Panama Takes Over The Canal

Just for kids

Yak's Corner

January 10, 2000|By Peter Gavrilovich

On Dec. 31, lots of you celebrated the new year arriving. In Panama, there was extra celebration because the country took over the Panama Canal.

It was the fair thing to do, U.S. leaders decided, since the famous canal runs through the small Central American country. Since the canal was finished in 1914, the United States had owned and operated the 50-mile-long route that connects the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

J The Panama Canal is an engineering marvel. When people first thought of digging a canal through Panama, many builders scoffed. Work began in 1880. It cost $639 million to build. About 75,000 people worked on it, but nearly one in three died, many because of disease. More than 262 million cubic yards of earth were moved. That's enough to fill a pyramid nearly a mile tall.

J It's strategic: That means its location is important to the security of the United States because it allows U.S. Navy ships to travel quickly from ocean to ocean. Before the canal was built, ships had to travel to the bottom of South America to go from ocean to ocean.

J It's through an isthmus: That's a narrow strip of land that connects two larger bodies of land.

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