France and The Panama Canal
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France and the Panama Canal research papers show that in 1876, The Geographical Society of Paris organized a committee to study the potential for building a canal at the Isthmus. The committee was headed by Ferdinand de Lessep, known for his accomplishment of building the Suez Canal. Lieutenant Lucien Wyse who was placed in charge of surveying the Isthmus, suggested a construction at sea level which would parallel the Panama Railroad and cut through the Continental Divide at Culebra. After signing the Wyse Concession, Colombia granted the committee exclusive rights to build the canal through Panama.
France Begins Work on the Canal
On February 1, 1881, funded by over 100,000 mostly small investors, the French began work on he canal. De Lesseps had estimated that the job would cost about $132 million, and would take approximately twelve years to complete, but the considerable skill of the French engineers was not enough to overcome the disease and impassable terrain they found on the Isthmus. The following were the reasons the Panama Canal took much longer to complete than originally anticipated:
- Diseases such as malaria and smallpox ran rampant
- Heavy rain thwarted construction often
- Unbearable heat made the men exhausted easily
After almost twenty years of struggle, the enterprise was in ruin suffering losses of an estimated twenty-thousand men, and financial losses totaling $325 million. When the French, still considered the pioneers of the canal, pulled out of the Panama they had completed almost one-third of the canal's construction.