In 1914, the iconic waterway that connects the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans across the Isthmus of Panama opened to ships and revolutionized international trade forever. The 48-mile-long passageway created a landmark shortcut for ships and vessels, saving nearly 8,000 miles—which is what’s required when traveling around the tip of South America. During the past 100 years in operation, the Panama Canal has continually boosted trade between continents, serving as the passageway for between 13,000 and 14,000 ships every year—about 40 each day.
In honor of the Panama Canal’s 100th anniversary, here are some fascinating facts about this iconic engineering feat.
- Nicaragua was actually the original target site for the canal. During the 1800s, the U.S. considered Nicaragua a more feasible location than Panama. A French engineer shifted the focus to Panama, drawing attention to a number of volcanoes in Nicaragua.
- More than 60 million pounds of dynamite were used to excavate the site of the canal.
- In 1963, the Panama Canal transit began operating 24 hours a day, thanks to the introduction of fluorescent lighting.
- Every vessel that makes the transit must pay a toll based on its size and cargo. Tolls for the largest vessels can be as much as $450,000. The smallest toll ever paid was 36 cents, paid in 1928 by Richard Halliburton, who swam the canal.
- In 2010, the 1 millionth vessel crossed the canal since its opening in 1914.
- When passing through the canal, ship captains do not transit the canal on their own. Instead, a specially-trained canal pilot commands the navigational control of each ship. The transit takes ships between 6 to 8 hours.
- To this day, the gates that control the transit are the original gates installed 100 years ago. The most significant change made since construction in 1914 has been replacing the mechanical gears of the locks with hydraulics.
- Though the canal’s engineers had enough forethought to build the passageway significantly larger than what was necessary for ships at the time of construction, today’s megaships have finally spurred an expansion. The expansion project began in 2007, and is set to finish in late 2015.
Celebrate the magnificence and history of the Panama Canal with one of Oceania Cruises’ memorable voyages that make this time-honored transit:
- Regatta’s 16-day Scenic Panama Canal voyage, from Miami to Los Angeles, December 5, 2014
- Regatta’s 16-day Festive Panama Canal voyage, from Los Angeles to Miami, December 21, 2014
- Regatta’s 18-day Bridge of the Americas voyage, from Miami to Lima, January 16, 2015
- Regatta’s 16-day Tropical Transit voyage, from Miami to San Francisco, April 23, 2015
- Insignia’s 16-day Panama Canal Connection voyage, from Los Angeles to Miami, June 22, 2015
- Regatta’s 18-day Panama Canal Passage voyage, from San Francisco to New York, September 2, 2015
We look forward to welcoming you aboard soon!