The Reason for the Season: Panama Canal
Panama is a unique country consisting of a few tremendous natural occurrences that led to the building of the Panama Canal. The Panama Canal can easily be described as one of the most crucial maritime operation sites in the entire world. The Panama Canal creates an easy access channel that navigates ships through the North and Southern American continents, instead of around them. This engineering marvel has drastically changed how shipping was conducted prior to its completion. Voyages to and fro from the Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean usually consisted of a few months time, now this task only take a few hours. The Panama Canal has been considered a major topic in foreign affairs conduct, as well as, conduct issues concerning working conditions. Three countries have had their own plans for the canal, and now Panama, the little guy, is now in possession of the most historical and economical asset in its countries history. This paper will discuss the history behind the first development of the canal, the United States acquisition, construction, and completion of the canal. Lastly discussing the handing over of control of the canal. Most importantly, the Panama Canal was a crucial asset for United States during the twentieth century. Not only was the canal a major contributor in trade, but militarily, the United States benefited as well. Overall, the United States intervention of the Panama Canal was a cause for national benefit and security.
For centuries Panama has become an attraction for trade routes and colonial imperialism because of its unique location and impressive Isthmus. First discovered by Spanish Explorer Vasco Nunez de Balboa, in search of gold, the Isthmus of Panama has been used as an important trade location by many nations for centuries. (Sharp-Dean, 2009) The Panamanian Canal wasn’t originally in possession by the United States, but in reality the French had a hand its first real development. (Panama Canal 2002) The first construction of the Panama Canal started in 1880. This operation was contracted by the Compagnie Universelle du Canal Interoceanique, headed by a very experienced engineer whose name was Ferdinand de Lesseps. (Sanchez, 2002) Ferdinand’s seemed to be the right man for the job, considering his acclaimed completion of the, almost double in size, Suez Canal previously. (Panama Canal, 2002) The primary design for the Panama Canal consisted that of a sea-level canal system. (Sharp-Dean, 2009) Hopes were high during the beginning of construction. With an experienced lead and crew, the completion of the canal seemed like a sure thing. However, the site had difficulties and setbacks that hindered its completion. The beginning of problems first started with the design of the canal itself. The design was perfect for the Suez Canal, but the idea of a sea-level canal for Panama became quite a challenge for the French based company. Unlike the area of the Suez Canal, the location for the Panama Canal was considered an area which had heavy volcanic activity, causing the site to be very mountainous and difficult to dig into. (Panama Canal 2002) The design hindered the project to a slow crawl. The surrounding tropical climate also took a toll on canal construction. Diseases, such as yellow fever and malaria, ran rampant throughout the camps due to poor labor conditions. It was estimated that over twenty thousand people had died during the construction. (Tenner, 2011) Health and construction problems were not the only demise to the French operation, financing also came into the picture. Several times Lesseps had to conjure money from back home, and eventually Lessep’s company was sold in order to pay back loans. (Brief History of the Panama Canal) The French hired another company to finish the project; however, they decided it was more realistic to sell the rights to the site instead of completing it. (Brief History of the Panama Canal) The French...
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