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Panama Canal (American Experience)
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On August 15th, 1914, the Panama Canal opened, connecting the world’s two largest oceans and signaling America’s emergence as a global superpower. This AMERICAN EXPERIENCE film using an extraordinary archive of photographs and footage, interviews with canal workers and firsthand accounts of life in the Canal Zone, unravels the remarkable story of one of the world’s most significant technological achievements.
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The move follows the sequence of events in the book "The Path between the Seas" by David McCullough (which is a great book). In fact, the dialogue is the same in both the movie and the book. What is nice, is by watching the movie, you get to see pictures of the events. The movie is full of great shots related to all aspects of the building of the canal; it has pictures of the main and minor characters and their families, the housing, the construction equipment, the railroads, the digging, the workers, and Present Teddy Roosevelt visiting the canal.
In recent years the amount of cargo shipped through the canal has continued to increase, a growth driven in part by rapidly expanding economies in Asia. In fact, nearly 70% of all cargo to and from the U.S. passes through the Panama Canal. Panama is currently planning to double the capacity of the canal. By 2025, the Panama Canal is projected to earn more than $6 billion annually. The movie is 90 minutes long and does not have a dull moment. You will enjoy it.
Prior to seeing the 90 minute AMERICAN EXPERIENCE program about the building of the Panama Canal, I wasn't aware that Roosevelt abetted Panamanian rebels in their fight to gain independence from Colombia. TR did so for less than altruistic reasons. The Colombian government had refused to negotiate a treaty with the US to allow the Canal's construction. It was a bloodless coup. Colombian soldiers went home peacefully after they received American bribe money. Roosevelt got his right of way from the new nation's grateful leaders.
In the long years it took to construct this amazing waterway ladder system, hundreds died from pneumonia, malaria and especially yellow fever. A military doctor named William C. Gorgas acted upon a previous unproven theory of Dr. Carlos Finlay that the two illnesses were transmitted by mosquitoes. Gorgas's aggressive mosquito eradication program soon stopped yellow fever and malaria and contributed to their prevention the world over.
Full length of the canal, plus the arificially created Gatun Lake, is 51 miles. Entering ships are raised one step at a time to the level of the higher altitude lake, and on the other side lowered in similar fashion, via one lock after the other. The gargantuan watertight swinging doors along each step of the way are brilliantly constructed; so perfectly counterbalanced that 40 HP motors can operate them.
Just a few of the trivia morsels contained in this always interesting documentary. News articles, photos and 100-plus year old films help tell a story that's fleshed out by expert commentators, plus interview footage of workers made decades after the canal's 1914 completion.
Most definitely recommended.