In 1914, the Panama Canal joined the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, changing international trade forever. The 50-mile-long pathway through the Isthmus of Panama created a significant shortcut for ships that previously had to make the perilous journey around the southern tip of South America.
We’ve compiled 10 facts you might not have known about this engineering wonder:
10. The United States uses the canal the most, followed by China, Chile, Japan, Columbia and North Korea.
9. Early planners of the canal wisely thought ahead, anticipating that the width of cargo ships would probably increase in the future. However, modern-day cargo ship widths began exceeding that so-called “Panamax” benchmark, making it necessary to enact strict limits on which ships could fit through the locks. An expansion to double the waterway’s capacity was completed in 2016.
8. The Canal transports 4% of world trade and 16% of total U.S.-borne trade.
7. In 1928, American adventurer Richard Halliburton swam the length of the Panama Canal. All vessels crossing the canal must pay a toll based on their weight, and Halliburton was no different. His rate? A whopping 36 cents.
6. More than 60 million pounds of dynamite was used to excavate and construct the canal.
5. A full transit of the Panama Canal by ship typically takes 8 to 10 hours. The fastest transit was completed in 2 hours 41 minutes by the U.S. Navy’s Hydrofoil Pegasus in 1979.
4. In 1963, florescent lighting was installed, allowing the canal to begin operating 24 hours a day.
3. Nearly 20,000 French and 6,000 American workers died during the completion of the Panama Canal.
2. Between 13,000 and 14,000 ships cross the Panama Canal every year—about 40 a day.
1. Prior to the expansion, the highest toll ever paid was $375,600. It was paid in 2010 by the Norwegian Pearl cruise ship. Since the expansion, the highest toll paid to date was $829,468 by a containership previously too large to pass through the locks.