Maritime dates back to ancient times and trade flourished owing to it. There are several instances of ancient waterway passages that facilitated greatly the trade between ancient peoples and distant lands. In other cases canals contributed enormously to the development of powerful republics. Nowadays water canals all over the world are both used by vessels of commerce and as tourist attractions.
And what’s the first association you make when you hear a canal? Well, it’s Venice for me. This is the most unique city situated and sited on a group of about 120 islands. All of them are separated by canals and linked by bridges and this creates its extraordinary Venetian image. The canal system of the Venetian Lagoon has been of great trade importance ever since to this territory of today’s Italy. Nowadays tourists simply consider it a marvellous and romantic tourist site housing rich history, being home to various architectural styles and a splendid town where the most fascinating attraction is a gondola ride along the tiny canals and the Grand Canal.
Moving to the south, Hellas has the Corinth Canal. It goes through the Isthmus of Corinth and separates Peloponnese from the Hellenic mainland. Thus the former peninsula has turned into an island and nowadays it links the Gulf of Corinth to the Sardonic Gulf. The Corinth canal has very “ancient” history. Lots of rulers from the Classical period made attempts to build it up but actually, Nero was the one who really tried to construct it. He himself broke the ground with a pickaxe and laid the foundations. The project was abandoned shortly after his death. The modern Corinth canal was started in the 19th century. Its construction experienced various geological and financial problems but finally, in 1893 it was accomplished. Today the Canal (6.4km long; only 21.4m wide) is of little economic importance and it’s mostly passable and used by tourist ships.
Unlike the Corinth Canal, the Suez sea-level water passage in Egypt is one of the most important waterways between Europe and eastern Asia. The Suez Canal connects the Mediterranean with the Red Sea and facilitates the traffic between the two continents. It was opened in 1869 and initially it was 164km in length and 8m in depth. Since then it’s undertaken several enlargements and today it is 193.30km long, 24m deep and 205m wide. There are ancient traces in the building of the Canal, too, but the construction of the modern water passage was started and operated by the Universal Suez Ship Canal Company formed by Ferdinand de Lesseps in 1858.
By 1880 the French constructor had already gained world fame with the building of the Suez Canal. He himself proposed an original project of the interoceanic Panama Canal linking the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean. Unfortunately, the newly established company responsible for its construction went bankrupt because of corruption issues and the project was frozen till the last years of the century when a US ship was forced to travel to Cuba from the Pacific to the Atlantic Ocean for 70 days. It was too much time and that’s why in 1900 the US Senate reached a decision to construct a canal passing through the Columbian territory (by the way, part of this territory belongs to Panama nowadays) following Ferdinand de Lesseps’ original project and plan. All of the rights and the company itself were sold out to the Americans. Columbia opposed against all this but in vain because in November 1903 there was an uprising after which Panama became an independent country. Three days after this the US senate declared the independence of the new country. Moreover, it purchased lawfully the land dedicated to the “Canal Zone” which actually divided the country into two parts. The deal was in perpetuity but in fact, after many years, in 2000 Panama established a full control over the Canal. Thus the USA constructed the Panal Canal which is now 82km long, about 100m wide and around 15m deep and now it belongs entirely to Panama and is the most important water passage between the two oceans.