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Dalama Adventures Tale of two corporate types ditching their jobs and traveling the world for 14 months... check out all photos, blogs & interesting tid bits at http://www.dalama.net

The Panama Canal: An Engineering Marvel

GUATEMALA | Tuesday, 16 October 2007 | Views [1786]

A trip to Panama would not be complete without a trip to see the all important Panama Canal. I was prepared for a boring walk along a fenced off area, viewing big container ships move through a narrow passage way of water.  We were both blown away with what we saw.  Not cheap to enter at $8/per person, there's an incredibly well done museum that shares the history and struggles of building the canal.  From 1879-1904, two different French companies struggled with funding, as well as catastrophic disease and natural disasters that took down the labor force and the project.  In 1904, the US bought the rights to the canal and it took nearly 10 years for it to be completed with a workforce of over 75,000 men and women.  Between the French and US efforts, nearly 22,000 lives were lost to tropical diseases such as yellow fever and malaria, along with environmental disasters such as landslides.  There's a memorial constructed in honor of all those who labored to construct the important canal, and the impact that their work has had on global trade.  The Canal Zone, which was operated by the US since 1914, was turned over to Panama on December 31, 1999.  

The canal is 80K long (50 miles) connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, and it takes 8-10 hours for a ship to transit through.  The engineering complexity of the locks, and chambers used to raise and lower the ships to sea level are mind blowing.  We watched as several huge container ships came through as they were raised and lowered with the water level.  It's said that the system uses over 300 million gallons of water each day.  Not a cheap canal to operate, and it's not a cheap passageway for ships.  The most expensive toll is over $300,000 for passenger cruise liners, and the cheapest journey was back in 1928, for 36 cents - a man named Richard Halliburton swam through the canal!  Panama is moving forward with expansion plans which will allow even larger capacity ships to more through.

We were so impressed with the system, and the way the viewings and tours are done - it was a great experience, probably one of the better museum experiences, and the guides speaking in both English and Spanish commentary as the ships passed through were very entertaining.

Tags: Sightseeing

 

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