June 9, 2016

2256, 2603 PANAMA - Panama Canal

Posted on 31.01.2016, 09.06.2016
People have dreamed since the 16th century to pass with ships from the Atlantic into the Pacific Ocean without traveled around South America, but this was not possible until 1914, when the Panama Canal was opened. Since then, a ship which leaves from New York to San Francisco no longer have to travel 22,500km, as the Cape Horn route involved, but only 9,500km. Considered one of the largest and most difficult engineering projects ever undertaken, it cost the lives of 27,500 workers.

It takes 6 to 8 hours to pass through the Panama Canal, which has 77km lenght, and cuts across the Isthmus of Panama. There are locks at each end to lift ships up to Gatun Lake, an artificial lake created to reduce the amount of excavation work required for the canal, 26m above sea level. The current locks are 33.5m wide. A third, wider lane of locks is currently under construction and is due to open in 2016. Annual traffic has risen from about 1,000 ships in 1914, to 14,702 vessels in 2008.

The first attempt to construct a canal through what was then Colombia's province of Panama began on 1 January 1881. The project was inspired by Ferdinand de Lesseps, who was able to raise considerable finance in France as a result of the huge profits generated by his successful construction of the Suez Canal. The French effort went bankrupt in 1889 after reportedly spending US$287,000,000 and losing an estimated 22,000 lives to disease and accidents, wiping out the savings of 800,000 investors.

The United States took over the project in 1904, after the separation of Panama from Colombia, actively supported by the President Theodore Roosevelt. As a result, the Republic of Panama became a US protectorate until 1939. The New York Times called the support given by the United States to the separation of Panama an "act of sordid conquest." The US spent almost $375,000,000 (roughly equivalent to $8,600,000,000 now) to finish the canal, opened on August 15, 1914.

The US continued to control the canal and surrounding Panama Canal Zone until the 1977 Torrijos-Carter Treaties provided for handover to Panama. After a period of joint American-Panamanian control, the canal was taken over by the Panamanian government in 1999, and is now managed and operated by the Panama Canal Authority. Opponents of the treaties feared that efficiency and maintenance would suffer following the US withdrawal, but this has been proven not to be the case.

About the stamps
On the postcard 2256

The first stamp was issued in 2002 to commemorate the canonization of Saint Josemaría and the centenary of his birth. Saint Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer (1902-1975) was a Roman Catholic priest from Spain who founded Opus Dei, an organization of laypeople and priests dedicated to the teaching that everyone is called to holiness and that ordinary life is a path to sanctity.

The second stamp was issued in 2007 to mark the Centenary of the Founding of the Scouting Movement.

The last stamp is part of the series Treasures of National Theatre, issued in 2002.

On the postcard 2603
The first stamp is one of the two issued on April 30, 2001, to celebrate the 180th Anniversary of the Independence of Panama from Spain. The second is part of the series World Wildlife Fund - Wildlife Conservation, about which I wrote here.

Panama Canal - Wikipedia

Sender 2256, 2603: Blanca de Brown
Sent from Panama City (Panama), on 07.12.2015
Photo and design 2256: Mark Carr

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