Ports on both sides of the Canal

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In 1880 Ferdinand de Lesseps began a 20 year effort to construct a waterway across the Isthmus of Panama in fulfillment of a dream that began with Vasco Nuñez de Balboa's first sighting of the Pacific.
 
After this failed, the United States took up the work in 1903 under a treaty which granted them rights to a strip of territory running 5 miles on each side of the Canal.

At the opening of the Canal in 1914, the Panama Canal Company, together with the U.S. Government had integrated the operation of the waterway and adjacent lands into the Canal Zone, a separate State within the Republic of Panama.

Wholly U.S. in character, the Canal Zone had its own police force, judicial system customs and immigration services, remained unchanged until the implementation of the Torrijos/Carter treaties on October 1st., 1979.

The Panama Canal is 83.5km (45 nautical miles) long from deep water in the Atlantic to deep water in the Pacific. The Canal runs from northwest to southwest with the Atlantic entrance being 53.8km (33.5 miles) north and 43.34km (27 miles) west of the Pacific entrance. The straightline distance between the two entrances is 69.1km (43 miles).It requires about nine hours for an average ship to transit the Canal. During this brief time, the passengers on board have an opportunity to see one of the modern wonders of the world in operation. Its principal physical features are the Atlantic and Pacific terminals, short sea level sections of the channel at either end, three sets of twin locks, Gatun and Miraflores Lakes and the Gaillard Cut.

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