba consists of the main island of Cuba, the Isla de la Juventud, and several archipelagos. Havana is the largest city in Cuba and the country's capital. Santiago de Cuba is the second largest city...

 with the U.S. Army after the Spanish-American War
Spanish-American War
The Spanish–American War was a conflict in 1898 between Spain and the United States, effectively the result of American intervention in the ongoing Cuban War of Independence...

 (1898) (see also Health measures during the construction of the Panama Canal
Health measures during the construction of the Panama Canal
One of the greatest challenges facing the builders of the Panama Canal was dealing with the tropical diseases rife in the area. The health measures taken during the construction contributed greatly to the success of the canal's construction...

).

With the diseases under control, and after significant work on preparing the infrastructure and railroad, construction of an elevated canal with locks began in earnest. Even the construction of the Panama Canal with locks still required the excavation of an enormous volume of material and was envisioned by John Frank Stevens as a massive earth-moving project using the Panama Railway as efficiently as possible. The railroad, starting in 1904, had to be comprehensively upgraded with heavy-duty double-tracked rails over most of the line to accommodate all the new rolling stock of about 115 heavy-duty locomotives and 2,300 dirt spoils railroad cars. There were about 102 of the new railroad-mounted steam shovel
Steam shovel
A steam shovel is a large steam-powered excavating machine designed for lifting and moving material such as rock and soil. It is the earliest type of power shovel or excavator. They played a major role in public works in the 19th and early 20th century, being key to the construction of railroads...

s brought in from the United States and elsewhere. The steam shovels were some of the largest in the world in 1906 when they were introduced. The new railroad closely paralleled the canal where it could and was moved and reconstructed where it interfered with the canal work. In many places the new Lake Gatun flooded over the original rail line and a new rail line had to be raised above the water by massive dirt fills and bridges.

The Panama Canal Railway, besides hauling thousands of men, all the millions of tons of equipment and supplies, did much more. Essentially all of the hundreds of millions of cubic yards of material removed from the required canal cuts were broken up by explosives, loaded by steam shovels mounted on one set of railroad tracks onto spoils cars on parallel tracks, and hauled out by locomotives. Most of the cars carrying the dirt spoils were wooden flat cars lined with steel floors that used a crude but effective unloading device—the Lidgerwood system. The railroad cars had only one side and steel aprons bridged the spaces between the cars. The rock and dirt was first blasted loose by explosives. Two sets of tracks were then built or moved up to where the loosened material lay. The steam shovels, moving on one set of tracks, picked up the loosened dirt and then piled it on the steel-floored flat cars traveling on a parallel set of tracks. The dirt was piled high up against the one closed side of the car. The train moved forward as the cars were filled until all cars were filled. A typical train had twenty dirt cars arranged as essentially one long boxcar. On arrival of the train at one of the approximately 60 different dumping grounds, a three-ton steel plow was put on the last car (or a car carrying the plow was attached as the last car) and a huge winch with a braided steel cable stretching the length of all cars was attached to the engine. The winch, powered by the train’s steam engine, pulled the plow the length of the dirt-loaded train by winching up the steel cable. The plow scraped the dirt off the railroad cars, allowing the entire train-load of dirt cars to be unloaded in about ten minutes or less. The plow and winch were then detached for use on another train. Another plow, mounted on a steam engine, then plowed the dirt spoils away from the track. When the fill got large enough, the track was relocated on top of the old fill to allow almost continuous unloading of new fill with a minimum amount of effort. When the steam shovels or dirt trains needed to move to a new section, techniques were developed by William Bierd, former head of the Panama Railroad, to pick up large sections of track and their attached ties by large steam-powered cranes and relocate them intact—without disassembling and rebuilding the track. A dozen men could move a mile of track a day—the work previously done by up to 600 men. This allowed the tracks used by both the steam shovels and dirt trains to be quickly moved to wherever they needed to go. While constructing the Gaillard Cut
Gaillard Cut
The Gaillard Cut, or Culebra Cut, is an artificial valley that cuts through the continental divide in Panama. The cut forms part of the Panama Canal, linking Lake Gatún, and thereby the Atlantic Ocean, to the Gulf of Panama and hence the Pacific Ocean...

, about 160 loaded dirt trains went out of the cut daily, and returned empty—one train about every one and a half minutes of the day.

The railroads, steam shovels, enormous steam-powered cranes, rock crushers, cement mixers, dredges, and pneumatic power drills used to drill holes for explosives (about 30000000 pounds (13,607.8 t) were used) were some of the new (in 1906) pieces of construction equipment used to construct the canal. Nearly all this new equipment was built by new, extensive machine building technology developed and built in the United States by companies such as the Joshua Hendy Iron Works
Joshua Hendy Iron Works
The Joshua Hendy Iron Works was an American engineering company that existed from the 1850s to the late 1940s. It was at one time a world leader in mining technology and its equipment was used to build the Panama Canal, amongst other major projects...

. In addition, the canal used large refrigeration systems for making ice, extensive large electrical motors to power the pumps and controls on the canal's locks and other new technology. They built extensive electrical generation and distribution systems—one of the first wide-scale uses of large electrical motors and generators. Electrical-powered donkey engines
Steam donkey
Steam donkey, or donkey engine is the common nickname for a steam-powered winch, or logging engine widely used in past logging operations, though not limited to logging...

 pulled the ships through the locks on railroad tracks laid parallel to the locks. New technology, not available before, allowed massive earth cuts and fills to be used on the new railroad and canal that were many times larger than those done in the original 1851–1855 railroad construction. The Americans replaced the old French equipment with machinery designed for a larger scale of work (such as the giant hydraulic crushers supplied by the Joshua Hendy Iron Works) to quicken the pace of construction. President Roosevelt had the former French machinery minted into medal
Medal
A medal, or medallion, is generally a circular object that has been sculpted, molded, cast, struck, stamped, or some way rendered with an insignia, portrait, or other artistic rendering. A medal may be awarded to a person or organization as a form of recognition for athletic, military, scientific,...

