History Moment By William “Doc” Halliday

Building the Panama Canal

Panama CanalI recently added a speed bump in my driveway. This was not to slow down speeding vehicles, but rather to close off the space under my gate so that my dog can’t go under the gate. My driveway is a single width and the speed bump did not require anywhere near a full cubic yard of concrete. A cubic yard is the normal measurement, and is equal to 27 cubic feet. I am told that a normal residential driveway uses less than 8 cubic yards of cement.

In September of 1513, Vasco Núñez de Balboa led a group of 190 Spaniards and approximately 1,000 local Indians south from Santa María la Antigua del Darién across the Isthmus of Panama. In late September he sighted the Paci􀏐ic Ocean from a peak. Four days later Balboa and his men reached the shore of the ocean and he claimed it and all lands that touched it for Spain. Almost immediately (in historical terms) a search began for a natural waterway connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, who was also Charles I of Spain ordered the Panama regional governor to survey a route to the Pacific following the Chagres River in 1534. This was the first survey for a proposed ship canal through Panama, and it more or less followed the course of the current 48 mile Panama Canal. At the time the survey was completed…

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