What is an isthmus?Panama is an isthmus. An isthmus is anarrow strip of land which has water oneach side and connects two larger bodiesof land.
What is a canal?An area of water that is dug acrossland. Canals connect bodies of waterso that ships can travel betweenthem.
Early History• 1513--Vasco Nunez de Balboa crosses the isthmus of Panama and becomes the first European to see the Pacific Ocean• 1524--Spanish explorer Hernan Cortes suggests that a path across the isthmus of Panama would be a great idea• 1534--The King of Spain wants to build a canal through Panama. – Although these people knew how wonderful it would be to create this, they didn’t have the ability to do it.
The 1800s1835-- France is given a permit to build a canal across Panama. However, first they have to come up with a plan to build the canal.1881-- They finally start.
Building the Canal The next few pictures showwhat the area looked like whenthe French started building the canal. What challenges do you think they faced building a canal in this type of area?
After looking at these pictures, whatdo you think would be the challenges of trying to build a canal through a tropical jungle and mountains?
The French Give Up• 1881--A French company begins construction on the canal.• 1890--After eight years France gives up on the project. – Over 20,000 construction workers died working on the project for France – The company trying to build the canal goes bankrupt.
The United States • 1904 The United States begins working on the Canal. • 1914 The canal is completed. • 1977 The United States signs a treaty with Panama and agrees to give Panama control of the canal in 1999.
Why was it so important to build a canal?• It is 1904. Theodore Roosevelt is president, and the United States is fast becoming one of the most powerful nations in the world. Such recent inventions as the telephone and the automobile make the 3,000 mile-wide country seem a lot smaller.
Imagine you are living on the East Coast.Your family is in the clothing business andwants to sell clothes to new stores in SanFrancisco. Of course, the clothes can’tbe loaded on a plane-there arent anyplanes, and trains are expensive forshipping goods.
So your family decides to sendthe clothes by ship around the tipof South America. The trip caneasily take two months, and manyships are destroyed by terriblestorms.
But, what if a canal were built where the landbetween North America and South America isnarrowest-across Panama? That could shorten thetrip by nearly 8,000 miles!
That’s just what PresidentTheodore (Teddy) Roosevelt isdetermined to do. He wants tobuild a canal across Panama tohelp families like yours expandtheir trade. He knows that thecanal will also help the UnitedStates defend itself. With thecanal, the United States couldquickly move its warships fromone ocean to the other if theywere needed to protect UnitedStates interests.
So the United States is ready to do what seemed impossible-to join the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans!But a major decision had to be made. Should the canal be built at sea level like the Suez Canal?Or should it follow the natural rise of the land? This would mean building locks (enclosed chambers with gates at each end) to raise and lower ships as they pass through the canal. Locks this big had never been made before. The decision was made in favor of having locks. Now they just had to figure out how to build them.
What are locks?A lock is a part of a canal with gatesat each end where boats are raised orlowered to different water levels.
How do locks work?The ship goes through a set of gates into alock chamber. The water in the chamber isstill at sea level. Then more water comespouring into the chamber through valves.The ship rises like a toy boat in a bathtubfilling with water. When the water rises highenough, the ship passes through a second setof gates and enters a small lake. It goes tothe next lock and the water is raised again.
Click this link to see how a lock works• How a lock works• http://www.pancanal.com/eng/general/howitworks/index.html
Here is one of the mapsused when making the canal.
Challenges of Building the canalJust like when theFrench had tried tobuild the canal, thebuilders of the canalhad to figure out howto cut a 51 mile paththrough a tropicaljungle and an area ofmountains!
Working ConditionsImagine working on the Panama Canal.By noon the temperature is about 100degrees. It’s humid-so humid thatafter it rains steam rises from theground and your clothes becomesoaking wet. There is no shade, noair-conditioning, and no place to getcool.
Working ConditionsThe average yearly rainfall is about80 inches. Flooding makes theground like pudding, and you can sinkup to your knees in mud. Tropicaldiseases, such as yellow fever andmalaria are spread easily bymosquitoes.
Working ConditionsA tropical jungle may be a fascinatingplace for scientists to work, but forworkers trying to build a canal, it’s anightmare. Imagine trying to dig outtons of dirt in a jungle like this. Andthere was no insect repellent to keepthe bugs from biting.
Working conditionsAs one worker said, “There was noshelter from the sun or the rain.There were no trees, and when thesun shines, you get it. When the rainfalls you get it.”
The building of the canal Photo courtesy of: www.canalmuseum.com
1914 The Canal Opens Image Courtesy of: http://www.canalmuseum.com/photos/panamacanalphoto042.htm
The Panama Canal TodayToday the canal is a busy place. Ships getstuck in traffic jams because there are somany of them and often have to wait in linefor up to 20 hours just to get up to thecanal! Then the trip through the canaltakes another eight hours!
The Panama Canal is an importantlandmark and is considered by someto be the 8th Wonder of the World.