Panama Canal is a ship canal located in Panama, Central America. It connects the Pacific ocean and Atlantic ocean. Here are a few vital stats of the canal:
Length: 82 km.
Avg. transit time: 8 to 10 hours
Average umber of ships traversing the canal : 50 per day
Opened: 15 August, 1914
Cost of construction: 630 million USD
Prior to the construction of the Panama Canal, ships had to traverse along the entire coast of South America to cross into the pacific ocean from the Atlantic ocean. This included the hazardous Cape Horn route near the southernmost tip of South America via the Strait of Magellan.In order to reduce the passage and make it safer, the French first undertook the construction of a sea level canal in 1881. But they had to abandon it shortly afterwords due to disease and problems in construction work.
In 1904, the U.S. took over the project and completed it in 1914. They introduced the concept of locks and gates. By constructing two dams on the Chagres river, Gattun dam and the Madden dam, a reservoir was created. This reservoir known as Gattun lake is around 85 m above the sea level (of Atlantic ocean). Locks are used to raise and lower the ships in order to enable them travel through the Gattun lake. The lake also consists of a narrow passage known as the Gaillard cut which passes beneath the Centennial bridge. This passage was the most difficult part of the construction and its completion is indeed a true marvel.
The ownership of the Panama canal was held by the U.S till 1977. Following a period of joint Panamanian-American control, it is now owned and managed by Panama Canal Authority, a Panama Government Agency. Around 12000 ships traversed through the canal in 2014.