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Full Timeline of the Panama Canal

Trace the timetable of events that led to construction of the Panama Canal.

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The following is a timeline of the Panama Canal from its first conception to 1999:

1513 - Vasco Nunez de Balboa crosses the Isthmus of Panama from the Atlantic to the Pacific oceans.

1534 - Charles I of Spain (Holy Roman Emperor Charles V) orders a survey of a proposed canal route across the isthmus. The survey comes back "impossible."

1848 - Discovery of gold in California sparks interest in the United States in a shipping route across the isthmus.

1852 - U.S. Army Capt. Ulysses S. Grant leads a military detachment of several hundred men and their dependents across isthmus en route to California; 150 men, women and children die from a cholera epidemic.

1869 - Now president, Grant orders surveys for a canal that are conducted in Tehuantepec, Mexico, and in the Darien region of Panama, a province of Colombia.

1876 - French committee begins study for an isthmus canal. U.S. canal commission favors Nicaragua route.

1878 - French naval officer Lucien Wyse explores two possible canal routes for company headed by Ferdinand de Lesseps, choosing the one that is now the current route. Wyse signs agreement with Colombia for French company to build canal. Treaty calls for canal to revert to Colombia after 99 years.

1879 - French hold a congress in Paris on the building of the canal, consider 14 proposals, including Wyse's. Final decision comes down to three routes: De Lesseps/Wyse's sea-level canal and another French proposal for a lock canal across Colombia's Panama province, and the U.S. Nicaragua plan. De Lesseps' plan wins.

1880 - French break ground on canal in Panama on January 1.

1881 - First construction crews arrive; first employee dies of yellow fever.

1884-85 - Work force of 19,000 reached; workers die of yellow fever and malaria almost daily.

1887 - Committee recommends lock canal as costs rise.

1888 - French abandon sea level canal and begin work on a lock canal.

1889 - Canal company dissolved and work on the canal stops.

1893-94 - Wyse renegotiates agreement with Colombia and begins working for new canal company.

1894 - First ships sail from France to begin excavation ...

Solution Summary

A listing of all the events surrounding the construction and control of the Panama Canal.