The Panama Canal was the costliest undertaking in human history. It literally required moving mountains, in one of the most challenging environments on earth, breaking the back of the great range that connects North and South America. The French began the Canal in 1880, but were ultimately defeated by the enormity of the task and the virulence of the endemic tropical diseases; they left behind not only a partially completed canal, but also an immense financial debacle. The successful completion by the Americans in 1914 -- only months before the start of a World War -- marked the end of the Victorian age and the beginning of "the American Century." This two-hour program tells the epic story of one of the greatest engineering triumphs of all time, and one of the most expensive, in both money and lives. It weaves together the stories of the powerful men whose decisions shaped the enterprise, including larger-than-life characters such as Ferdinand de Lesseps and Theodore Roosevelt, with the stories of the ordinary laborers from Jamaica and Barbados whose labor and sacrifice actually dug the canal. Along the way it tells a story of innovation that literally changed the course of history.
Download fact sheet >>