logo: Matthew Parker: Hell's Gorge
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Panama: The Golden Isthmus

'Do but open these doors, and trade will increase trade,
and money will beget money'
Scottish Promoter William Paterson, 1698

In September 1513, Spanish conquistador Vasco Núñez de Balboa discovers the ‘South Sea’ and that Panama is a tantalisingly narrow isthmus. The transit route between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans quickly became the most important thoroughfare in the Spanish Empire and the focus of a fierce geo-political struggle.

In September 1513, Spanish conquistador Vasco Núñez de Balboa discovers the ‘South Sea’

Crossing the Isthmus using the Chagres River

Crossing the Isthmus using the Chagres River. With the discovery of gold in California, Panama – the quickest route from East to West US coast - was soon swarming with '49ers'.

Mapping the route for the Panama railroad through thick jungle and swamp. Built in five years between 1850 and 1855, it cost thousands of lives but made a fortune for its owners.

Mapping the route for the Panama railroad through thick jungle

Members of an American surveying expedition in the Darién jungle, 1870.

Members of an American surveying expedition in the Darién jungle, 1870. Building a canal had become part of the US’s ‘Manifest Destiny’. After thorough surveys of all the possible canal routes, the United States decided that the best was Nicaragua.

© Matthew Parker 2011 spacerback to top

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