Panama Canal

I just finished watching a NOVA show on the Panama canal.  It was very fascinating.  A few things of interest:

  • A private corporation in France started building the canal in 1881, but collapsed.  It was the biggest financial collapse up to that point in time.
  • Approximately 22,000 people died while working there for the French corporation–primarily from malaria.
  • Malaria was thought to come from the mist in the area and from rotting vegetation.  Doctors advised people not to breath the night air to avoid getting sick.
  • The hospital during the French effort protected their lawn plants with a ring of water–which of course was a perfect mosquito breeding pool.
  • When the US efforts started in 1904, there was a much better understanding of malaria and the disease was pretty much eradicated from the area.
  • The locks don’t operate using gravity so pumps are not needed in their operation.
  • The rainforests in the area fill a large lake that covers most of the distance between the two coasts.  The locks have to raise and lower the ships to the level of this lake.
  • Moving a ship through the Panama Canal requires the release of around 52 million gallons of water from the lake to the ocean. This lake is replenished by the rain forest drainage.

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