The Panama Canal is a lake-and-lock type canal connecting the waters of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans through the Isthmus of Panama, in Central America. Its length from the deep waters of the Atlantic to the deep Pacific is 51 miles (82 km). By using the Canal (instead of going around Cape Horn), ships sailing between the coasts of the United States can shorten their voyage by about 8,000 nautical miles. It gives passage to all types of vessels, from huge tankers to the Queen Elizabeth II.
The Panama Canal is truly a spectacular sight. It is impressive to see how the locks fill up and the big ships pass between the green lush mountains. The Miraflores Locks on the Pacific entrance have a newly built visitor center, where you will be shown a movie about the Canal’s history and current management.
The Panama Canal is definitely worth checking out, considering it is one of the great engineering feats of all time. It was designed at the turn of the 20th century and has been operating since 1914. It has been under full Panamanian control for a few years now, and it is still running very smoothly, as they are constantly improving the facilities.
The canal has three sets of water-filled chambers (locks), which raise and lower ships from one level to another. The locks were built in pairs to allow ships to pass through in both directions at the same time. The United States had control of the Panama Canal Zone and the Canal since 1903. However, a treaty approved by Panama’s voters in 1977 and by the U.S. Senate in 1978 gave Panama full control of the Canal on December 31, 1999.