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Panama Canal celebrates 100th Anniversary this month

Panama is emerging as popular holiday destination for travellers seeking sandy beaches and tropical rainforests but its famous Panama Canal is at the heart of the country and this year, it will celebrate its 100th anniversary. Since its opening in 1914, nearly one million ships have passed through the canal.

Panama Canal celebrates 100th Anniversary this month

Panama is finally emerging as a tourist destination for those seeking sandy beaches and lush tropical rainforests but the country's most precious landmark is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year.

The development of the Panama Canal in Central America was launched 1881 by the French, but just eight years later, all construction was stopped due to high costs and an unexpectedly high mortality rate.

In 1904, the United States took over and on 15th August, 1914, the Ancon was the first ship to officially sail the length of the Panama Canal.

Since then, almost one million ships have passed through the canal in Panama and the toll fees have varied in price, from the highest at $375,600 which was paid by the cruise ship Norwegian Pearl in 2010, and the lowest at just 36 cents which was paid by Richard Halliburton when he swam its entire length in 1928.

Holidaymakers can learn about the history of the Panama Canal at the Miraflores Locks at the Pacific entrance near Panama City. The onsite museum provides information on its construction and details of the 30,000 workers who lost their lives during its build, mostly due to tropical diseases. There's a mock ship where visitors can stand on the bridge and watch a video that simulates a passage through the canal and the outside observation deck offers perfect views of the ships as they pass by and squeeze through huge locks.

The Panama Canal is 77 kilometres long and connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. The locks at each end of the canal lift the ships to the Lake Gatun, an artificial lake that was created to reduce the amount of excavation work required for the canal. The lake acts a reservoir of water for the operation of the locks and it carries ships for 33 kilometres along their journey of the canal.

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