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The earliest record related to a canal across the isthmus of panama was in 1534, when charles v, holy roman emperor and king of spain, ordered a survey for a route through the americas in order to ease the voyage for ships traveling between spain and peru. The spanish were seeking to gain a military advantage over the portuguese. Theodore roosevelt believed that a us-controlled canal across central america was a vital strategic interest of the country. This idea gained wide circulation after the destruction of the uss maine in cuba on february 15, 1898. Reversing a walker commission decision in favor of a nicaraguan canal, roosevelt encouraged the acquisition of the french panama canal effort. Morisonwas the only commission member who argued for the panama location. history of the panama canal - the railroad, the french attempt, the us build and the expansion. when the panama canal officially opened in 1914, it was celebrated at a grand worlds fair in san francisco the panama pacific international exposition. Panama canal dangers goethals focused efforts on culebra cut, the clearing of the mountain range between gamboa and pedro miguel. Excavation of the nearly 9-mile stretch became an around-the-clock. Steaming across panama bucyrus and the digging of the panama canal - duration 757. Panama canal, the lock-type canal that connects the atlantic and pacific oceans through the narrow isthmus of panama. The length of the panama canal from shoreline to shoreline is about 40 miles (65 km). It was completed in 1914 and is one of the two most strategic artificial waterways in the world. Building the panama canal, 19031914 president theodore roosevelt oversaw the realization of a long-term united states goala trans-isthmian canal. Throughout the 1800s, american and british leaders and businessmen wanted to ship goods quickly and cheaply between the atlantic and pacific coasts. The canal and remaining territory, known as the canal area, was returned to panama at noon (local panama time) on december 31, 1999. Additionally, from 1979 to 1999, a bi-national transitional panama canal commission ran the canal, with an american leader for the first decade and a panamanian administrator for the second.