Panama Canal

large canal in Panama

The Panama Canal is a waterway (a canal) in the country of Panama in Central America, that connects the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean. Because of the way Panama twists, the entrance to the Pacific Ocean is farther east than the entrance to the Atlantic Ocean. This is the opposite of what one would expect.

Map of Panama Canal

The Panama Canal is 77 km (48 miles) long and cuts across the Isthmus of Panama. At each end it uses three pairs of locks for lifting and lowering ships on different water levels. This saves ships 15,000 km (10,000 miles) compared to going around South America. Each year, about 14,000 ships come through the canal. By 2002, around 800,000 ships came through.

The old locks are 110 ft (33.53 m) wide by 1,050 ft (320 m) long and 41.2 feet (12.6 m) deep, with a usable length of 1,000 ft (305 m). The biggest ships that can go through the Panama Canal are called Panamax.

New locks opened in 2016 to allow ships more than twice as big, called New Panamax. They are 55 m (180 ft) wide by 427 m (1,400 ft) long, and 18.3 m (60.0 ft) deep. New channels connect to the new locks.

Ferdinand de Lesseps tried building a Panama Canal in 1880, but could not finish it. The project was started again in 1904 by the United States, under the presidency of Theodore Roosevelt, who spent ten years and 375 million dollars building it. The Panama Canal was finally finished in 1914, at the cost of approximately 25,000 lives. Most deaths were from disease, and before United States construction of the canal began. The US government owned and operated the canal until 1999 when the Panamanian government started controlling it.

Other websites change