Wonders Never Cease: The 100th Anniversary of the Panama Canal
The 1914 completion of the Panama Canal inaugurated a new era of global trade and travel. For centuries the narrow Isthmus of Panama commanded the attention of monarchs and explorers seeking a less precarious means of circumnavigating the globe. Digging through the natural land mass to create a man-made canal would allow ships to bypass the dangerous coastal ridges, drowning currents, and powerful storms that confronted sailors on the existing route around Cape Horn. The monolithic feat of realizing the Canal was the culmination of thirty-three years of effort by two industrial superpowers (France and the United States) as well as the deaths of many indigenous and imported laborers. Immediately recognized as an engineering marvel for its complicated system of hydraulic gates, lakes, and locks, the project emerged from a climate of technological excitement that thoroughly transformed the modern industrial landscape. Nearly one-hundred years and thousands of vessels later, the Canal is currently undergoing renovations that will allow it to meet the demands of contemporary maritime conditions, including gargantuan ships and increased traffic. Drawing on its holdings of rare books and archival collections, The Wolfsonian–FIU library commemorates the industrial achievements and the individual lives that set the stage for this present-day pursuit.