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Facts on the Panama Canal

Woodrow Wilson

Facts on the Panama Canal: Woodrow Wilson was the 28th American President who served in office from March 4, 1913 to March 4, 1921. One of the important events during his presidency was the opening of the Panama Canal.

Definition and Summary of the Facts on the Panama Canal
Summary and definition:
The Panama Canal provides a crucial waterway for international marine transportation and trade. It is regarded as one of the greatest engineering achievements of the 20th century and one of the "Seven Wonders of the Modern World".

After it was was built, ships no longer had to sail through the Strait of Magellan or around hazardous Cape Horn. This impressive artificial waterway is 50 miles long (80km) and (70 meters) wide.  President Woodrow Wilson officially opened the Panama Canal in 1920.

Panama Canal Facts for kids: Fast Fact Sheet
Fast, fun facts and Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ's) about the Panama Canal.

What is the Panama Canal? The Panama Canal is about 80km (50 miles) long waterway that links the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans across the Isthmus of Panama, that connects Central America and South America.

Why is the Panama Canal important? The Panama Canal is important because the canal made the trip  between the east and
west coasts of North America about 9,200 miles (14,800 kilometers) shorter. Before the canal was built ships had to go all the way around South America.

When was the Panama Canal built? The first attempt to build the Canal was made by the French, but the attempt ended in failure in 1889. The US bought out the French for $40 million and built the Panama Canal in ten years starting in 1904 and completed in 1914.

Panama Canal Facts for kids: How does the Panama Canal work?
How does the Panama Canal work? The land is slightly above the mean sea level, which creates the need to lift the vessel. To facilitate the lifting and dropping of a ship a series of locks and lock gates are provided. The passage from the Atlantic Ocean begins as the vessel via the port of Cristobal and enters the canal where it is boarded by a pilot.

The canal has three sets of locks, built in pairs, which raise and lower ships from one level to another.

The Gatun Locks are like giant steps to concrete chambers that lift ships from the sea to Gatun Lake.

Small electric locomotives, called mulas,  run on rails along both sides of the locks and towing cables are tied to the ship.

The electric mulas help to stabilize, position and guide the ship in the locks. The mulas pull the ship, into the first chamber and Massive steel gates close behind the ship.

Valves are opened to allow water from Gatun Lake to flow into the lock and the rising water slowly raises the vessel in the first chamber

When the water level is the same in the first and second chambers, the steel gates towards the front of the ship swing outward and the locomotives help to pull the vessel into the second chamber.

The whole process is repeated until the third chamber raises the ship to the level of Gatun Lake. When the vessel reaches Gatun Lake, the towing cables are released and the ship continues for 23 miles across the lake to the Culebra Cut (formerly known as the Gaillard Cut)

The ship moves on to the Pedro Miguel locks, where it has one step, lowering the ship down.

The vessel then travels across the Miraflores Lake, and enters the Miraflores locks which lowers the ship by two steps, thus reaching the Pacific Ocean.

Facts about Facts on the Panama Canal
The following fact sheet contains interesting facts and information on Facts on the Panama Canal.

The electric locomotives, known as mulas (meaning mules which were traditionally used to cross the Isthmus of Panama)

The first European to reach the Pacific and envision such a waterway was Vasco Nunez de Balboa (c. 1475 – 1519) as he crossed the Isthmus of Panama from the Atlantic to the Pacific

The Canal stretches from Limon Bay on the Atlantic Ocean in a northwest to southeast direction to the Bay of Panama on the Pacific Ocean as shown on the map. The construction involved 3 major engineering projects. The Gaillard Cut had to be excavated. A dam across the Chagres River had to be built to create Gatun Lakefrom the waters of the Chagres River. The locks (water filled chambers) had to be constructed.

U.S. President Woodrow Wilson officially opened the Panama Canal in 1920

The two ports at each end of the waterway are Cristobal (on the Caribbean sea) and Balboa (on the Pacific Ocean).

How long is the Panama Canal? It is 50 miles long from deep water in the Atlantic to deep water in the Pacific.

How wide is the Panama Canal? It is about 200 feet (70 meters) in width. The depth (not including Gatun lake), is about 65 feet (20 meters)

Each lock chamber is 110 feet wide and 1,000 feet long. Each door of the locks weights 750 tons.

The Gatun dam is nearly a half mile wide at the base, sloping to a 100 feet width at the crest (105 feet above sea level) or 20 feet above the normal level for the Lake.

The Gaillard Cut is 8 miles long and was carved through rock and shale

A toll must be paid to cross the waterway. This toll is based on the ship's cargo space. If it is a military ship the toll is based on the weight of the vessel.

The advertising slogan is "The Land Divided, the World United."

The first ship to make the first complete trip through the waterway was the Panama Railroad Company's S.S. Ancon sailing from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean.

Most of its traffic moves between the east coast of the United States and the Far East, while movements between Europe and the west coast of the United States and Canada provide the second major trade route at the waterway.

The Unites States tops the usage of Panama Canal, followed by China, Japan, Chile and North Korea.

Ships traveling between New York and San Francisco save 7,872 miles by using the Panama Canal instead of going around Cape Horn.

Since the canal was first completed in 1914, the annual ship traffic has increased from 1,000 to over 18,000 per year.

The names of the engineers who supervised the work were John F. Stevens (1905–1907) and Lieutenant Colonel George W. Goethels (1907–1914)

The Norwegian Pearl cruise ship paid $375,000 to use the canal in 2010. Cruise liners pay $120 per berth

The smallest toll of $0.36 was paid in 1928 by Richard Halliburton to swim the canal as his weight was only 150 pounds.

The water that accumulates in the man-made lakes is produced from huge amounts of rainfall.

The 751 ft. San Juan Prospector was the longest ship to transit the waterway

The canal generates fully one-third of Panama’s entire economy.

At the time of it's construction, Gatun Lake was the largest artificial lake in the world.

There are no pumps on the canals. Valves allow water to pass from the higher elevations to the lower ones by power of gravity.

Construction of the P.C. required 61 million lb. of dynamite.

More than four and half million cubic yards of concrete went in to the construction of the locks and dams.

The locks of Panama Canal are built in pairs allowing two ships to transit the waterway simultaneously, either in the same or different directions.

Since the Canal was first opened on August 15, 1914, the waterway has provided a transit service to nearly one million vessels

The Panama Canal has listed 11 marine safety measures in the form of codes which are in operation since the 2009.

The U.S. formally handed over control of the P.C. on December 31, 1999

Cargo through the Panama Canal is estimated to grow 3% per year for the next
20 years.

Because of its unique 'S shape', Panama is the only place in the world you can see the sun rise from the Pacific and set in the Atlantic. You can swim in the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean in the same day.

It has been closed only twice in its history - the first time was in 1915 due to a landslide and second time was on 20th December 1989, when the USA invaded Panama.

Panamanians approved a plan to expand the waterway in 2006 which is likely double the canal's capacity

US American History
1913-1928: WW1 & Prohibition

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Updated 2018-01-01

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