The Panama Canal


Andrew Payti

The locks at the Panama Canal

The Panama Canal is fifty miles long and connects the Pacific Ocean with the Caribbean Sea (Atlantic Ocean). The first ship traversed the canal in 1914 after seven years of construction. Much has been written about the construction of the canal. Thousands of workers died from diseases such as malaria, yellow fever, bubonic plague, beriberi, and typhoid. In spite of these horrors, the canal turned out to be an amazing and innovative piece of engineering. Improvements are continuing to this day, such as adding wider, longer locks to enable even larger container vessels and tankers to pass through the canal.

An interesting fact: The Atlantic Ocean is, of course, east of the Pacific Ocean. Yet because of the slant of the Isthmus of Panama, the entrance to the canal on the Caribbean (Atlantic) side is west of the entrance on the Pacific side! Ships on the canal going from the Atlantic to the Pacific travel southeast, while ships going from the Pacific to the Atlantic travel northwest. Look at a map and you will see this for yourself!



Share What You Know:

Can you name any famous canals in the United States or other countries? How do you think they compare with the Panama Canal? Have you ever traveled on a canal or gone through a lock? If so, share your experience with the class.