It’s 1850 and you’re a New Yorker hearing
about that sweet sweet gold on the west coast.
You’ve three options
Across the country by mule,
sail around Cape Horn,
or a boat to Panama trek through the jungle
and hop on another the other side.
All going well, you’ll be at Disneyland within two months.
But the Panama track was incredibly deadly,
so using Irish and Chinese laborers the Panama railroad was built.
Half a million people traveled it in the first ten years.
It became a major artery for the US Postal Service
and was soon the highest-priced stock on the New York exchange.
Transcontinental travel was big business.
50 miles of land was the only thing stopping the Atlantic for meeting the Pacific.
And all the trade, politics and power that came with it.
After completing the Suez Canal Ferdinand de Lesseps returned to Europe a hero.
He’d brought India 6,000 miles closer and made Africa an island.
30,000 people came out to congratulate the Frenchman, in London.
His reception in Paris was one of royalty.
他还交了几个新朋友 有凡尔纳 雨果以及埃菲尔
His new friends included Jules Verne Victor Hugo and Gustave Eiffel.
So when he announced his next project was to cut
through Central America few people doubted him.
The Americans had already done surveys of the area
and were convinced of a lock system at Nicaragua.
However de Lesseps was set on a sea-level canal at Panama.
It was the shortest route, and that’s all that mattered.
但在巴拿马有高山 急流 丛林 火山岩
But Panama had mountains, rivers, jungles, volcanic rock,
以及分水岭 瘴气 黄热病 美洲虎和毒蛇
a continental divide, malaria, yellow fever, jaguars, snakes,
and was still technically a region of Colombia.
Godin de Lépinay, the French engineer pointed out
that Suez have been easy for de Lesseps because it was a flat desert.
Re-routing the Chagres River in Panama would be an impossible task.
He suggested bridging the land with artificial lakes and locks.
The all respected de Lesseps had spoken.
It would be at sea level.
然后 一个国际会议就此召开 将决定最后的方案
An international conference was held to decide the final route.
Everyone but the few engineers who had actually
been to Panama voted with de Lesseps.
A French company was set up,
they bought the railroad and
agreed to give Colombia 5 % of any revenue.
Using Caribbean and Indian workers
the jungle began to be chopped back in 1881.
Annual rainfall in Panama could be three meters,
soon the monumental scale of the task became apparent.
Mudslides meant any progress would be undone after the next big storm.
To stop the canal walls from sliding in,
a new slope of one to four had to be cut.
Doubling the amount of excavation.
At the highest point along the canal,
the new width would have to be three-quarters of a mile.
Laborers were armed with nothing but a machete and a pickaxe.
The death toll was at times 40 a day.
Yellow fever and malaria spread like wildfire in the swampy inhumane conditions.
Bodies of black workers will often just rolled
from where they died into the dumping grounds.
People spoke of ghost ships arriving from the Caribbean,
the crew dead even before reaching Panama.
1889年 法国公司破产 工程也不得不暂停
In 1889 the French company went bankrupt and work came to a halt.
800,000 investors lost their money and 23,000 people their lives.
The canal sat untouched until
Theodore Roosevelt was elected a decade later.
He was convinced the US Navy needed quick access to the Pacific Ocean
and a canal would be the only way.
So the Panama versus Nicaragua debate resurfaced,
Panama winning again.
Though ever hadn’t been for the French attempt.
It’s likely the canal today would be at Nicaragua.
but a lot of the work was already started
and the young ambitious America couldn’t resist in succeeding
where the mighty French Empire had failed.
The slight problem was that
Panama was a region of and owned by Colombia.
But the US refused to sign any treaty where they
didn’t have complete sovereignty over the canal zone, and
Colombia weren’t willing to give that up.
In 1903 Colombia was in political unrest
so the US turned to Panama directly…
嘿 巴拿马 你想独立吗
Psssttt… Panama! Do you wanna be a new country?
If you were to have a revolution
我们不会 不用我们的军舰保护你们 /调皮微笑
We wouldn’t not protect you with our massive warships ; )
And Panama signed a treaty giving America total control
over the canal once they became independent.
A lot of people weren’t happy with the US
intervention at Panama, so Roosevelt asked Attorney General
Knox to form a legal defense.
