Shown below is a cutting from THE ASIAN AGE, Saturday 18 July 2009:
The article says that Aldo Rincón, paleontology intern a Smithsonian Tropical Institute "has found llama bones before, as well as the mineralised mementos of prehistoric crocodiles, peccaries, anacondas and giant tortoises." Aldo Rincón’s work is part of the Panama Geology Project, about which more information can be found at http://www.thepanamanews.com/pn/v_14/issue_14/nature_03.html.
The canal expansion program, which was decided by a Referendum on 22 Oct 06, began last year (2007), and is expected to terminate in 2014, consists of the construction of two new sets of locks — one on the Pacific and on on the Atlantic side of the canal. Each lock will have three chambers and each chamber will have three water reutilisation basins. A map of the present canal is shown below:
The program also entails the widening and deepening of the existing navigational channels in Gatun lake and the deepening of Culebra (or Gaillard) Cut.
In the late 1870s a private French company, directed by Ferdinand de Lesseps, who had overseen construction of the Suez Canal, won a concession from Colombia to build a sea level canal in Panama. The company quickly ran into problems and ceased work in 1888.
On 3 Nov 1903, Panama broke away from Colombia and declared itself independent. Two weeks later Panama signed a treaty with the United States giving permission for the canal project. Canal construction began in 1904, directed by an Inter-Oceanic Canal Corporation. The first ship travelled through it from the Atlantic to the Pacific on 15 Aug 1914, but owing to landslides and the First World War, the canal’s formal opening was postponed until 1920.
Starting in the 1930s the Gaillard Cut was widened to improve navigation, and in the 1990s it was expanded again. Madden Dam was built in the 1930s to control the flow of water into Gatun Lake and generate electricity. In 1962 a high level bridge, known as the Bridge of the Americas or Thatcher Ferry Bridge, was built over the Pacific entrance to the canal.
In 1977 U.S. president Jimmy Carter and the Panamanian leader, General Omar Torrijos Herrera, signed treaties that gave control of the canal and all its operations to Panama in 1999. In October 2006 Panama’s voters approved of a $5.25 billion plan to expand and modernise the canal. An account of this is given in a Popular Mechanics article.