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Conflict and Compromise of the Panama Canal

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Conflict and Compromise

of the Panama Canal

Ash Bullock

Senior Division

Historical Paper

Words: 1,900

The completion of Panama Canal was a long, tedious process that consisted of many unpredictable conflicts and compromises. It also involved many people including persons from different countries. This process linked the Atlantic and Pacific oceans which helped to speed the transportation of goods, travel, and communication in the twentieth century. Although it was completed with the help of the United States, this was not the origination of the idea of the Panama Canal. Where did the idea of the Panama Canal begin? The idea of the Panama Canal actually originated with the French.

The French started this grueling process which was Led by Ferdinand de Lesseps—the builder of the Suez Canal in Egypt—the French began excavating in 1880. Not only did the French fail in creating the global achievement, but there were thousands of workers who died during the construction of the Panama Canal. This was a great let down since it promised to be a significant transport link for many countries. Despite the failures of the French, the Panama Canal would still be a major investment with long term benefits and success for the United States. Following the failure of a French construction team in the 1880s, the United States commenced building a canal across a 50-mile stretch of the Panama isthmus in 1904.

With this failure, others attempted to be more successful causing it to become a major investment for those who involved their time, resources, and finances to build the canal. This was of the highest importance because this passageway would allow a considerable amount of goods to pass through the country of Panama in about half the time it would normally take. While the waterway was being constructed, the United States purchased the territory for the Panama Canal from France at the same time it faced conflicts such as enduring landslides, malaria, yellow fever, and heavy rainfall.

The natural events that occurred while completing the Panama Canal led to the loss of thousands of lives of laborers. Natural destructive forces as well as man-made destructive forces caused the casualties to increase in number. During the construction process of the canal, dynamite explosions would trigger landslides causing a vast number of deaths. Other unpredictable forces included incessant heavy rain that would cause mudslides and unbalance the canal’s water. This was an impossible task to face and in the end there was one person left to attempt to manage these catastrophes, John Stevens the chief engineer. He was responsible for exposing specific problems and trying to find a solution. In 1905 John Stevens was promoted as chief engineer of the Panama Canal. He also quickly recognized the difficulties posed by landslides and convinced Roosevelt that a lock canal was best for the terrain.² Since John Stevens proposed the Lock Canal both the problems with heavy rain and dynamite explosions were eliminated. This was a downfall that the French never seemed to understand which is why they suffered such a great number of lives lost. the de Lesseps campaign and after 9 years and a loss of approximately 20,000 lives, the French attempt went bankrupt.¹ This was not the end of the problems that were faced. There were also tropical diseases and mosquito transmitted disease.

When the French began excavating in 1880, malaria, yellow fever, and other tropical diseases conspired against the de Lesseps campaign. After 9 years and the loss of approximately 20,000 lives, the French attempt went bankrupt. It wasn’t until the late 1890’s that there was progress in this area. Until the Cuban war comparatively little had been known about mosquitoes. For example, it was not until 1895 that a full account was published of even the common North American variety of mosquitoes. The general impression was that all mosquitoes were more or less alike which we now know not to be true. At the time of construction of the canal, Reed and his co-workers identified Stegomyia fasciata as the yellow fever mosquito, no studies had ever been made of the insect's natural life history. It became more apparent that mosquitoes not only had yellow fever, but they also transferred Malaria. The project was helped immensely by chief sanitary officer Dr. William Gorgas, who believed that mosquitoes carried the deadly diseases indigenous to the area. Gorgas embarked on a mission to wipe out the carriers, his team painstakingly fumigating homes

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