This Day in History – August 15th, 1914

While fighting continued to erupt in Europe, across the other side of the world a new route opened up that connected the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean via the Caribbean Sea; it was 33 years in the making, but the Panama Canal finally opened for passage.

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France began work on the canal in 1881, but had to stop because of engineering problems and high mortality due to disease. The United States took over the project in 1904, and took a decade to complete the canal, which was officially opened on August 15, 1914. One of the largest and most difficult engineering projects ever undertaken, the Panama Canal shortcut greatly reduced the time for ships to travel between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, enabling them to avoid the lengthy, hazardous Cape Horn route around the southernmost tip of South America via the Drake Passage or Strait of Magellan. The shorter, faster, and safer route to the U.S. West Coast and to nations in and around the Pacific Ocean allowed those places to become more integrated with the world economy. It takes between 20 and 30 hours to traverse the canal.

Today the Panama Canal celebrates its 100-year anniversary.

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