Time-Lapse Video of Panama Canal Traffic Is Simply Sublime

The Panama Canal opened for business 100 years ago this month. By 2005, 5% of the world's seagoing traffic crossed it, including 70% of the cargo heading in and out of the United States. It remains, even today, a technological and logistical marvel.


(Video Link)

This time-lapse video from ZipCams illustrates that by showing a day of traffic (April Fool's Day, 2012) through the Miraflores Locks. You can watch live camera footage of those locks here.

-via Gizmodo


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The Panama Canal is not a sea-level canal. The boats are lifted up to Gatun Lake, then lowered down the other side. Also, there's a 20 cm difference between the mean sea level of the Atlantic and Pacific sides, the tides on the Atlantic vary by about 1 meter while on the Pacific side by about 6 meters, and the timing of the tides is different. De Lesseps's plan (the original French effort before the US one) was a sea-level canal. It would still have required a sea lock on the Pacific side to handle the tides.

As to how they surveyed it, they set up a geodetic network based on triangulation. There were several surveying teams (US and French) which went to the area to survey it, establishing triangles across the isthmus. Perhaps the greatest example of this kind of work in the 1800s is the Great Trigonometrical Survey of India, of which there are several books if the topic interests you.
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How did the surveyors 100 years ago know that sea-level on one side of the land was not going to be at the same level as sea-level on the other side?
Somehow they had to know that before they started digging their trench, otherwise, once they broke through to the water, the ocean on one side would have immediately poured into it and overflowed the ocean on the other side.
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