s for all workers who spent at least two years on the construction to commemorate their contribution to the building of the canal. These medals featured Roosevelt's likeness on the front, the name of the recipient on one side, and the worker's years of service, as well as a picture of the Culebra Cut
Gaillard Cut
The Gaillard Cut, or Culebra Cut, is an artificial valley that cuts through the continental divide in Panama. The cut forms part of the Panama Canal, linking Lake Gatún, and thereby the Atlantic Ocean, to the Gulf of Panama and hence the Pacific Ocean...

 on the back.
In 1907, when John Frank Stevens
John Frank Stevens
John Frank Stevens was an American engineer who built the Great Northern Railway in the United States and was chief engineer on the Panama Canal between 1905 and 1907.- Biography :...

 resigned, Roosevelt appointed U.S. Army Colonel George Washington Goethals
George Washington Goethals
George Washington Goethals was a United States Army officer and civil engineer, best known for his supervision of construction and the opening of the Panama Canal...

 as Chief Engineer of the Panama Canal.

Ellicott Dredges
Ellicott Dredges
First established as the Ellicott Machine Company in 1885, Ellicott Dredges is one of the oldest manufactures in the world that specializes in the design and building of dredges and dredge machinery...

, a Baltimore, Maryland, USA company formerly known as the Ellicott Machine Company, built the cutter dredges used in some of the construction of the Panama Canal after the cuts were deep enough to float them. The first machine delivered was a steam-driven, 900 hp, 20-inch dredge. In 1941, Ellicott Dredges also built the dredge MINDI, a 10000 HP, 28-inch cutter suction dredge still operating in the Panama Canal.

The building of the canal was completed in 1914, two years ahead of the target date of June 1, 1916. The canal was formally opened on August 15, 1914 with the passage of the cargo ship SS Ancon
SS Ancon
SS Ancon was an American steamship that became the first ship to officially transit the Panama Canal in 1914. The steamer began life as the SS Shawmut, built for the Boston Steamship Line in 1902. About 1910 she was purchased by the Panama Railroad Company to provide shipping required for the...

. Coincidentally, this was also the same month that fighting in World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

 (the Great War) began in Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

. The advances in hygiene
Hygiene
Hygiene refers to the set of practices perceived by a community to be associated with the preservation of health and healthy living. While in modern medical sciences there is a set of standards of hygiene recommended for different situations, what is considered hygienic or not can vary between...

 resulted in a relatively low death toll during the American construction; still, about 5,600 workers died during this period (1904–1914). This brought the total death toll for the construction of the canal to around 27,500.

Later developments

By the 1930s it was seen that water supply would be an issue for the canal; this prompted the building of the Madden
Madden
Madden may refer to:People* Madudan mac Gadhra Mór ancestor of the Madden family of County Galway* Benji and Joel Madden of the pop-punk band Good Charlotte* Bill Madden , columnist for the New York Daily News...

 Dam across the Chagres River
Chagres River
The Chagres River is a river in central Panama. The central part of the river is dammed by the Gatun Dam and forms Gatun Lake, an artificial lake that constitutes part of the Panama Canal. Upstream lies the Madden Dam, creating the Alajuala Lake that is also part of the Canal water system...

 above Gatun Lake
Gatun Lake
Gatun Lake is a large artificial lake situated in the Republic of Panama; it forms a major part of the Panama Canal, carrying ships for of their transit across the Isthmus of Panama....

. The dam, completed in 1935, created Madden Lake (later Alajuela Lake), which acts as additional water storage for the canal. In 1939, construction began on a further major improvement: a new set of locks for the canal, large enough to carry the larger warships which the United States was building at the time and had planned to continue building. The work proceeded for several years, and significant excavation was carried out on the new approach channels, but the project was canceled after World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

.
After the war, U.S. control of the canal and the Canal Zone
Panama Canal Zone
The Panama Canal Zone was a unorganized U.S. territory located within the Republic of Panama, consisting of the Panama Canal and an area generally extending 5 miles on each side of the centerline, but excluding Panama City and Colón, which otherwise would have been partly within the limits of...

 surrounding it became contentious as relations between Panama and the U.S. became increasingly tense. Many Panamanians felt that the Canal Zone rightfully belonged to Panama; student protests were met by the fencing in of the zone and an increased military presence. The unrest culminated in riots in which approximately 20 Panamanians and 3–5 U.S. soldiers were killed on Martyr's Day, January 9, 1964. Negotiations toward a new settlement began in 1974, and resulted in the Torrijos-Carter Treaties
Torrijos-Carter Treaties
The Torrijos–Carter Treaties are two treaties signed by the United States and Panama in Washington, D.C., on September 7, 1977, which abrogated the Hay-Bunau Varilla Treaty of 1903...

. Signed by President of the United States
President of the United States
The President of the United States of America is the head of state and head of government of the United States. The president leads the executive branch of the federal government and is the commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces....

 Jimmy Carter
Jimmy Carter
James Earl "Jimmy" Carter, Jr. is an American politician who served as the 39th President of the United States and was the recipient of the 2002 Nobel Peace Prize, the only U.S. President to have received the Prize after leaving office...

 and Omar Torrijos
Omar Torrijos
Omar Efraín Torrijos Herrera was the Commander of the Panamanian and National Guard and the de facto leader of Panama from 1968 to 1981...

 of Panama on September 7, 1977, this mobilized the process of granting the Panamanians free control of the canal so long as Panama signed a treaty guaranteeing the permanent neutrality of the canal. The treaty led to full Panamanian control effective at noon on December 31, 1999, and the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) assumed command of the waterway.

Before this handover, the government of Panama held an international bid to negotiate a 25-year contract for operation of the container shipping ports located at the canal’s Atlantic and Pacific outlets. The contract was not affiliated with the ACP or Panama Canal operations and was won by the firm Hutchison Whampoa
Hutchison Whampoa
Hutchison Whampoa Limited or HWL of Hong Kong is a Fortune 500 company and one of the largest companies listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. HWL is an international corporation with a diverse array of holdings which includes the world's biggest port and telecommunication operations in 14...

