Transiting the Panama Canal

Going through the Panama Canal is something every traveler should experience, at least once in their life. The eight hour trip along the 47 mile route of the waterway that connects two oceans gives one the chance to dwell on what an incredible human achievement the canal is. Jay has been reading David McCullough’s The Path Between the Seas, a book everyone even remotely interested in the history and construction of the canal must read.

On this trip we transited the canal from the Pacific end at Panama City, a metropolis that rises from the humid morning mist like some kind of Emerald City from the Wizard of Oz. It is hard to imagine what this city was like at the beginning of the 20th century, with no paved streets, no sewers and the ever-present threat of yellow fever and malaria.dsc_0129dsc_0132dsc_0141dsc_0145dsc_0146dsc_0147dsc_0149dsc_0150dsc_0151dsc_0154dsc_0159dsc_0163dsc_0170dsc_0171

But what is truly incredible is what a monumental task it was to build the canal itself. The expenditure of monetary and human capital (over 20,000 died during construction), is staggering. The stories of the personalities behind this incredible task, Ferdinand de Lesseps, Wallace, Stevens, Roosevelt and Gorgas, to name a few, are incredibly interesting. Taken within the context of technologic and medical development at the time, roughly 1880-1890, it is amazing that the French were able to make as much progress as they did. It is equally amazing how the US was able to take over and complete the project, including arranging the creation of a separate country, Panama.

Tanya’s great-grandfather worked on the canal so this was a special experience for her. For both us it was a peak experience that we hope some of our blog followers can realize for themselves.

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