The 51-mile long waterway path that links the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, the Panama Canal, officially opened on August 15, 1914, when the US cargo ship Ancon made a historic first transit. A sea-level canal crossing had been a dream ever since Spanish explorer Vasco Nunez de Balboa saw the eastern shores of the Pacific Ocean after he crossed the Isthmus of Panama in 1513. In 1534, King Charles I of Spain ordered the first studies for the construction of a canal through the isthmus. However, the Spanish government eventually abandoned its interest in the canal.
In 1903, the province of Panama declared its independence from Columbia and immediately signed the Hay-Bunau Varilla Treaty, which authorized the United States to start construction of the Canal in 1904. It was President Theodore Roosevelt’s determination to make the Panama Canal a reality that led to the massive effort that, in the end, produced one of the engineering marvels of the century.