, a Hong Kong
Hong Kong
Hong Kong is one of two Special Administrative Regions of the People's Republic of China , the other being Macau. A city-state situated on China's south coast and enclosed by the Pearl River Delta and South China Sea, it is renowned for its expansive skyline and deep natural harbour...

-based shipping concern whose owner is Li Ka Shing
Li Ka Shing
Sir Ka-shing Li, GBM, KBE, JP is a Chinese business magnate based in Hong Kong. He is the richest person of East Asian descent in the world and the eleventh richest person in the world with an estimated wealth of US$26.0 billion on 10 March 2011...

.

Layout

The canal consists of artificial lakes
Reservoir
A reservoir , artificial lake or dam is used to store water.Reservoirs may be created in river valleys by the construction of a dam or may be built by excavation in the ground or by conventional construction techniques such as brickwork or cast concrete.The term reservoir may also be used to...

, several improved and artificial channels
Channel (geography)
In physical geography, a channel is the physical confine of a river, slough or ocean strait consisting of a bed and banks.A channel is also the natural or human-made deeper course through a reef, sand bar, bay, or any shallow body of water...

, and three sets of locks. An additional artificial lake, Alajuela Lake (known during the American era as Madden Lake), acts as a reservoir
Reservoir
A reservoir , artificial lake or dam is used to store water.Reservoirs may be created in river valleys by the construction of a dam or may be built by excavation in the ground or by conventional construction techniques such as brickwork or cast concrete.The term reservoir may also be used to...

 for the canal. The layout of the canal as seen by a ship passing from the Pacific end to the Atlantic is as follows:
  • From the buoy
    Buoy
    A buoy is a floating device that can have many different purposes. It can be anchored or allowed to drift. The word, of Old French or Middle Dutch origin, is now most commonly in UK English, although some orthoepists have traditionally prescribed the pronunciation...

    ed entrance channel in the Gulf of Panama
    Gulf of Panama
    The Gulf of Panama is a gulf in the Pacific Ocean, near the southern coast of Panama. It has a maximum width of , a maximum depth of and the size of . The Panama Canal connects the Gulf of Panama with the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean...

     (Pacific
    Pacific Ocean
    The Pacific Ocean is the largest of the Earth's oceanic divisions. It extends from the Arctic in the north to the Southern Ocean in the south, bounded by Asia and Australia in the west, and the Americas in the east.At 165.2 million square kilometres in area, this largest division of the World...

     side), ships travel 13.2 km (8.2 mi) up the channel to the Miraflores locks, passing under the Bridge of the Americas
    Bridge of the Americas
    The Bridge of the Americas is a road bridge in Panama, which spans the Pacific entrance to the Panama Canal. Completed in 1962, at a cost of US$20 million, it was the only non-swinging bridge connecting the north and south American land masses until the opening of the Centennial Bridge in 2004...

    .
  • The two-stage Miraflores
    Miraflores (Panama)
    Miraflores is the name of one of the three locks that form part of the Panama Canal and the name of the small lake that separates these locks from the Pedro Miguel locks upstream. In the Miraflores locks, vessels are lifted in three stages totalling 8 m, allowing them to transit to or from the...

     lock system, including the approach wall, is 1.7 km (1.1 mi) long, with a total lift of 16.5 meters (54 ft) at mid-tide.
  • The artificial Miraflores Lake is the next stage, 1.7 km (1.1 mi) long, and 16.5 meters (54 ft) above sea level.
  • The single-stage Pedro Miguel lock, which is 1.4 km (0.869921831309729 mi) long, is the last part of the ascent with a lift of 9.5 meters (31 ft) up to the main level of the canal.
  • The Gaillard (Culebra) Cut
    Gaillard Cut
    The Gaillard Cut, or Culebra Cut, is an artificial valley that cuts through the continental divide in Panama. The cut forms part of the Panama Canal, linking Lake Gatún, and thereby the Atlantic Ocean, to the Gulf of Panama and hence the Pacific Ocean...

     slices 12.6 km (7.8 mi) through the continental divide
    Continental divide
    A continental divide is a drainage divide on a continent such that the drainage basin on one side of the divide feeds into one ocean or sea, and the basin on the other side either feeds into a different ocean or sea, or else is endorheic, not connected to the open sea...

     at an altitude of 26 meters (85 ft), and passes under the Centennial Bridge
    Centennial Bridge, Panama
    Panama's Centennial Bridge is a major bridge crossing the Panama Canal. It was built to supplement the overcrowded Bridge of the Americas, and to replace it as the carrier of the Pan-American Highway; upon its opening in 2004, it became only the second permanent crossing of the canal.-...

    .
  • The Chagres River
    Chagres River
    The Chagres River is a river in central Panama. The central part of the river is dammed by the Gatun Dam and forms Gatun Lake, an artificial lake that constitutes part of the Panama Canal. Upstream lies the Madden Dam, creating the Alajuala Lake that is also part of the Canal water system...

     (Río Chagres), a natural waterway enhanced by the damming of Lake Gatún, runs west about 8.5 km (5.3 mi), merging into Lake Gatun.
  • Gatun Lake
    Gatun Lake
    Gatun Lake is a large artificial lake situated in the Republic of Panama; it forms a major part of the Panama Canal, carrying ships for of their transit across the Isthmus of Panama....

    , an artificial lake formed by the building of the Gatun Dam
    Gatun Dam
    The Gatun Dam is a large earthen dam across the Chagres River in Panama, near the town of Gatun. The dam, constructed between 1907 and 1913, is a crucial element of the Panama Canal; it impounds the artificial Gatun Lake, which in turn carries ships for of their transit across the Isthmus of Panama...

    , carries vessels 24.2 km (15 mi) across the isthmus.
  • The Gatún locks, a three-stage flight of locks 1.9 km (1.2 mi) long, drop ships back down to sea level.
  • A 3.2 km (2 mi) channel forms the approach to the locks from the Atlantic side.
  • Limón Bay (Bahía Limón), a huge natural harbour, provides an anchorage for some ships awaiting passage, and runs 8.7 km (5.4 mi) to the outer breakwater.


