The Panama Canal is a 77km long passageway for ships wishing to “shortcut” through the country of Panama in order to reach the Atlantic Ocean from the Pacific Ocean
The Canal opened in August of 1915 and has provided transit to more than 950,000 vessels over the years through a series of three locks called Gatun (Atlantic side), Pedro Miguel and Miraflores (both Pacific side).
The Canal is built up higher than the oceans on either side (25.9m above sea level) because the oceans on either side of Panama have an eight-inch difference in sea level. This means that in order to cross from one side to the next, a ship must be elevated up to the maximum height of the canal on one side, and then lowered back down to sea level on the other side (brilliant!).
And the real kicker is that the Canal itself consists of fresh water that is fed from Lake Gatun (which happens to be a giant man-made lake that supports the Canal), which is also situated in an area that receives massive amounts of rain. The rainwater helps maintain the lake’s freshwater levels, even though the Canal is flanked by salt water on either side (the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans).
It is a wonderful project and by extending it more the cargo and other ships will have a good fortune.