The Panama Canal is an artificial 51-mile long waterway in Panama that connects the Atlantic Ocean with the Pacific Ocean. The canal cuts across the Isthmua od Panama and is a conduit for maritime trade. Canal locks lift ships up to Gatun Lake, an artificial lake created to reduce the amount of excavation work required for the canal, 85 ft above sea level, and then lower the ships at the other end. The original locks are 110 ft wide. A third, wider lane of locks was constructed between September 2007 and May 2016, and the expanded canal began commercial operation on June that year, allowing transit of newer and larger ships, capable of handling more cargo.
France began work on the canal in 1881, but stopped due to engineering problems and a high worker mortality rate. The United States took over the project in 1904 and opened the canal this day in 1914. One of the largest and most difficult engineering projects ever undertaken, the Panama Canal shortcut greatly reduced the time for ships to travel between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, enabling them to avoid the lengthy, hazardous Cape Horn route around the southernmost tip of South AMerica via the Drake Passage or Strait of Magellan.
Columbia, France, and later the United States controlled the territory surrounding the canal during construction. The U.S. continued to control the canal and surrounding Panama Canal Zone until the 1977. After a period of joint American–Panamanian control, in 1999, the canal was taken over by the Panamanian government and is now managed and operated by the government.
Annual traffic has risen from about 1,000 ships in 1914, when the canal opened, to 14,702 vessels in 2008, to more than 815,000 vessels in 2012. It takes 11.38 hours to pass through the Panama Canal. The American Society of Civil Engineers has called the Panama Canal one of the seven wondes of the modern world. (from Wikipedia)