Thus, the total length of the canal is 77.1 km (47.9 mi).

Point Coordinates
Geographic coordinate system
A geographic coordinate system is a coordinate system that enables every location on the Earth to be specified by a set of numbers. The coordinates are often chosen such that one of the numbers represent vertical position, and two or three of the numbers represent horizontal position...


(links to map & photo sources)
Notes
Atlantic Entrance 9.38743°N 79.91863°W
Gatún Locks 9.27215°N 79.92266°W
Trinidad Turn 9.20996°N 79.92408°W
Bohío Turn 9.17831°N 79.86667°W
Orchid Turn 9.18406°N 79.84513°W
Frijoles Turn 9.15904°N 79.81362°W
Barbacoa Turn 9.12053°N 79.80395°W
Mamei Turn 9.11161°N 79.76856°W
Gamboa Reach 9.11774°N 79.72257°W
Bas Obispo Reach 9.09621°N 79.68446°W
Las Cascadas Reach 9.07675°N 79.67492°W
Empire Reach 9.06104°N 79.66309°W
Culebra Reach 9.04745°N 79.65017°W
Cucaracha Reach 9.03371°N 79.63736°W
Paraiso Reach 9.02573°N 79.62492°W
Pedro Miguel Locks 9.01698°N 79.61281°W
Miraflores Lake 9.00741°N 79.60254°W
Miraflores Locks 8.99679°N 79.59182°W
Balboa Reach 8.97281°N 79.57771°W
Pacific Entrance 8.88846°N 79.52145°W

Lock size

The size of the locks determines the maximum size of ships allowed passage. Because of the importance of the canal to international trade, many ships are built to the maximum size allowed. These are known as Panamax
Panamax
Panamax and New Panamax are popular terms for the size limits for ships traveling through the Panama Canal. Formally, the limits and requirements are published by the Panama Canal Authority titled "Vessel Requirements"...

 vessels.

Initially the locks
Lock (water transport)
A lock is a device for raising and lowering boats between stretches of water of different levels on river and canal waterways. The distinguishing feature of a lock is a fixed chamber in which the water level can be varied; whereas in a caisson lock, a boat lift, or on a canal inclined plane, it is...

 at Gatun had been designed to be 28.5 metres (93.5 ft) wide. In 1908 the United States Navy
United States Navy
The United States Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. The U.S. Navy is the largest in the world; its battle fleet tonnage is greater than that of the next 13 largest navies combined. The U.S...

 requested that width be increased to at least 36 metres (118.1 ft) which would allow the passage of U.S. naval ships. Eventually a compromise was made and the locks were built 33.53 metres (110 ft) wide. Each lock is 320 metres (1,049.9 ft) long with the walls ranging in thickness from 15 metres (49.2 ft) at the base to 3 metres (9.8 ft) at the top. The central wall between the parallel locks at Gatún is 18 metres (59.1 ft) thick and stands in excess of 24 metres (78.7 ft) high. The steel lock gates measure an average of 2 metres (6.6 ft) thick, 19.5 metres (64 ft) wide and 20 metres (65.6 ft) high. It is the size of the locks, specifically the Pedro Miguel Locks, along with the height of the Bridge of the Americas
Bridge of the Americas
The Bridge of the Americas is a road bridge in Panama, which spans the Pacific entrance to the Panama Canal. Completed in 1962, at a cost of US$20 million, it was the only non-swinging bridge connecting the north and south American land masses until the opening of the Centennial Bridge in 2004...

 at Balboa, that determine the Panamax metric and limit the size of ships that may use the Canal.

The 2006 Third lock lane project will create larger locks, and deeper and wider channels, allowing bigger ships to transit. The allowed dimensions of ships will increase by 25% in length, 51% in beam, and 26% in draft, as defined by New Panamax.

Tolls

Tolls for the canal are decided by the Panama Canal Authority and are based on vessel type, size, and the type of cargo carried.

For container ship
Container ship
Container ships are cargo ships that carry all of their load in truck-size intermodal containers, in a technique called containerization. They form a common means of commercial intermodal freight transport.-History:...

s, the toll is assessed per the ship's capacity expressed in twenty-foot equivalent unit
Twenty-foot equivalent unit
The twenty-foot equivalent unit is an inexact unit of cargo capacity often used to describe the capacity of container ships and container terminals...

s or TEUs. One TEU is the size of a container measuring 20 feet (6.1 m) by 8 feet (2.44 m) by 8.5 feet (2.6 m). Effective May 1, 2009, this toll is US$72.00 per TEU. A Panamax container ship may carry up to . The toll is calculated differently for passenger ships and for container ships carrying no cargo (“in ballast”). , the ballast rate is US$57.60 per TEU.

Passenger vessels in excess of 30,000 tons (PC/UMS), known popularly as cruise ships, pay a rate based on the number of berths, that is, the number of passengers that can be accommodated in permanent beds. The per-berth charge is currently $92 for unoccupied berths and $115 for occupied berths. Started in 2007, this charge has greatly increased tolls for such vessels. Passenger vessels of less than 30,000 tons or with less than 33 tons per passenger are charged on the same "per-ton" schedule as freighters.

Most other types of vessel pay a toll per PC/UMS net ton
Tonnage
Tonnage is a measure of the size or cargo carrying capacity of a ship. The term derives from the taxation paid on tuns or casks of wine, and was later used in reference to the weight of a ship's cargo; however, in modern maritime usage, "tonnage" specifically refers to a calculation of the volume...

, in which one "ton" is actually a volume of 100 cubic feet (2.83 m³). (The calculation of tonnage
Tonnage
Tonnage is a measure of the size or cargo carrying capacity of a ship. The term derives from the taxation paid on tuns or casks of wine, and was later used in reference to the weight of a ship's cargo; however, in modern maritime usage, "tonnage" specifically refers to a calculation of the volume...

 for commercial vessels is quite complex.) , this toll is US$3.90 per ton for the first 10,000 tons, US$3.19 per ton for the next 10,000 tons, and US$3.82 per ton for the next 10,000 tons, and US$3.76 per ton thereafter. As with container ships, a reduced toll is charged for freight ships "in ballast".

