David McCullough notes in his initial chapter that all early 19th-century canal plans are preposterous. Every survey is flawed due to assumptions and inaccurate data. Yet the Suez Canal was successfully opening on November 1869, after ten years of construction. It is twice as long as the Panama Canal, which did not open until 1914. Actual work on the Panama did not start until 1880, a decade following the Suez opening. Central America afforded at least 19 possible locations to select from. Explain what causes so many problems in constructing the Panama Canal. What took so long? Why was there such a lengthy battle in Washington? What caused the loss of so many lives?
"The Hero," subtitle for Chapter 2, is a reference to the sincere respect that surrounded Ferdinand de Lesseps subsequent to his success with the Suez Canal. He was in his 60s then, and could easily have retired on his...
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