A man-made waterway, the Panama Canal, with a length of 48 miles, connects the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean. The canal is currently managed and operated by the Panama Canal Authority.
The Panama Canal dates back to the late 19th century, when the construction was first initiated. The French made the first attempt to construct the canal through Panama in 1881. At that time Panama was a province of Colombia. However, the French efforts were met with failure due to a number of factors such as engineering problems, heavy rains, yellow fever, and malaria. In 1888 funding was withdrawn, and the French had to abandon their hopes of building a canal.
In 1902, the French sold their assets in the canal zone to the United States, for $40 million, and on August 15th, 1914, the Panama Canal was finally inaugurated. The United States retained control over the Panama Canal for the next 63 years. In 1977, the Torrijos–Carter Treaties were signed between the United States and Panama, in Washington D.C. As per the treaties, the Panama Canal was to be completely handed over to the Panamanian authorities in time. The period from 1977 to 1999 witnessed the joint control of the canal by both the US and the Panama government. In 1999, the complete control of the canal passed into the hands of the Panamanian authorities and the canal is presently administered by the Panama Canal Authority.
The Panama Canal is a great piece of architectural engineering, and has been labeled by the American Society of Civil Engineers as one of the seven wonders of the modern world. It takes between eight to 10 hours to cross the canal. From the day the canal was opened in 1914, through the present, the traffic that passes through the canal has grown by leaps and bounds. In 1914 only 1,000 ships passed through the canal, but currently it is estimated that between 13,000 and 14,000 ships travel through the canal annually, which is around 40 ships per day.
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