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The Panama Canal: The Greatest Engineering Feat in History

Updated August 13, 2022

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The Panama Canal: The Greatest Engineering Feat in History essay

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They sprayed pesticides by the ton. They built entire towns, complete with housing, schools, churches and meeting halls. When the cleaning was finished, Stevens began work on digging the trenches.

Gigantic steam shovels scooped tons of dirt. Railroad cars ran continuously on double tracks. The used the dirt removed to form the charges Dam. By December of 1905, yellow fever had been officially eradicated in the canal region.

Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Goethals took over for Stevens who resigned. Goethals was know for being demanding and rigidly organized. The hardest part of the canal process was the Culebra Cut, where 100,000,000 cubic yard of dirt and rock had to be moved.(Britannica (no date) The labors were mostly English speaking west Indian blacks who made 10 cents an hour. They moved more then 200 trainloads a day.

When mudslides filled the Cut repeatedly, they had to dig it out again. There was accidents of all kinds lost equipment, and deaths. Industries were also having to work overtime. More then 50 mills, and machine shops turned out supplies just for the canal construction It took them nine years to complete the canal. The Canal opened officially on August 15, 1914. It took a back seat in the press because during this time World War I was going on.

This was a massive engineering feet they built a railroad, three sets of concrete locks and a huge artificial lake. This had been one of the greatest engineering feet of our time. Navigating the Canal To pass from the Atlantic to the pacific ships enter the channel in Limon bay, which extends for a distance of about seven miles to the Gatun Locks. At Gatun a series of three locks lift ships 85 feet to Gatun lake. The lake is formed by Gatun Dam and fed by the Charges River.

You travel for 23 miles till you reach Gamboa. This is where the cut through the continental divide begins. The channel has a depth of about 45 feet and extends for eight miles. You then reach the Pedro Miguel locks.

The locks lower ships 31 feet to Lake Miraflores. Lake Miraflores has a height of 54 feet above see level. When you reach the locks at Miraflores you are lowered to sea level. You then still have to travel seven more miles till you reach the Pacific Ocean. The whole journey is 51.5 miles has 23 direction changes and takes approximately 9 hours to complete.

The Canal Locks The canal locks are engineering marvel themselves. The locks operate by gravity flow of water from Gatun, Madden and Miraflores lakes, which are fed by the Charges and other rivers. The locks are uniform in length, width and depth. They are built in tandem to permit traffic in both directions. Each lock has two doors that are 65 feet wide and seven feet thick set on large hinges. They are moved into position by motors set in the lock walls.

The lock chambers are 1000 feet long, 110 feet wide and 41 feet deep. Only small craft are allowed to pass through the locks under their own power. Electric towing locomotives take through the larger ships. Problems with the canal When the canal was first designed the problem of landslides had been ignored. Slides increased more frequently as excavation increased in the Culebra Cut area. The problem was not with soil but with the underlying layer of Iron pyrite.

When it comes in contact with air it starts to rapidly oxidize and rapidly decay causing the canal walls to collapse. Since the building of the panama cannel it estimated that 15.3 million cubic meters of soil has been removed, which is equal to 25% of the earth removed while building the canal.(The panama Canal(1999)) The canal must be constantly maintained, the tropical climate wreaks havoc on the electronic controls. They have to constantly keep dredging the bottom because of heavy rainfalls. Another problem is the deforestation along the sides of the canal by migrant farmers.

The banks where full of trees in the 1950’s and almost completely deforested by 1970’s The Canals Future The Canal treaty of 1977 terminated all prior treaties between the United states and Panama concerning the canal. The treaty gave the Canal zone it sovereignty, but would allow the U.S. to continue the operation of the canal until the year 2000. The Panama government has had some initial problems but are said to be working them out.

The ships for witch the canal was built for are no longer here. Modern ships have increased dramatically in size. And increased in the amount of tonnage. The canal can only accommodate ships carrying 65,000 tons of cargo modern ships carry over 300,000 tons of cargo.(The Panama Canal) With the search for a new route for a canal the Panamanians may lose their major source of income. The possibility of modifying the canal and making it a sea level canal is also being studied.

Conclusion The Panama Canal building was a great triumph of American engineering. We can thank the French because without their prior experience in the region construction would have taken a lot longer. We take for granted the necessity of the canal for our trade. The crowning achievement to the engineers is how self sufficient the canal is. The dams produce the power for the railroad and leafs of the locks.

The locks are filled by gravity and the abundance of rain replenishes the 52 million gallons of water used in each crossing.(The Panama Canal(199)) Though we can’t ignore how many people died, and worked hard to complete the project. We can only thank them for increasing or economic prosperity that they gave us by shortening the trade route.

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