The Panama Canal, an incredible feat of engineering, opened 100 years ago today on August 15 1914. The U.S.A. spent the equivalent of $9 billion current dollars to complete the canal. It is estimated that 5,600 workers died during the construction of the canal from diseases and accidents.
The nation of Panama was part of Colombia until 1903, when the United States helped it secede from it as a separate nation in order to get the canal built. The Canal Zone itself was a territory of the United States until 1977, when the canal was given back to the nation of Panama.
The canal coincided with the advent of the United States as a world superpower. It allowed for the costs and time of shipment of goods between the Atlantic and Pacific Coasts to dramatically decline since ships no longer had to sail around South America to reach the other ocean. In addition, it allowed for the growing navy of the United States to more easily change location between oceans.
The Panama Canal has new ongoing construction worth 2.3 billion dollars and is expected to double its capacity in 2015.
For More Information About the Panama Canal:
Here is a good documentary on the BBC about the building of the canal: