Panama Canal ~ Waterway of Wonder

June 7 – Sept 21, 2019

Panama Canal ~ Waterway of Wonder in the Museum’s Hall Gallery charts the history of the famous canal and includes original photographs from 1919.

History of the Panama Canal

The Panama Canal started all from an idea in which the US and Great Britain wanted to be able to ship goods more quickly as well as cheaply between the Atlantic and Pacific Coasts. In 1850 America and England made a treaty to end the rivalry of who builds a canal first, but the idea for a canal never even left the planning stages. The French had tried to build a canal through Egypt as well during 1880. They progressed further than the US and Britain’s attempt did. However, many of the French workers got sick from tropical diseases like malaria and yellow fever to name a few. After 9 years the French excavation team lost 20,000 men and ultimately went bankrupt, thus ending their attempt of building a canal. The U.S interest in wanting a canal was reignited in 1901. A treaty called the “Hay-Pauncefote treaty” licensed the U.S to build and manage its own canal. The U.S wanted to build a canal through Panama, but the financial terms were unacceptable for Columbia’s congress. President Roosevelt responded by sending in warships to help Panama win its independence. Once they were able to declare their independence, a new treaty was formed. This new treaty provided the United States a 10-mile strip of land for the canal for a one-time payment of 10 million dollars to Panama and an annual annuity of 250,000.

Locks of the Panama Canal

The original lock plan for he Panama Canal was three set of locks. One at Gatun, one at Pedro Miguel, and a two-step set at Miraflores. Later on, in 1907 the locks were moved further inland from Miraflores because there was better foundation for construction, and it had better protection against sea bombardment. The locks also took their names from geographic names. All lock chambers have the same 110 by 1,000 feet dimensions, and they are built in pairs. The locks of the Panama Canal are basically compartments, with entrance and exit gates. Since the Atlantic sea level is different than the Pacific sea level, the locks are used to help the ships sail through the canal with ease throughout the changing sea levels. As the water levels rise at the entrance (Gatun Locks) the ships are raised above sea level, so they are the same level as Gatun Lake. Once the ship gets to the Pedro Miguel locks, it is lowered one step to the level of the Miraflores lake. When the ships reach the Miraflores locks the vessel is lowered two steps to the level of the Pacific Ocean.

Significance of the Panama Canal

The Panama Canal is significant because it allows a route for ships to travel across to get from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean more quickly. The canal allows ships to ship their goods more quickly which saves them time and money and in turn lowers the consumer prices for us. The canal itself help trading throughout the world much easier. The canal not only boosts its own countries economy with the use of the railroad, but it also helps boosts the world economy.

Work cited:

Dasgupta, Soumuajit.  “How the Water Locks of Panama Canal Work?”
Marine Insight, 16 April 2019. 
U.S. Department of State, Office of Historian, Milestones: 1899-1913