There are certain things that you just have to see in certain places. Going to Panama City and not seeing the canal is like going to the Grand Canyon and forgetting to look at the Canyon. Plus, it’s always fun to check out strategic locations that were built by the USA in attempt to take over the world.
The canal is big…really big. It stretches for over fifty miles, connecting the Pacific and the Caribbean. The idea for a canal was conceived in the early 16th century, yet nothing came about of it for a couple hundred years. In 1880, the French finally undertook the project and began construction. Maintaining the French lifestyle, they only worked sixteen hours a week and drank an excessive amount of wine at breakfast, which of course, limited productivity. Also, they chose to not really research what the hell they were getting themselves into. Seems like if you are about to sink billions into digging the worlds biggest ditch, you would spend more than five minutes planning, right? They ran into numerous problems with geology, engineering, and also, tropical sickness (damn mosquitoes). During their stint in Panama, 22,000 workers died.
America was like, crap, we need that ditch. Let’s take over. But at that time (beginning of the twentiethth century), Panama was governed by Colombia, and Colombia didn’t think to highly of US intervention (I could be wrong, but I don’t think US intervention is ever looked at as a positive experience). So, of course, America had to get her way, and pretty much just sent a letter south saying that Panama was free. The US resumed the project in 1904, with it being completed in 1914. Obviously, the US retained posession of the canal for a number of years. Soon, Panamanians realized how messed up it was to have another country (extremely bossy country might I add) run the canal that isn’t even on their land, so they started to protest. President Carter took pity, but not that much pity, and said “Hey, stop crying. We’ll give ya the canal in, say, about twenty five years.” So, on December 31, 1999, at midday, the canal was finally handed over to Panama. Panamanians celebrated and danced to the music of Prince, specifically, 1999 (tonight we’re gonna party like it’s 1999).
From Panama City, the locks of Miraflores are by far the most convenient. They even have a nice little visitor set up (which of course charges you) that has a viewing platform, museum, and of course, a cheesy gift shop that sells the ever popular shirts “Someone who loves me went to Panama and all I got was a t-shirt!”
As we arrived, a ship was passing through the canal, so we sprinted up to the platform. The process of a ship entering the locks was really cool to watch. As the lock closes, water is rushed in, raising the ship the necessary height to the next lock. Lock opens, ship sails on. It took a good thirty minutes to make it through just a lock, and a full canal transit usually takes the entire day. Obviously, it isn’t the most adrenaline pumping process to watch, so to entertain myself, I was attempting to get the attention of the ship’s crew by jumping up and down while waving my hands frantically. Sweet victory was tasted when they finally waved back.
There was a short film that was put together about the overall history of the canal and what the future will hold. I was able to learn numerous facts that will only provide future use at dinner parties when we have competitions on who knows the most useless crap. Afterwards, we strolled through the museum, which was pretty much just a summary of the movie we saw. It just embedded the useless knowledge, which I’m so grateful for.
Now…let me pull out my list of Things to Do Before I Grow Up. Panama Canal…check.
(Writers note… at the time of publication, I was unable to insert any photos. Hopefully I will get some posted within the next week or so).