Small vessels up to 583 PC/UMS net tons when carrying passengers or cargo, or up to 735 PC/UMS net tons when in ballast, or up to 1,048 fully loaded displacement tons, are assessed minimum tolls based upon their length overall, according to the following table :
Length of vessel Toll
Up to 15.240 meters (50 ft) US$1,300
More than 15.240 meters (50 ft) up to 24.384 meters (80 ft) US$1,400
More than 24.384 meters (80 ft) up to 30.480 meters (100 ft) US$1,500
More than 30.480 meters (100 ft) US$2,400


The most expensive regular toll for canal passage to date was charged on May 16, 2008 to the Disney Magic
Disney Magic
The Disney Magic is a cruise ship operated by the Disney Cruise Line, a subsidiary of The Walt Disney Company. Its sister, the Disney Wonder, was launched in 1999....

, which paid US$331,200. The least expensive toll was 36 cents
Cent (currency)
In many national currencies, the cent is a monetary unit that equals 1⁄100 of the basic monetary unit. Etymologically, the word cent derives from the Latin word "centum" meaning hundred. Cent also refers to a coin which is worth one cent....

 to American adventurer Richard Halliburton
Richard Halliburton
Richard Halliburton was an American traveler, adventurer, and author. Best known today for having swum the length of the Panama Canal and paying the lowest toll in its history—thirty-six cents—Halliburton was headline news for most of his brief career...

, who swam the canal in 1928. The average toll is around US$54,000. The highest fee for priority passage charged through the Transit Slot Auction System was US$220,300, paid on August 24, 2006 by the Panamax tanker
Tanker (ship)
A tanker is a ship designed to transport liquids in bulk. Major types of tankship include the oil tanker, the chemical tanker, and the liquefied natural gas carrier.-Background:...

 Erikoussa, bypassing a 90-ship queue waiting for the end of maintenance works on the Gatun locks
Panama Canal Locks
The Panama Canal Locks, which lift ships up 25.9 m to the main elevation of the Panama Canal, were one of the greatest engineering works ever to be undertaken at the time, eclipsed only by other parts of the canal project. No other concrete construction of comparable size was undertaken...

, thus avoiding a seven-day delay. The normal fee would have been just US$13,430.

Current issues

Ninety-seven years since its opening, the canal continues to enjoy great success. Even though world shipping—and the size of ships themselves—has changed markedly since the canal was designed, it continues to be a vital link in world trade, carrying more cargo than ever before, with fewer overhead costs. Nevertheless, the canal faces a number of potential problems.

Efficiency and maintenance

There were fears that efficiency and maintenance would suffer following the U.S. withdrawal; however, this does not appear to have been the case. Capitalizing on practices developed during the American administration, canal operations are improving under Panamanian control. Canal Waters Time (CWT), the average time it takes a vessel to navigate the canal, including waiting time, is a key measure of efficiency; according to the ACP, since 2000, it has oscillated between 20 and 30 hours. The accident rate has also not changed appreciably in the past decade, varying between 10 and 30 accidents each year across approximately 14,000 total annual transits. An official accident is one in which a formal investigation is requested and conducted.

Increasing volumes of imports from Asia
Asia
Asia is the world's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the eastern and northern hemispheres. It covers 8.7% of the Earth's total surface area and with approximately 3.879 billion people, it hosts 60% of the world's current human population...

 which previously landed on the U.S. west-coast ports are now passing through the canal to the American east coast. The total number of oceangoing transits increased from 11,725 in 2003 to 13,233 in 2007, falling to 12,855 in 2009. (the Canal’s fiscal year runs from October to September). This has been coupled with a steady rise in average ship size and in the numbers of Panamax vessels passing, so that the total tonnage carried rose from 227.9 million PC/UMS tons
Tonnage
Tonnage is a measure of the size or cargo carrying capacity of a ship. The term derives from the taxation paid on tuns or casks of wine, and was later used in reference to the weight of a ship's cargo; however, in modern maritime usage, "tonnage" specifically refers to a calculation of the volume...

 in fiscal year 1999 to a record high of 312.9 million tons in 2007, falling to 299.1 million tons in 2009. Despite the reduction in total transits due to the negative impact of vessel size (e.g., the inability of large vessels to pass each other in the Gaillard Cut
Gaillard Cut
The Gaillard Cut, or Culebra Cut, is an artificial valley that cuts through the continental divide in Panama. The cut forms part of the Panama Canal, linking Lake Gatún, and thereby the Atlantic Ocean, to the Gulf of Panama and hence the Pacific Ocean...

), this represents significant overall growth in canal capacity.

The Panama Canal Authority (ACP) has invested nearly US$1 billion in widening and modernising the canal, with the aim of increasing capacity by 20%. The ACP cites a number of major improvements, including the widening and straightening of the Gaillard Cut to reduce restrictions on passing vessels, the deepening of the navigational channel in Gatun Lake to reduce draft restrictions and improve water supply, and the deepening of the Atlantic and Pacific entrances of the canal. This is supported by new equipment, such as a new drill barge and suction dredger, and an increase of the tug boat
Tugboat
A tugboat is a boat that maneuvers vessels by pushing or towing them. Tugs move vessels that either should not move themselves, such as ships in a crowded harbor or a narrow canal,or those that cannot move by themselves, such as barges, disabled ships, or oil platforms. Tugboats are powerful for...

 fleet by 20%. In addition, improvements have been made to the operating machinery of the canal, including an increased and improved tug locomotive fleet, the replacement of more than 16 km of locomotive track, and new lock machinery controls. Improvements have been made to the traffic management system to allow more efficient control over ships in the canal.

In December 2010, record breaking rain totals caused a 17-hour closure of the canal; this was the first closure since the American invasion in 1989. Also, an access road to the Centenario bridge collapsed.

