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The History of the Panama Canal By Aaron Ang The date is August 15 1914 where one of the worlds greatest engineering marvels was officially opened by the passage of the SS Ancon But it was a long and tiring journey taken over the course of more then a century The United States wanted to build a canal because of the shortened journeys for its supply ships battle ships and would prove a good place to construct a central military base From 1880 to 1900 a French company under Ferdinand de Lesseps attempted unsuccessfully to construct a sea-level canal on the site of the present Panama Canal In November 1903 with US encouragement and French financial support Panama proclaimed its independence and concluded the HayBunau-Varilla Treaty with the United States The treaty granted rights to the United States as if it was sovereign in a zone roughly 10 miles wide and 50 miles long In that zone the US would build a canal then administer fortify and defend it in perpetuity In 1914 the United States completed the existing 83 Kilometers lock canal which today is one of the worlds greatest engineering triumphs At the time no single effort in American history had exacted such a price in dollars or in human life The American expenditures from 1904 to 1914 totaled 352000000 far more than the cost of anything built by the United States Government up to that time Together the French and American expenditures totaled 639000000 It took 34 years from the initial effort in 1880 to actually open the Canal in 1914 It is estimated that over 80000 persons took part in the construction and that over 30000 lives were lost in both French and American efforts Most of the lives was lost to diseases but almost all diseases known to man were present Malaria Yellow Fever Tuberculosis cholera diphtheria smallpox bubonic plague - all were cases on file at
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