… and the next part of this talk is on the Panama Canal. It's amazing how this one small section of a small country can be so important to the world. Let's learn a little bit about the canal itself, before we look at how it connects to everything else.
The Panama Canal is an artificial waterway in the Central American country of Panama that connects the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean. It is only 82 kilometres long. If you go around South America by ship then you need to travel another 15,000 kilometres. So the canal saves a lot of travel time. It takes around 8 to 10 hours to cross the canal.
The French started building the canal in 1881, but they couldn't finish it. The project was started again in 1904 by the United States and the canal was finally finished in 1914. Many people died while they were building the canal, some say up to 25,000. For the rest of the 20th century, the United States controlled the canal, but gave control back to Panama in 2000.
Every year, around 40,000 ships come through the canal. These are mostly commercial ships. They transport goods for trade between Asia and America, or Europe. In 2016 the government of Panama made the canal bigger, so that now 99 per cent of ships can pass through it.
Let's now turn to the role of the Panama Canal in the global economy …