Capacity

The canal is presently handling more vessel traffic than had ever been envisioned by its builders. In 1934 it was estimated that the maximum capacity of the canal would be around 80 million tons per year; as noted above, canal traffic in 2009 consisted of 299.1 million tons of shipping.
To improve capacity, a number of improvements have been imposed on the current canal system. These improvements aim to maximise the possible use of current locking system:
  • Implementation of an enhanced locks lighting system;
  • Construction of two tie-up stations in Gaillard Cut;
  • Gaillard Cut widening from 192 to 218 m (629.9 to 715.2 ft);
  • Improvements to the tugboat fleet;
  • Implementation of the carousel lockage system in Gatun locks;
  • Development of an improved vessel scheduling system;
  • Deepening of Gatun Lake navigational channels from 10.4 to 11.3 m (34.1 to 37.1 ft) PLD
  • Modification of all locks structures to allow an additional draft of about 0.3

m;
  • Deepening of the Pacific and Atlantic entrances;
  • Construction of a new spillway in Gatun, for flood control.

These improvements will enlarge the capacity from 280–290 million PCUMS (2008) to 330–340 PCUMS (2012).

Competition

Despite having enjoyed a privileged position for many years, the canal is increasingly facing competition from other quarters. Because canal tolls are expected to rise, some critics have suggested that the Suez Canal
Suez Canal
The Suez Canal , also known by the nickname "The Highway to India", is an artificial sea-level waterway in Egypt, connecting the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea. Opened in November 1869 after 10 years of construction work, it allows water transportation between Europe and Asia without navigation...

 may become a viable alternative for cargo en route from Asia to the U.S. east coast. The Panama Canal, however, continues to serve more than 144 of the world’s trade routes and the majority of canal traffic comes from the "All-Water Route" (the route from Asia to the U.S. East and Gulf Coasts via the Panama Canal).

The increasing rate of melting of ice in the Arctic Ocean
Arctic Ocean
The Arctic Ocean, located in the Northern Hemisphere and mostly in the Arctic north polar region, is the smallest and shallowest of the world's five major oceanic divisions...

 has led to speculation that the Northwest Passage
Northwest Passage
The Northwest Passage is a sea route through the Arctic Ocean, along the northern coast of North America via waterways amidst the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans...

 or Arctic Bridge
Arctic bridge
The Arctic Bridge or Arctic Sea Bridge is a seasonal sea route linking Russia to Canada, specifically the Russian port of Murmansk to the Hudson Bay port of Churchill, Manitoba. Churchill is the principal seaport on Canada's northern coast and has rail and air connections to the rest of Canada...

 may become viable for commercial shipping at some point in the future. This route would save 9300 km (5,778.8 mi) on the route from Asia to Europe compared with the Panama Canal, possibly leading to a diversion of some traffic to that route. However, such a route is beset by unresolved territorial issues and would still hold significant problems owing to ice.

Water issues

Gatun Lake is filled with rainwater, and the lake accumulates excess water during wet months. The water is lost to the oceans at a rate of 101000 m³ (26,681,375.8 US gal; 22,216,894.1 imp gal) per lock-cycle going downwards. Since a ship will have to go upward to Lake Gatun first and then descend, a single passing will cost double the amount, but the same waterflow cycle can be used for another ship passing in the opposite direction. The ship's submerged volume is not relevant to the amount of water. During the dry season
Dry season
The dry season is a term commonly used when describing the weather in the tropics. The weather in the tropics is dominated by the tropical rain belt, which oscillates from the northern to the southern tropics over the course of the year...

, when there is less rainfall, there is also a shortfall of water in Gatun Lake.

As a signatory to the United Nations
United Nations
The United Nations is an international organization whose stated aims are facilitating cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and achievement of world peace...

 Global Compact and a member of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, the ACP has developed an environmentally and socially sustainable program for expansion, which will protect the aquatic and terrestrial resources of the Canal Watershed. After completion, expansion will guarantee the availability and quality of water resources
Water resources
Water resources are sources of water that are useful or potentially useful. Uses of water include agricultural, industrial, household, recreational and environmental activities. Virtually all of these human uses require fresh water....

 by using unique water-saving basins at each new lock. These water-saving basins will diminish water loss and preserve freshwater resources along the waterway by reusing water from the basins into the locks. Each lock chamber will have three water-saving basins, which will reuse 60 percent of the water in each transit. There are a total of nine basins for each of the two lock complexes, and a total of 18 basins for the entire project.

The Pacific side sea level is about 20 centimeters (8 inches) higher than that of the Atlantic side due to differences in ocean conditions such as water densities and weather conditions.

The future

As demand is rising, the canal is positioned to be a significant feature of world shipping for the foreseeable future. However, changes in shipping patterns—particularly the increasing numbers of post-Panamax ships—will necessitate changes to the canal if it is to retain a significant market share
Market share
Market share is the percentage of a market accounted for by a specific entity. In a survey of nearly 200 senior marketing managers, 67 percent responded that they found the "dollar market share" metric very useful, while 61% found "unit market share" very useful.Marketers need to be able to...

. It is anticipated that by 2011, 37% of the world's container ships will be too large for the present canal, and hence a failure to expand would result in a significant loss of market share. The maximum sustainable capacity of the present canal, given some relatively minor improvement work, is estimated at between 330 and 340 million PC/UMS tons per year; it is anticipated that this capacity will be reached between 2009 and 2012. Close to 50% of transiting vessels are already using the full width of the locks.

An enlargement scheme similar to the 1939 Third Lock Scheme, to allow for a greater number of transits and the ability to handle larger ships, has been under consideration for some time, has been approved by the government of Panama, and is in progress, with completion expected in 2014. The cost is estimated at US$5.25 billion, and the project will double the canal's capacity and allow more traffic and the passage of longer and wider ships. This proposal to expand the canal was approved in a national referendum
Panama Canal expansion referendum, 2006
The Panama Canal expansion referendum was held on October 22, 2006, when the citizens of Panama approved the Panama Canal expansion project by a wide margin.-Constitutional background:...

 by approximately 80% on October 22, 2006.

