The day the Panama Canal opened – level 3
The first idea to dig a canal between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans came from the Spanish in the 16th century. At that time, however, there were no technical means for such a thing.
The real construction of the canal was started in 1881 by the French. Thousands of construction workers came to build the canal. They worked in very hard conditions and were killed by diseases. It is estimated that about 20,000 of them died. There were also frequent floods and landslides. When the money began to run out, the work was terminated in 1889.
The construction was abandoned for five years. Then the Americans bought the license and made one radical change. They left the idea of the French to dig a canal at sea level. Instead, they created a large lake in the middle of Panama at a height of 26 meters above sea level. On both sides of the lake, they made a system of locks that reached the oceans on both sides.
It took 10 years to finish the canal with its length of 82 kilometers. On August 15, 1914, the Panama Canal was finally opened.
Difficult words: means (things which you need when you want to do something), landslide (a sudden fall of a lot of earth), terminated (ended), abandoned (left), locks (big closed parts of a canal where water can go up or down).
What challenge did the Americans face when they took over the construction of the Panama Canal?
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