Sunday, September 19, 2010

Panama Canal

After Ethiopia and Tanzania, Panama is the newest country in my collection. Last monday i've received this Panama Canal card sent from Brazil by Ana Letícia. The cards shows the "SS Ancón" on August 15th, 1914, the day the Panama Canal was officially opened.
"The 48 mile-long (77 km) international waterway known as the Panama Canal allows ships to pass between the Atlantic Ocean and Pacific Ocean, saving about 8000 miles (12,875 km) from a journey around the southern tip of South America, Cape Horn.

From 1819, Panama was part of the federation and country of Colombia but when Colombia rejected United States plans to build a canal across the Isthmus of Panama, the U.S. supported a revolution that led to the independence of Panama in 1903.
The new Panamanian government authorized French businessman Philippe Bunau-Varilla, to negotiate a treaty with the United States. The Hay-Bunau-Varilla Treaty allowed the U.S. to build the Panama Canal and provided for perpetual control of a zone five-miles wide on either side of the canal.
Although the French had attempted construction of a canal in the 1880s, the Panama Canal was successfully built from 1904 to 1914. Once the canal was complete the U.S. held a swath of land running the approximately 50 miles across the isthmus of Panama.
The 1977 treaty established the canal as a neutral international waterway and even in times of war any vessel is guaranteed safe passage. After the 1999 hand-over, the U.S. and Panama jointly shared duties in defending the canal.
The canal makes the trip from the east coast to the west coast of the U.S. much shorter than the route taken around the tip of South America prior to 1914. Though traffic continues to increase through the canal, many oil supertankers and military battleships and aircraft carriers can not fit through the canal. There's even a class of ships known as "Panamax," those built to the maximum capacity of the Panama canal and its locks.
It takes approximately fifteen hours to traverse the canal through its three sets of locks (about half the time is spent waiting due to traffic). Ships passing through the canal from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean actually move from the northwest to the southeast, due to the east-west orientation of the Isthmus of Panama." - in:

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