Ancón: Town adjacent to Panama City near the Pacific entrance to the Canal. Ancón was the site of French and American hospitals and housing for workers during construction of the Canal.
Aspinwall: Town incorporated as the Atlantic terminal of the Panama Canal Railroad.
Atlantic-Pacific Inter-Oceanic Canal Study Commission: Congressional commission formed in 1964 to study the feasibility of building a sea-level canal through Central America. The Commission published their findings in 1971.
Balboa: City at the Pacific entrance to the Canal that was home to the administrative headquarters of the U.S. Panama Canal Zone and a U.S. navy base. Since December 31, 1999, Balboa is a district of Panama City and headquarters of the Panama Canal Authority.
Bridge of the Americas: Located near Balboa on the Pacific side of the Canal, it was the first highway bridge across the Canal. Opened in 1962 as the Thatcher Ferry Bridge, Panamanians changed the name to Bridge of the Americas in 1979.
Canal Zone: Territory in Panama granted to the U.S. as part of the 1903 Hay–Bunau-Varilla Treaty. The Canal Zone extended five miles on each side of the Canal and three miles into the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. The U.S. operated the Canal Zone until 1979. Thereafter, the land became part of Panama.
Centennial Bridge: Cable-stayed bridge carrying six lanes of traffic that opened in 2005 across Culebra Cut on the Pacific side of the Canal.
Chagres River: Waterway in Panama that provides a water supply for the Canal locks. The U.S. built two dams on the river, at Gatun to form Gatun Lake and the Madden Dam east of the Canal.
Colón: City in Panama near the Atlantic entrance to the Canal. The city was named after Christopher Columbus.
Compagnie Nouvelle de Canal de Panama: A new French canal company formed in 1894 to complete the work of Ferdinand de Lesseps’ failed Compagnie Universelle. The new canal was to be a lock canal, but the project ultimately went unfinished. The U.S. purchased the assets of the French company in 1903.
Compagnie Universelle du Canal Interoceanique: French company formed in 1879 by Ferdinand de Lesseps to build a sea-level canal across present-day Panama. The company dissolved in 1889 after years of financial struggles in a failed attempt to build a canal.
Cristóbal: Port that is adjacent to the city of Colón on the Atlantic entrance to the Panama Canal. Both Cristóbal and Colón were named after Christopher Columbus.
Cucaracha: Section of Culebra Cut that experienced major landslides during the construction of the Panama Canal.
Culebra Cut: Nine-mile channel of the Panama Canal dug through the continental divide. The Cut was the largest portion of excavation work during construction of the Canal. In 1915, President Wilson changed the name to Gaillard Cut in honor of David Gaillard, the engineer in charge of excavation who died before the Cut’s completion.
Expansion project: Five billion dollar project initiated by Panama in 2007. The project includes adding a third set of locks, dredging, and upgrading equipment.
Gaillard Cut: see Culebra Cut.
Gamboa Bridge: Rail and road bridge across the Chagres River.
Gatun Dam: Earthen dam on the Chagres River in Panama that created Gatun Lake. The dam always provides hydroelectric power to operate the Canal locks.
Gatun Lake: One hundred sixty-four square mile reservoir created by the Gatun Dam. Fresh water from the lake supplies the water necessary to operate the Canal locks and provides 32 miles of navigable waterway of the 48-mile Canal.
Gatun Locks: Three-step lock system at the Atlantic entrance to the Canal. The locks raise and lower ships between the ocean and Gatun Lake, which is 85 feet above sea level.
Gold payroll: Segregated system of pay during U.S. construction of the Canal. Gold roll workers were white, primarily American, more highly paid, and paid in U.S. gold coin. The system was a color line, with separate privileges, eating facilities, and building entrances for gold and silver workers. President Eisenhower ended the gold and silver payrolls in 1955.
Isthmian Canal Commission (ICC): U.S. Congressional commission formed in 1899 to recommend a site for a canal in Central America. President Theodore Roosevelt reorganized the ICC to oversee the construction and operation of the Panama Canal.
Landslide: A movement of earth down the slope of a mountain or hill. Engineers encountered numerous slides during excavation of Culebra Cut.
Lidgerwood unloader: A three-ton plow manufactured by the Lidgerwood Manufacturing Company of New York City. An unloader was attached at the end of flatcars hauling dirt by rail from excavation sites. Attached by cable to the lead car, a winch pulled the plow forward, unloading dirt from the train cars, saving hundreds of hours of labor if unloaded by hand.
Locks: System of chamber filled or emptied of water to raise or loser a vessel. At the Panama Canal, all existing lock chambers are 110 feet wide and 1,000 feet long.
Madden Dam: Completed in 1935, the Madden Dam forms Madden Lake, a reservoir that provides a back-up water supply for the Panama Canal.
Malaria: Mosquito-borne disease that causes fever, chills, and flu-like illness. Left untreated, malaria can kill.
Miraflores Locks: Two-step lock system at the Pacific entrance to the Panama Canal. The locks raise and lower ships between the ocean and Miraflores Lake, which is 54 feet above sea level.
Mules: Electric-powered locomotives that guide ships through the Panama Canal locks.
Nicaragua route: Proposed route for a sea-level canal through Nicaragua.
Operation Plowshare: Atomic Energy Commission project that explored using nuclear explosives for civil engineering excavation.
Panama: Southern most country in Central America with a land area of 29,157 square miles. At the time of the handover of the Canal at the end of 1999, approximately 3,000,000 people lived in Panama.
Panama Canal Authority: Agency of the Government of Panama that oversees the operation and maintenance of the Panama Canal. The PCA began oversight of the Canal on December 31, 1999, when the U.S. handed over control of the Canal to Panama. The PCA has an Administrator, an Assistant Administrator, and an 11-member Board of Directors.
Panama City: Capital city of the Republic of Panama. Located near the Pacific entrance to the Canal, the city’s population is over 1,400,000.
Panama Railroad: Transcontinental railroad completed in 1855 across the Isthmus of Panama. Kansas City Southern Railway renovated the PRR in 1998. The railway provides passenger service and an intermodal link between the Pacific and Atlantic ports.
Panamax: Size of ship that fits within the original Canal lock chambers that are 110 feet wide and 1,000 feet long.
Pedro Miguel Locks: One-step lock system at the Pacific side of the Canal. The lock raises and lower ships between Culebra Cut, which is 85 feet above sea level, and Miraflores Lake at 54 feet above sea level.
Silver payroll: Segregated system of pay during U.S. construction of the Canal. The silver roll workers, mainly from the Caribbean islands but also from Spain, Italy, and other European countries, were paid much less and in Panamanian silver coin. The system was a color line, with separate privileges, eating facilities, and building entrances for gold and silver workers. President Eisenhower ended the gold and silver payrolls in 1955.
S.S. Ancon: Steamship that transited the Canal during its official opening ceremony on August 15, 1914.
S.S. Cristobal: Sister ship of the S.S. Ancon. The Cristobal transited the full length of the Canal on August 3, 1914, a test run 12 days prior to its official opening.
Thatcher Ferry Bridge: See Bridge of the Americas.
Torrijos-Carter Treaty: Agreement between Panama and the United States signed by President Jimmy Carter and General Omar Torrijos. The treaty handed over the Canal to Panama on December 31, 1999.
Track shifter: Machine that could pick up and move sections of rail and ties. Track shifters were used in Culebra Cut to frequently move rail lines that hauled spoil from the excavation site.
Yellow fever: Virus found in tropical and subtropical environments that is spread by mosquito bites. Fatal cases of the virus include high fever, bleeding, kidney failure, and jaundice.