The French were the first to attempt to build a canal in 1880, but were unsuccessful. In fact, during the works, over 20,000 workers died of yellow fever and malaria, and the project was abandoned. Between 1904 and 1914, the Panama Canal was completed by the Americans, who made sure that the new waterway remained under their control. Panama had to wait until noon (Panama local time) on December 31, 1999 to officially become the owner of the canal.
To travel from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific, ships have to overcome a vertical drop of 26 meters. The ships pass through 3 locks: Miraflores, Pedro Miguel and Gatun. An ingenious system lowers ships using gravity. The voyage through the Panama Canal takes about 8-10 hours in total, and is carried out by over 14,000 ships a year. The toll is high, but it’s still cheaper than circumnavigating South America.
The locks of Miraflores offer the best views of the canal, giant water tanks and cruise ships. The locks are approximately a 30-minute drive from Panama City. There is also a visitor center with viewing platform, a restaurant with a terrace and a souvenir shop. You will also be able to admire various exhibits, scale models, video presentations and interactive modules that explain the functioning of the canal and the locks. The best way to discover the canal is to wait for a ship and observe it in action: a real spectacle.
The Panama Canal is not only one of the best engineering projects for its size, it is also one of the best for its many innovative solutions. The channel is made up of fresh water, to keep the salt water away and not allow the flora and fauna of the two oceans to meet. The Gatun artificial lake has the function of a basin to allow rainwater and water from the surrounding rainforests to flow into the canal. Special electric locomotives, on both sides of the lock, ensure that the ships enter the correct position and maintain it throughout the journey.