Must Read Quotient 80%
Difficulty 100%
Educational Value 100%
Snooze Factor 80%
Character Development 20%

Must Read Quotient—Overall value to an expat.
Difficulty—Amount of brain power needed to power through the book.
Educational Value—Level of contribution to your Panama education.
Snooze Factor—Likelihood of falling asleep while reading.
Character Development—Ability to connect with the book’s characters.

Highlights from The Path Between the Seas

  • Nicaragua was the favored location for a canal by most of the French and Americans involved in the project.
  • The amount of dirt excavated from the canal was enough to build a Great Wall from San Francisco to New York—or 63 Great Pyramids. A train carrying said dirt would encircle the planet four times at the equator. And, if all the dirt were stacked in a column on a New York City block, it would extend 19 miles up in the air.
  • In the final year of construction, there were 414 recorded deaths—30 white Americans, 384 black immigrants.
  • In general, local Panamanians did not benefit economically from the construction of the canal, largely a result of U.S. commissaries supplying provisions to workers at low prices. Many locals had their homes and land taken from them and were arbitrarily relocated.
  • The gap between Panamanian and U.S. cultures was wide—Americans were seen as loud, arrogant, rude and drunk and Panamanians as ignorant and grouchy.
  • Corruption in the Panamanian government began with the very first president who reportedly stole $200,000 to $300,000 from the treasury, either directly or by inflating expenditures.
  • The U.S. government had spent a total of $75,000,000 to acquire the Louisiana Territory, Florida, California, New Mexico and other western land, the Gadsden Purchase, Alaska and the Philippines. This was one fifth of cost of the Canal.
  • In 1914, canal tolls totaled $4,000,000; in 1970, without any increase in the amount of the tolls, the total was $100,000,000. In 1974, tolls were raised for the first time; a 20% increase resulted in total tolls of $140,000,000 that year.
  • The Canal remains fundamentally the same since the day it opened in 1914, a massive testament to the engineers who designed it.
  • One of the biggest champions of the Canal, President Theodore Roosevelt, never saw it after completion.