Third set of locks project

The current plan is for two new flights of locks to be built parallel to, and operated in addition to, the old locks: one to the east of the existing Gatún locks, and one south west of Miraflores locks, each supported by approach channels. Each flight will ascend from ocean level direct to the Gatún Lake level; the existing two-stage ascent at Miraflores / Pedro Miguel will not be replicated. The new lock chambers will feature sliding gates, doubled for safety, and will be 427 meters (1,400 ft) long, 55 meters (180 ft) wide, and 18.3 meters (60 ft) deep; this will allow the transit of vessels with a beam of up to 49 meters (160 ft), an overall length of up to 366 meters (1,200 ft) and a draft of up to 15 meters (50 ft), equivalent to a container ship carrying around 12,000 twenty-foot (6.1 m) long containers (TEU).

The new locks will be supported by new approach channels, including a 6.2 km (3.9 mi) channel at Miraflores from the locks to the Gaillard Cut, skirting around Miraflores Lake. Each of these channels will be 218 meters (715 ft) wide, which will require post-Panamax vessels to navigate the channels in one direction at a time. The Gaillard Cut and the channel through Gatún Lake will be widened to no less than 280 meters (918 ft) on the straight portions and no less than 366 meters (1,200 ft) on the bends. The maximum level of Gatún Lake will be raised from reference height 26.7 meters (87.5 ft) to 27.1 meters (89 ft).

Each flight of locks will be accompanied by nine water reutilization basins (three per lock chamber), each basin being approximately 70 meters (230 ft) wide, 430 meters (1410 ft) long and 5.50 meters (18 ft) deep. These gravity-fed basins will allow 60% of the water used in each transit to be reused; the new locks will consequently use 7% less water per transit than each of the existing lock lanes. The deepening of Gatún Lake, and the raising of its maximum water level, will also provide significant extra water storage capacity. These measures are intended to allow the expanded canal to operate without the construction of new reservoirs.

The estimated cost of the project is US$5.25 billion. The project is designed to allow for an anticipated growth in traffic from 280 million PC/UMS tons in 2005 to nearly 510 million PC/UMS tons in 2025; the expanded canal will have a maximum sustainable capacity of approximately 600 million PC/UMS tons per year. Tolls will continue to be calculated based on vessel tonnage, and will not depend on the locks used.

The new locks are expected to open for traffic in 2015. The present locks, which will be 100 years old by that time, will then have greater access for maintenance, and are projected to continue operating indefinitely. An article in the February 2007 issue of Popular Mechanics magazine describes the plans for the canal, focusing on the engineering aspects of the expansion project. There is also a follow-up article in the February 2010 issue of Popular Mechanics magazine.

On September 3, 2007, thousands of Panamanians stood across Paraíso
Paraíso
Paraíso, the Spanish and Portuguese word for paradise, or paraiso, the Tagalog equivalent, may refer to:-Places:Belize*Paraiso, Belize; see Districts of BelizeBrazil*Paraíso, Santa Catarina*Paraíso, São PauloCosta Rica*Paraíso, Costa Rica...

 Hill in Panama to witness a huge explosion
Explosion
An explosion is a rapid increase in volume and release of energy in an extreme manner, usually with the generation of high temperatures and the release of gases. An explosion creates a shock wave. If the shock wave is a supersonic detonation, then the source of the blast is called a "high explosive"...

 and the launch of the Expansion Program. The first phase of the project will be dry excavations of the 218 meter (715 ft) wide trench
Trench
A trench is a type of excavation or depression in the ground. Trenches are generally defined by being deeper than they are wide , and by being narrow compared to their length ....

 connecting the Culebra Cut with the Pacific coast
Pacific Coast
A country's Pacific coast is the part of its coast bordering the Pacific Ocean.-The Americas:Countries on the western side of the Americas have a Pacific coast as their western border.* Geography of Canada* Geography of Chile* Geography of Colombia...

, removing 47 million cubic meters of earth and rock.

Building the new canal

It was announced in July 2009 that the Belgian
Belgium
Belgium , officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a federal state in Western Europe. It is a founding member of the European Union and hosts the EU's headquarters, and those of several other major international organisations such as NATO.Belgium is also a member of, or affiliated to, many...

 dredging company Jan De Nul
Jan De Nul
Jan De Nul Group is a family-owned Belgian company, with the financial headquarters in Luxembourg, that provides services relating to the construction and maintenance of maritime infrastructure on an international basis. Its main focus is dredging , which accounts for 85% of the turnover...

, together with a consortium of contractors consisting of the Spanish
Spain
Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...

 Sacyr Vallehermoso, the Italian
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

 Impregilo and the Panamanian company Cusa, had been awarded the contract to build the six new locks. The contract will result in $100 million in dredging works over the next few years for the company, and a great deal of work for the company's construction division. The design of the locks is a carbon copy of the Berendrecht lock which is 68m wide and 500m long, making it the largest lock in the world. Completed in 1989 by the Port of Antwerp
Port of Antwerp
The port of Antwerp, in Belgium, is a port in the heart of Europe accessible to capesize ships. Antwerp stands at the upper end of the tidal estuary of the Scheldt. The estuary is navigable by ships of more than 100,000 Gross Tons as far as 80 km inland. The inland location means that the port...

, which De Nul helped build, the company still has engineers and specialists who were part of that project.

Rival Colombia rail link

China is looking into constructing a 220 km railway between Colombia's Pacific and Caribbean coasts.

Canal Pilots

During the last one hundred years, the Autoridad del Canal de Panamá has appointed a few "Panama Canal Honorary Pilots". The most recent of these were Commodore Ronald Warwick, a former Master
Captain (nautical)
A sea captain is a licensed mariner in ultimate command of the vessel. The captain is responsible for its safe and efficient operation, including cargo operations, navigation, crew management and ensuring that the vessel complies with local and international laws, as well as company and flag...

 of the Cunard Line
Cunard Line
Cunard Line is a British-American owned shipping company based at Carnival House in Southampton, England and operated by Carnival UK. It has been a leading operator of passenger ships on the North Atlantic for over a century...

