*Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Though first begun in 1881, workers on the Panama Canal – one of the world’s most important waterways – did not begin laying concrete until August 24, 1909. After more than five years and countless loads of dirt, the canal reached an important milestone when the heavily-fortified walls began taking shape. It would take another five years of work, but the shortcut across Central America between the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific Ocean would open for business on August 15, 1914.
Mentioned as an idea to help link trade between the oceans as early as 1534, the canal received serious consideration in 1855 when William Kennish, an English engineer employed by the United States, laid out a plan for the route published in The Practicality and Importance of a Ship Canal to Connect the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Once the French completed the Suez Canal in 1869, the concept gained steam as a commercial imperative.
Predictably, Ferdinand de Lesseps, builder of the Suez, arrived to begin the work in 1880. Backed by significant funding from Paris, he dove into the effort without much consideration for the differing conditions in Central America compared to the environment in the Middle East. The rugged terrain made his design for a sea-level canal nearly impossible, a fact compounded by heavy rains and the severity of malaria infections suffered by the construction crew – some 22,000 died. Out of money by 1889, the effort was abandoned and buyers sought at the price of $109 million. …(Read more)