For many years I dreamed of visiting the Panama Canal, to be in the locks, in person. Growing up, I wanted to be an engineer and the idea of how humans could change the very world by our sheer will fascinated me. In many profound ways this passageway changed the world, but at a great cost in human suffering.
The Panama jungle wasn’t easily tamed and it is estimated that between the French’s attempt and through the American’s completion that more than 30,000 workers died in this endeavor. Mostly due to yellow fever and malaria.
However, I don’t think the benefits of this shipping lane can ever be over-estimated. This one channel makes it possible for goods from all over the world to be shipped to the rest of the world at a reduced cost in time and money. Having been to this swath of land and water I can say it is one of the safest places on the planet. In the middle of the tropical jungle there are no mosquitos or at least none that I saw. This is because the canal authorities wage an all out war on the mosquitos to prevent the spread of these deadly diseases. This spot where so many suffered and died has become an oasis in an otherwise dense jungle. Some would even argue that the existence of the Canal has perhaps saved hundreds of thousands of people over the century since it was first built. It has certainly brought wealth to the Panama people.