Panama Canal - In The Spotlight
Canal is an amazing feat of engineering that all travelers
should try to experience at least once in a lifetime.
For centuries the dream was to
unite the two great oceans of the world,
but it took an unparalleled engineering triumph and an international
force to finaly construct the Panama Canal.
Since opening in 1914 the Panama Canal has been acclaimed the world
over as one of mankind's greatest endeavours. Today, it is held in awe
as one of the wonders of the modern world - a place of serene natural
as well as political and commercial importance.
Despite its importance as a trade route, travellers are being attracted
to the area for what lies on either side of the great passageway. The
ports of the Caribbean on the east of the canal and on the west, the
Costa Rica, Guatemala and Mexico. The area is truly traveller's dream.
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Completed in 1914, the Panama Canal has
saved every ship passing
through it a 7,872-mile trip around South America. Now, each ship takes
a 51-mile journey through an intricate system of gates, locks, and
drains. A single trip through the canal requires 52 million gallons of
water, and busy days can see up to 40 trips. For the water it needs,
the canal depends on one of the world’s biggest artificial lakes:
Gatún Lake. For its water supply, Gatún Lake depends on
the health of the surrounding rainforest.
Panama’s healthy rainforest, rainwater saturates the
soil, then feeds the streams supplying Gatún Lake. In the last
few decades, however, logging and slash-and-burn agriculture have
claimed half of the surrounding rainforest. Deforested land cannot
absorb the region’s heavy tropical rains; the excess water floods
Gatún Dam and flows out to sea. The floodwaters also fill the
lake with sediment. Dredging the lake bottom has restored its storage
capacity, but also forced local residents to filter the lake water or
rely on bottled drinking water. More>
Image Courtesy SRTM
perspective view shows the Panama Canal
with the Gulf of Panama in the foreground and the Caribbean Sea in the
distance. The canal runs northwest-southeast
from the city of Colon on
the Atlantic side to Panama City on the Pacific side. Water levels are
maintained along its length by three reservoirs, the largest of which
is Lake Gatun, visible at the right center of the image. Built by the
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers between 1904 and 1914, the canal extends
for approximately 50 miles and is widely considered to be one of the
world’s great engineering achievements.
HERE for bigger topographic image and more
rainforests of Panama, in
particular, are some of
the world’s most biologically diverse areas. Chagres National Park,
situated east of Gatun Lake and the northern half of Panama Canal, has
1,185 species of plants, 130 of which are unique to that area. Panama’s
rainforests are home to many mammals that migrated from both North and
South America. Click on the link to find out more about Rainforests
by Reto Stockli, NASA Earth Observatory
center of this
the forested area of the Panama Canal Zone can be seen. The Panama
Canal Zone extends 5 miles (8 km) on either side of the Panama Canal.
Canal is 40 miles (64 km) long including dredged approach channels at
each end. more>
Image From: Image Science and Analysis Laboratory, NASA-Johnson Space
Center. "The Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth."
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Panama Canal is
also strategically very important, being
the only crossing point from the Atlantic and Pacific without going
south around the tip of South America via Drake Passage; a notoriously
dangerous stretch of sea.