The Panama Canal is a 48-mile-long conduit between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, permitting international maritime trade, making Atlantic-to-Pacific shipping much easier, often cutting travel distances in half. The canal began as a French project in 1880 but it was abandoned after a few hard years. The United States launched a second effort in 1904 and constructed the canal over the next decade, completing it in 1914, two years ahead of schedule. It is one of the seven modern wonders of the world, in the company of the Empire State Building and the Golden Gate Bridge.
Since January 1, 2000, the Panamanian government has enjoyed complete control of the Panama Canal, and both the Panama Canal Authority and the Panamanian people are looking towards the future. The Panama Canal expansion project, slated for completion in 2014, will widen the canal from two lanes to three, allowing the massive vessels of today’s commercial shipping industry to pass through the canal for the first time in history.
View this slideshow to see more of this canal’s rich past come alive, from the days of its construction to the present, and learn about how this wonder of engineering really works.