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The Panama Canal, Then and Now

The Panama Canal, Then and Now

Posted by Juan Gavasa on August 16, 2014

The Panama Canal, one of the largest engineering and construction projects in history, celebrated its 100th birthday on Friday.

Dubbed one of the "Seven Wonders of the Modern World" by the American Society of Civil Engineers, the canal connects the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans in order to expedite international trade. Upwards of 13,000 vessels a year make the 48-mile journey between the oceans, moving over 200 million tons of cargo.

The French were the first to attempt to construct a canal across the Isthmus of Panama in 1881, but their work was halted by disease and engineering difficulties. The United States took up the mantle in 1904, completing the canal a decade later. An expansion, scheduled for completion by 2015, is currently underway to enlarge the canal's capacity. This will allow larger ships than the current maximum size class, the Panamax, to pass through its locks.

Here's to another 100 years, you big beautiful canal. May your long flowing locks operate far into the future.

A shovel vehicle operates during the construction of the Panama Canal, Panama, circa 1906. IMAGE: HULTON ARCHIVE/GETTY IMAGES

View of workers at the Panama Canal extension works in Cocoli, near Panama City, on August 8, 2014. IMAGE: RODRIGO ARANGUA/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

A tug boat pulling a ship through the newly constructed Panama Canal, 1914. IMAGE: US ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS/THE LIFE PICTURE COLLECTION/GETTY IMAGES

A ship is guided by a tugboat through the Pedro Miguel Locks at the Panama Canal near Panama City on July 31, 2014. IMAGE: RODRIGO ARANGUA/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

A photo depicting the building of the Panama Canal in 1912-1913. The building of the canal cost the lives of an estimated 25,000 workers due to accidents and tropical diseases. IMAGE: SSPL/GETTY IMAGES

Men work on the Panama Canal locks in Cocoli on February 21, 2014. A Spanish-led consortium resumed work Thursday to expand the Panama Canal, which handles five percent of global seaborne trade. IMAGE: RODRIGO ARANGUA/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Culebra Cut from West Bank showing shovels at work, taken from the book The Panama Canal by J. Saxon Mills published in the early 1900s. IMAGE: UNIVERSAL HISTORY ARCHIVE/GETTY IMAGES

A ship sails into the Pedro Miguel locks on the Panama Canal near an area under construction as a part of its expansion project in Panama, Feb. 4, 2014. IMAGE: ARNULFO FRANCO/ASSOCIATED PRESS

Construction of Pedro Miguel Lock and accompanying railway system in Southeastern section of Panama Canal. IMAGE: MANSELL/THE LIFE PICTURE COLLECTION/GETTY IMAGES

View of the Panama Canal locks under construction in Cocoli, near Panama City, on August 8, 2014. IMAGE: RODRIGO ARANGUA/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

The Maersk Line container ship the Maersk Bratan entering the Pedro Miguel Locks on April 19, 2013. IMAGE: PETER STOFFELS/ GETTY IMAGES

Le paquebot "AMERICA" lors du passage du Canal de Panama 19410930. IMAGE: KEYSTONE-FRANCE/GETTY IMAGES

A steam shovel train excavates the channel of the Panama Canal, circa 1913. IMAGE: BUYENLARGE/GETTY IMAGES

Cranes and machinery lie idle at the construction site of the Panama Canal in Cocoli on February 5, 2014. IMAGE: ARNULFO FRANCO/ASSOCIATED PRESS

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