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Essay/Term paper: The panama canal

Essay, term paper, research paper:  World History

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The Panama Canal


The canal is joining the atlantic and pacific oceans. It runs from
Cristobal on lemon bay, a part of the Caribbean sea, to Balboa, on the Gulf of
Panama. The canal is slightly more than 64 km long, not including the dredged
approach channels at either end. The minimum depth is 12.5 m, and the minimum
width is 91.5 m. The construction of the canal ranks as one of the greatest
engineering works of all time.

In history people had interest in a shorter route from the Atlantic to
Pacific. This began with the explorers of Central America early in the 16th
century. Hernan Cortez was a spanish conqeror of mexico who suggested a canal
across the Isthmus of Tehuantepec. Other explorers had favored routes through
Nicaragua and Darien. The 1 st for a canal through the Panama was started by
Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, Who in 1523 ordered a survey of the isthmus. A
working plan for the canal was drawn up as early as 1529, but was shown to the
king. In 1534 a spanish offical suggested a canal route close to that of the
present canal. Later more of the canal plans were suggested but no action was
taken upon any of these plans suggested.

Later on there is more in the canal. The Spanish goverment abandoned
its interest in the canal but in the early 19 th century the books of the
Germam scientist Alexander von Humboldt brang back the interest in the project
of the canal, and in 1819the Spanish goverment formally athorized the
construction of a canal and the creation of a company to build it. Nothing
came of this effort, however, and the revolt of the spanish colonies soon took
control of possible canal sites out of spanish hands . The republics of
Central America tried to interest groups in the United States and Europe in
building a canal, and it became a subject of perennial debate in the congress
of the United States. The discovery of gold in California in 1848 and the rush
of would-be miners started the United States interest in digging the canal.
Various surveys made between 1850 and 1875 indicated that only two routes were
practical, the one across Panama and that across Nicargua. In 1876 an
international company was organized. Two years later it obtained a consession
from the Colombian goverment. Panama was then part of Colombia to dig a canal
across the isthmus.

The United States involvement was the international company failed, and
in 1880 a French company was organized by Ferdinand Marie de Lesseps, the
builder of the Suez Canal. His company went bankrupt in 1889. United States
interest in a Atlantic-Pacific canal however continued. In 1899 the United
States congress created an Isthmian Canal comission to examine the
possibilities of a Central American canal and to recommend a route. The
commission decided on the Nicaragua route, but reversed its decission in 1902
when the reorganization Lesseps company offered its assets to the United States
at the price of $ 40 million. The united States goverment negotiated with the
Colombian goverment to obtain a strip of land 9.5 km wide across the isthmus,
but the Colombian Senate refused to ratify this consession. In 1903 , however ,
Panama revolted from Colombia. That same year the United States and the new
state of Panama signed the Hay - Bunau - Varilla Treaty by which the United
States guaranteed the independance of Panama and secured a perpetual lease on a
16 - km strip for the canal. Panama was to be compensated by an initial
payment of $ 10 million and an annuity of $ 250 , 000 , beginning in 1913 .
The figure was later revised upward in 1936 to $ 430 , 000 , and in 1955 to $ 2
million per year.

The construction of the canal in 1905 the Isthmus Canal Commission
decided to build a canal with locks rather than a sea level channel , and this
plan was approved by the United States Congress the following year . President
Theodore Roosevelt put the construction work under the direction of the United
States Army Corps of Engineers . Colonel George W . Goethalls was named to
head the project .

It was estamated that the canal would be completed in ten years ,
however , it was in operation in the summer of 1914 . The construction
involved not only excavating an estamated 143 million cu m of earth , but also
sanitizing the entire canal area , Which was infested with mosquitos that spread
yellow fever and malaria . The sanatation was under taken by Clonel William C .
Gorgas of the United States Army Medical Corps , who almost eliminated the
dissease . An unexpected difficulty in the actual construction was the
prevailence of slides of earth from the banks of the canal , partially in the
Gaillard cut . REexcavating after these such slides added about 25 % to the
estamated amount of earth moved . The final cost of the canal was $ 336
million .

In 1977 the United States and Panama agreed on two treaties to replace
their 1903 agreement . These treadies provided for Panama's sovereignty over
the canal zone shortly after their ratification and it control of the canal
itself at the beginning of 2000 , but left the United States the right to defend
the canal even thereafter . The treaties took affect in 1979 .

 

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