Panama Canal Essay

1633 Words Sep 22nd, 1999 7 Pages
The Panama Canal has been called the big ditch, the bridge between two continents, and the greatest shortcut in the world. When it was finally finished in 1914, the 51-mile waterway cut off over 7,900 miles of the distance between New York and San Francisco, and changed the face of the industrialized world ("Panama Canal"). This Canal is not the longest, the widest, the deepest, or the oldest canal in the world, but it is the only canal to connect two oceans, and still today is the greatest man-made waterway in the world ("Panama Canal Connects).

Ferdinand de Lesseps, who played a large role in building the Suez Canal in 1869 (Jones), was the director of the Compagnie Universelle Du Canal Interoceanique de Panama ("Historical
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"In 1907, an American construction crew headed by G.W. Goethals journeyed to Panama to try their luck where the French had failed" ("Panama Canal Connects").

Before any work could begin, the most deadly of the problems on the isthmus had to be overcome - disease. The US was afraid of having as many casualties as the French did. To help prevent this American doctor William Gorgas was asked to examine the area. Gorgas goal was now to eliminate the mosquito population from the canal. Gorgas and his troops started to cover all standing or slow-moving bodies of water with a combination of oil and insecticide. These chemicals were put in to help kill off any mosquitoes. Gorgas also kept all infected persons in a wire-screen tent. The wire-screen tents would stop all mosquitoes from spreading the diseases.

The "massive" ("Panama Canal") project to wipe out the malaria-carrying mosquito was successful, and work proceeded without the hazard of disease that doomed the French venture. Work on the canal was finally continued from where De Lesseps crew stopped (76 million cubic yards of dirt had already been dug). With out the threat of disease the workers were able to work with out having the fear of death in the back of their minds. US portion of the canal "construction began at both ends of the projected canal" ("Actual