Panama Canal Facts for Kids
The Panama Canal officially opened on August 15, 1914 and is the American-built waterway that spans the Isthmus of Panama connecting the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. The Panama Canal is so large that it covers almost 50 miles and is known to be a shortcut for ships. Once the completion of the Panama Canal took place, it was possible for a ship sailing between New York and California to take more than 8,000 miles off the traditional journey. This made travel for ships going between New York and California so much easier and shorter.
The Panama Canal actually was built using high levels of technology during the time period. It uses a system of locks to left ships more than 90 feet above sea level. When the construction of the Panama Canal took place it was known as the biggest engineering project ever before. Here are some of the most interesting facts regarding the Panama Canal.
1. Idea for the Canal
Even though the Panama Canal was not completed until 1914 the actual idea for the canal actually can be dated back to the 16th century. A Spanish explorer named Vasco Nunez de Balboa was the first person to ever discover that the Isthmus of Panama was simply a tiny land bridge that separated the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. After this discovery, Charles V ordered for a survey to take place to see if a natural waterway could be built to link the two. At this time, it was believed to have been impossible.
2. Nicaragua Canal
Instead of building the Panama Canal many wanted to build the canal in Nicaragua. Linking the Atlantic and Pacific oceans seemed more feasible for economic and military reasons in Nicaragua instead of Panama. However, this desire to build the canal in Nicaragua quickly changed due in large part to the efforts of Philippe-Jean Bunau-Varilla. He was an engineer that lobbied American lawmakers to construct the canal in Panama.
3. Dangerous Construction
The construction of the Panama Canal was such a large undertaking due to the dangers that it presented to workers. More than 25,000 workers died during the construction of the Panama Canal. Those workers that built the canal had to deal with rainfall, tropical disease, challenging terrain and many other obstacles that made work on the canal more than dangerous. More than 20,000 of the workers that died during the construction were French.