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The Panama Canal is a 48-mile canal connecting the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans for international maritime trade. France was the first to attempt the construction of the canal in 1881, but was halted until U.S. continued from 1904 to 1914. Today, it is considered one of the greatest engineering achievements of the 20th century.
See the fact file below for more information on the Panama Canal or alternatively, you can download our 24-page Panama Canal worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
Discovery and Geography
- In 1514, explorer Vasco Núñez de Balboa was the first European explorer to discover that the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans were only separated by a slim isthmus of Panama. His discovery initiated several explorations of waterways that could link the two oceans.
- In 1534, the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V, ordered a survey to look into the possibility of building a waterway on the isthmus, but the surveyors concluded that construction of a ship canal was impossible.
- The 48-mile long international waterway allows trading ships to pass between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans without going around Cape Horn located at the southern tip of South America, saving 8000 miles of travel and avoiding rough seas.
- Panama is a country in Central America, between Costa Rica and Colombia. It borders the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean. The canal stretches from Limon Bay to the Atlantic Ocean.
- While traversing the canal, ships move from the northwest to the southeast because of the east-west orientation of the isthmus. Crossing the canal can take 8 to 10 hours.
- In 1878, Colombia granted the rights to build the canal to a French adventurer named Lucien Napoleon Bonaparte-Wyse. But he opted to sell his rights to a French company who’d built Egypt’s Suez Canal. The company, headed by Ferdinand de Lesseps, started the construction of the canal but encountered heavy setbacks by way of engineering problems and tropical diseases that killed many workers.
- Compared to the Suez Canal, the excavation was more difficult in Panama. It was during this period that Lesseps also hired Gustave Eiffel to create locks for the canal, but the company went bankrupt. The company faced fraud and mismanagement charges and was found guilty in 1893.
- For economic and military reasons, the United States had been looking since the 1800s for somewhere to build a canal linking the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Originally, the expanding nation eyed Nicaragua as a more feasible location than Panama. However, through the efforts of a French engineer named Philippe-Jean Bunau-Varilla, American lawmakers were convinced that Panama was safer than Nicaragua due to the presence of dangerous volcanoes there.
- By 1902, the U.S. Congress granted the purchase of the French canal assets in Panama. However, Colombia, which Panama was then a part of, refused to ratify an agreement which would authorized the U.S. canal construction. With the support of the United States, Panamanians revolted against Colombia and later gained their independence. Afterwards, U.S. Secretary of State John Hay and Bunau-Varilla acted as representatives of Panama’s provisional government.
- In the 1903 treaty, the French assets were bought for $40 million, Panama was paid $10 million and America given the right to build.
- Between 1904 and 1913, around 5,600 workers died during the construction of the canal due to rampant diseases like malaria and yellow fever, and accidents.
- The Panama Canal was finished in 1914 but was officially opened in 1920 by U.S. President Woodrow Wilson.
- There are ports at each end of the canal: the Cristobal on the Caribbean Sea and Balboa on the Pacific Ocean.
- Its width is 70 meters (200 feet) wide and 20 meters (75 feet).
- About 61 million lbs of dynamite was used during the construction.
- The canal has lock chambers that are 110 feet wide, 1,000 feet long and door locks that weigh 750 tons.
- Instead of pumps, valves are used to allow water to pass from higher elevations to lower ones.
- In order to cross the canal, ships must pay tolls based on cargo space. For military ships, tolls are based on the vessel’s weight.
- The Panama Canal is often used by the United States, followed by China, Japan, Chile, Colombia and South Korea. Furthermore, most of its traffic moves between the east coast of the United States and the Far East, followed by Europe and the west coast.
- There are specially-trained canal pilots who take over navigational control of each vessel to guide it through the waterway safely.
Canal Control and Other Facts
- Since its opening, tensions between the United States and Panama have increased because of control of the canal and its surrounding. A Panamanian riot was sparked in 1964 when their flag was prevented from flying next to the American flag in the Canal Zone. Soon after, Panama broke its foreign relations with the United States until U.S. President Jimmy Carter and General Omar Torrijos of Panama agreed to a treaty in 1977.
- In 1999, the United States granted Panama control over the canal but maintained America’s right to use military force to defend the waterway in case of any threat to its neutrality.
- Today, one-third of Panama’s economy is supported by the profits from the canal.
- The canal has only been closed twice; first in 1915 due to a landslide, and second on December 20, 1989, when the United States invaded Panama.
- There are over 14,000 ships that cross the Panama Canal every year, which generates about $2 billion in revenue from tolls.
- In 1928, an American adventurer, Richard Halliburton paid a toll for only 36 cents to cross the canal by swimming.
Panama Canal Worksheets
This is a fantastic bundle which includes everything you need to know about Panama Canal across 24 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use Panama Canal worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about the Panama Canal which is a 48-mile canal connecting the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans for international maritime trade. France was the first to attempt the construction of the canal in 1881, but was halted until U.S. continued from 1904 to 1914. Today, it is considered one of the greatest engineering achievements of the 20th century.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- Panama Canal Facts
- Crossing Through Panama
- President’s Role
- Flag Raising
- Panama Canal Truths
- Word Canal
- Modern Engineering
- Via Panama Canal
- Sentence Completion
- Suez v. Panama
- Point of View
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Link will appear as Panama Canal Facts & Worksheets: https://kidskonnect.com - KidsKonnect, September 14, 2018
Use With Any Curriculum
These worksheets have been specifically designed for use with any international curriculum. You can use these worksheets as-is, or edit them using Google Slides to make them more specific to your own student ability levels and curriculum standards.