What was the reason panama was chosen for the canal?

Given Panama's strategic location and the potential of its narrow isthmus that separates two large oceans, attempts have been made over the years to establish other commercial links in the area. In 1513, the Spanish explorer Vasco Núñez de Balboa became the first European to discover that the Isthmus of Panama was nothing more than a thin land bridge that separated the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. The discovery of Balboa sparked the search for a natural waterway that would link the two oceans. In 1534, when no such passage was found to cross the isthmus, Charles V, the emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, ordered a study to determine if one could be built, but the surveyors finally decided that the construction of a canal for ships was impossible.

During the 1800s, the United States, which wanted a canal connecting the Atlantic and the Pacific for economic and military reasons, considered Nicaragua to be a more feasible place than Panama. However, that opinion changed thanks in part to the efforts of Philippe-Jean Bunau-Varilla, a French engineer who had participated in France's two channel projects. In the late 1890s, Bunau-Varilla began pressuring U.S. legislators to buy French canal assets in Panama and eventually convinced several of them that Nicaragua had dangerous volcanoes, making Panama the safest option.

The canal's builders had to face a variety of obstacles, including difficult terrain, hot and humid weather, and torrential rains and the proliferation of tropical diseases. The first French attempts had resulted in the death of more than 20,000 workers and U.S. efforts had no better results; between 1904 and 1913, some 5,600 workers died as a result of illness or accidents. By submitting your information, you agree to receive emails from HISTORY and A+E Networks.

You can unsubscribe at any time. You must be 16 years of age or older and a resident of the United States. In 1881, a French company led by Ferdinand de Lesseps, a former diplomat who developed Egypt's Suez Canal, began digging a canal through Panama. On February 1, 1881, driven by patriotic fervor and capitalized by more than 100,000 investors, mostly small ones, the French Compagnie Universelle du Canal Interocéanique began working on a canal that would cross the Colombian isthmus of Panama and link the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Control of the canal was peacefully transferred to Panama in December 1999, and Panamanians have been responsible for it ever since.

German troops were crossing Belgium in the direction of Paris; newspapers relegated Panama to their last pages. De Lesseps, who visited Panama once during the dry season, had ignored the warnings of men who knew Panama intimately. However, the following year, when Colombia, of which Panama was a part, refused to ratify an agreement that allowed the United States to build a canal, Panamanians, encouraged by Bunau-Varilla and with the tacit approval of President Theodore Roosevelt, rebelled against Colombia and declared Panama's independence. Secretary of State John Hay and Bunau-Varilla, acting as representatives of the provisional government of Panama, negotiated the Hay-Bunau-Varilla Treaty, which granted the United States the right to an area of more than 500 square miles in which it could build a canal; the Canal Zone would be controlled in perpetuity by the Americans.

Soon after ascending to the presidency, Roosevelt spoke of the Panama Canal in a speech to Congress. In 1977, President Jimmy Carter and General Omar Torrijos of Panama signed treaties that transferred control of the canal to Panama in 1999, but granted the United States the right to use military force to defend the waterway against any threat to its neutrality. Warships to Panama City (in the Pacific) and Colón (in the Atlantic) in support of Panamanian independence. In the following centuries, several countries considered building a Panamanian canal, but a serious attempt was not made until the 1880s.

The newly declared Republic of Panama immediately appointed Philippe Bunau-Varilla (a French engineer who had participated in the previous attempt to build the Lesseps Canal) as envoy extraordinary and plenipotentiary minister. After the violence, Panama temporarily broke diplomatic relations with the United States.

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