“Ah Mr. President, do not let so great an achievement
suffer from any taint of legality”
In 1904 work began.
The US plan by Joseph Ripley and Alfred Noble would be an adaptation
of de Lépinay’s from 25 years earlier.
A series of locks on either ocean
to raise ships 26 meters above sea level.
And then dam the Chagres river to flood huge areas of central Panama.
164 square miles of jungle, town and railroad would be lost underwater.
Creating Gattun lake. The Chagres River, so
difficult and obstacle for a sea-level passage, would
become the lifeline of the lock canal – feeding
it with a constant water supply.
Yet the engineering required would still be immense.
The Culebra mountains must still be cut through.
Gatun dam would have to be one of the largest in the world.
As would the locks themselves.
1906年 罗斯福参观此地 并成为了美国历史上
Roosevelt himself visited in 1906 becoming the first
president to leave the country while in office.
Not resigned to pickaxe and shovel the Americans brought dynamite with them.
The project became not one of digging but of Earth removal.
And this meant miles and miles of continuously moving railroads.
Health care, accommodation and food were all provided for.
Government run hotels and shops were making a steady profit, while
subsidizing the expenses of Canal workers.
Papers back home warned
of the political threat these people would be when they returned.
Americans who had thrived into socialism.
But if you’d gone to Panama looking for a socialist utopia.
You’d have been disappointed.
There was no shared ownership or democracy in action.
And you’d better have been white.
Because segregation still existed in all walks of life.
200,000 people migrated from the Caribbean,
making up the vast majority of the workforce.
Black workers were given appalling food and accommodation, if any at all.
Single men often lived in converted boxcars along the canal line,
and families were forced to fend for themselves
in Colon, Panama City or the jungle.
Despite all the medical and safety advancements
made a black worker was four times
more likely to die than a white worker.
Being struck by falling rock caught in machinery or
blown apart by dynamite.
33 years, 180 million cubic meters
of earth, a new country and
27,000 lives later.
The canal was finished.
It’s completion book marked the end
of a global era, on August the 3rd 1914,
the Cristobal made the first ocean to ocean crossing.
But there was no fanfare or celebration in Panama
As night fell that same day,
half a (now slightly smaller) world away
Germany declared war on France.
Trade, politics, and power would never be the same again.
In the coming years it became a lifeline of global travel.
5% of all world trade passes through the canal.
It’s political and financial
importance became hard to overestimate.
Tensions between the US and Panama continued to rise.
Panamanians believed that control of the canal was rightfully theirs.
After the US pressured the UK and France
to give up their claim to Suez,
many in Panama saw this as hypocritical.
There were riots and deaths throughout the sixties,
building international pressure on the US.
In 1977 Jimmy Carter signed a treaty granting Panama
future ownership and control of the canal, as
long as it remained in neutral waterway.
Carter:”Your own strong feelings about the Panama Canal Treaty of 1903.”
“Drafted in a world so different from ours today.”
“Has become an obstacle to better relations with Latin America.”
After a quick US invasion in’89 to overthrow general Noriega.
The Panama Canal
officially became the property of Panama,
on the last day of the 20th century.
But by then it had started to become more
economical to build ships larger than the canal and
start sailing around Cape Horn again.
In 2007 Panama began expansion of their canal, two
new sets of locks were built parallel to the old ones,
increasing the maximum size and capacity.
The expansion itself was a massive project,
taking almost as long as the Americans did.
So the issue of who built the canal is complicated.
It was the US that built the railroads with Irish and Chinese workers.
The French excavated 50 million cubic meters of rock with Indians and Jamaicans.
The US finished the project using Caribbean and Central American workers.
Yet most of the canal [infrastructure] you actually see today was built by Panamanians.
Yet it would be remembered as the achievement of a single president,
while actually completed under several others,
all while standing on the shoulders of other nations.
Human progress requires scale and ambition that exceeds generations.
Not just terms of office.
This canal and later projects were built
by many people and nations working together across continents.
And sometimes centuries.
Human Interests now has a Patreon page. At the moment
I can only put out a video every few months
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But with your help I’d love to make them a more regular thing.
Check out the video explaining how patreon works and some
of the things I want to do if the channel gets bigger.
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