's RMS Queen Mary 2
RMS Queen Mary 2
RMS Queen Mary 2 is a transatlantic ocean liner. She was the first major ocean liner built since in 1969, the vessel she succeeded as flagship of the Cunard Line....

, who has traversed the Canal more than 50 times, and Captain Raffaele Minotauro, Master Senior Grade, of the former Italian governmental navigation company known in the shipping world as the "Italian Line
Italian Line
The Italian Line or Italia Line, also known as the Italia di Navigazione S.p.A., was a passenger shipping line that operated regular transatlantic services between Italy and the United States, and Italy and South America...

.

Gatun Lake

Created in 1913 by the damming of the Charges River, Gatun Lake
Gatun Lake
Gatun Lake is a large artificial lake situated in the Republic of Panama; it forms a major part of the Panama Canal, carrying ships for of their transit across the Isthmus of Panama....

 is an essential part of the Panama Canal which forms a water passage between the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean, permitting ship transit in both directions. At the time it was formed Gatun Lake was the largest man-made lake in the world. The impassable rain-forest around Gatun Lake has been the best defense of the Panama Canal. Today these areas have endured practically unscathed by human interference and are one of the few accessible areas on earth that various native Central American animal and plant species can be observed undisturbed in their natural habitat. World famous Barro Colorado Island, which was established for scientific study when the lake was formed and is today operated by the Smithsonian Institution, is the largest island on Gatun Lake. Many of the most important ground breaking scientific and biological discoveries of the tropical animal and plant kingdom originated here. Lake Gatun encompasses approximately 180 square miles (466.2 km²), a vast tropical ecological zone part of the Atlantic Forest Corridor and Eco-tourism on Gatun Lake has become a worthwhile industry for Panamanians.

Gatun Lake also serves to provide the millions of gallons of water necessary to operate the Panama Canal locks each time a ship passes through and provides drinking water for Panama City and Colon. Angling is one of the primary recreational pursuits on Gatun Lake. It is suspected that the Cichla Pleiozona species of Peacock Bass was introduced by accident to Gatun Lake by a renowned Panamanian aquarist and doctor in 1958. Locally called Sargento these peacock bass are not a native game fish of Panama but originate from the Amazon, Rio Negro and Orinoco river basins of South America where they are called Tucanare or Pavon and are considered a premier game fish. Since 1958 the Cichla Pleiozona species of Peacock Bass have flourished to become the dominant angling game fish in Gatun Lake.

See also

  • Canal Zone Police
    Canal Zone Police
    The Canal Zone Police was a force that consisted of more than 400 police officers of all ranks split into two Divisions, Atlantic and Pacific, and between about 25 stations...

  • Cost overrun
    Cost overrun
    A cost overrun, also known as a cost increase or budget overrun, is an unexpected cost incurred in excess of a budgeted amount due to an under-estimation of the actual cost during budgeting...

  • Isthmus of Tehuantepec
    Isthmus of Tehuantepec
    The Isthmus of Tehuantepec is an isthmus in Mexico. It represents the shortest distance between the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific Ocean, and prior to the opening of the Panama Canal was a major shipping route known simply as the Tehuantepec Route...

     Tehuantepec Route
  • List of waterways
  • Nicaragua Canal
    Nicaragua Canal
    The Inter-Oceanic Nicaragua Canal was a proposed waterway through Nicaragua to connect the Caribbean Sea and Atlantic Ocean with the Pacific Ocean...

  • Strait of Magellan
    Strait of Magellan
    The Strait of Magellan comprises a navigable sea route immediately south of mainland South America and north of Tierra del Fuego...


Further reading

  • Jaen, Omar. (2005). Las Negociaciones de los Tratados Torrijos-Carter, 1970-1979 (Tomos 1 y 2). Panama: Autoridad del Canal de Panama. ISBN 9962-607-32-9 (Obra completa)
  • Jorden, William J. (1984). Panama Odyssey. 746 pages, illustrated. Austin: University of Texas Press
    University of Texas Press
    The University of Texas Press is a university press that is part of the University of Texas at Austin. Established in 1950, the Press publishes scholarly books in several areas, including Latin American studies, Texana, anthropology, U.S...

    . ISBN 0-292764-69-3
  • McCullough, David
    David McCullough
    David Gaub McCullough is an American author, narrator, historian, and lecturer. He is a two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award and a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the United States' highest civilian award....

    . (1977). The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal, 1870-1914
    The Path Between the Seas
    The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal, 1870—1914 is a 1977 book by noted historian David McCullough that details the people and places involved in building the Panama Canal...

    . New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-671-22563-4
  • Maurer, Noel, and Carlos Yu. The Big Ditch: How America Took, Ran, and

Ultimately Gave Away the Panama Canal
(Princeton University Press, 2010); 420 pp. ISBN 978-0-691-14738-3. Econometric analysis of costs ($9 billion in 2009 dollars) and benefits to US and Panama
  • Mellander, Gustavo A.(1971) The United States in Panamanian Politics: The Intriguing Formative Years. Daville,Ill.:Interstate Publishers. OCLC 138568.
  • Mellander, Gustavo A.; Nelly Maldonado Mellander (1999). Charles Edward Magoon: The Panama Years. Río Piedras, Puerto Rico: Editorial Plaza Mayor. ISBN 1563281554. OCLC 42970390.
  • Murillo, Luis E. (1995). The Noriega Mess: The Drugs, the Canal, and Why America Invaded. 1096 pages, illustrated. Berkeley: Video Books. ISBN 0-923444-02-5.
  • Parker, Matthew. (2007). Panama Fever: The Epic Story of One of the Greatest Human Achievements of All Time - The Building of the Panama Canal. New York: Doubleday. ISBN 978-0-385-51534-4
  • Sherman, Gary. "Conquering the Landscape (Gary Sherman explores the life of the great American trailblazer, John Frank Stevens)," History Magazine, July 2008.
  • Cullen, Ben. (2010). The Panama Canal and Me: A Panamax Special. ISBN 9780821277546
  • Mills, J. Saxon. (1913). The Panama Canal -- A history and description of the enterprise A Project Gutenberg free ebook.

External links

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