The Greatest Engineering Show on Earth
Built across the narrowest point between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, the epic Panama Canal remains one of the greatest engineering achievements of the 20th century. The ingenious network of dams and locks linking two oceans took more than 75,000 workers more than ten years to build, Centuries of bankruptcy, mismanagement, and malaria delayed the project a number of times after the idea was first presented in 1524 by King Charles V of Spain.
The first ship sailed through in 1914. Today ships line up on each side, waiting their turn to enter the canal, which operates around the clock. Most cruise ships offer on-board lecturers, who describe the three sets of double locks and how they function during the eight-hour, 50-mile crossing. Large ships worldwide are built with the Panama Canal’s locks in mind (1,000 feet long and 110 feet wide), so no one has gotten stuck so far. Ships are charged according to size, the average commercial ship paying approximately $30,000. Individuals can no longer swim across, as Richard Halliburton did in 1928; he was charged 36 cents.