Wednesday, 10 October 2012

On this Day: 10th October 1913, President Woodrow Wilson completes the Panama Canal

At 82-kilometre (51 mi) the Panama Canal is a major shipping canal which connects the Atlantic Ocean (via the Caribbean Sea) to the Pacific Ocean.

Whilst work continued until 1914, the final barrier in the construction, the dike at Gamboa, was demolished on the 10th October 1913 with the initial detonation set off telegraphically by President Woodrow Wilson in Washington. The completion marked 401 years since Vasco Núñez de Balboa first crossed Panama.

Work on the canal, had begun in 1881, and was one of the largest and most difficult engineering projects ever undertaken. During the construction engineers excavated over 152,910,972 m3 of earth; built the world's largest (then) dam and a lake; poured about 1,529,110 m3 of concrete creating a spillway at Gatun Lake to control its height. The United States spent almost $375,000,000 (roughly equivalent to $8,600,000,000 today). But success came at a heavy price, 5,600 workers died during the final phase (1904–14), bringing the total death toll for the construction of the canal to around 27,500.

The canal was formally opened on August 15, 1914, with the passage of the cargo ship SS Ancon.

Image courtesy of The Field Museum Library under The Commons agreement on Flickr.


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