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The History of the Panama Canal

Satisfactory Essays
The History of the Panama Canal

The Panama Canal has been called the big ditch, the bridge between two continents, and the greatest shortcut in the world. When it was finally finished in 1914, the 51-mile waterway cut off over 7,900 miles of the distance between New York and San Francisco, and changed the face of the industrialized world ("Panama Canal"). This Canal is not the longest, the widest, the deepest, or the oldest canal in the world, but it is the only canal to connect two oceans, and still today is the greatest man-made waterway in the world ("Panama Canal Connects).

Ferdinand de Lesseps, who played a large role in building the Suez Canal in 1869 (Jones), was the director of the Compagnie Universelle Du Canal Interoceanique de Panama ("Historical Overview"). At first De Lesseps seemed to be "the perfect choice for the Panama task." Though as time went on De Lesseps was found to be "anything but the ideal" (Dolan). As soon as de Lesseps' company took over the canal it was doomed (Jones). De Lesseps was a 74-year-old man who was stubborn, vain, and very opinionated (Considine). Because of his experience with the Suez waterway, De Lesseps thought he was smarter than all the engineers beneath his command (Dolan). De Lesseps overrode all opposition of his sea-level canal due to his very popular reputation. He was sold on the idea of a sea-level canal and would not listen to the ideas of others such as French engineer, Adolphe Godin de Lepinary. De Lepinary's idea was to create two large lakes on either side of the mountains. In order to do this they would have to dam the Chagres River on the Atlantic side and the Rio Grande River on the pacific side (Considine).

Although as time went on more than just a poor director held back the finalization of the canal.

Disease, death, and rough terrain slowed down the completion of the canal. "The Terrain at the Isthmus was something they had never experienced and had not put a serious study of it, a very grave error" ("Panama Canal Connects"). Mosquitoes were responsible for many deaths. Illnesses such as yellow fever and malaria made "many of the work forces go to the hospitals or in some cases die" ("Panama Canal"). Mosquitoes carried the diseases and when a person got bit he would give a disease to the mosquito and the mosquito would pass it on to the next victim ("Historical Overview").
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