A capsule history of the Panama Canal

* On Sept. 27, 1513, Vasco Nunez de Balboa, running from his creditors in the Caribbean, hacked his way through the trees, lianas, and dripping humidity to become the first European to view the Pacific from its Eastern shore.

* By 1535 a trail led from Nombre de Dios (God's Name) on the Atlantic to Panama City on the Pacific; it was a miserable path through the jungle, but it was named Camino Real, the Royal Road.

* In the 1840s the gold rush gave new impetus to the idea of connecting the two oceans. A railroad was built across the isthmus in 1855 and the first train rattled across ''from coast to coast'' - 14 years before the Union Pacific of the United States.

* The Americans became interested in building a canal after a French attempt ended in scandal in 1888. Negotiations for a US-Colombian canal treaty broke down over financial disputes. Soon thereafter, Amador Guerrero, a leader of nationalistic Panamanians, took a fast trip to Washington and returned to Panama City with a suitcase full of money of undetermined origin. The money paid Colombian troops to depart and enabled the Panamanians to orchestrate a 50 -minute revolution, in which a Chinese merchant and a careless donkey were the only casualties.

* Upon receiving news of the revolution in 1903, the US recognized Panamanian independence and, two weeks later, signed the Panama Canal Treaty with Panama, thus acquiring a 10-mile strip for the canal zone.

* Work began on the canal in 1904, and was not completed until August 3, 1914 .

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