On August 15, 1914, the Panama Canal opened, connecting the world’s two largest oceans and signaling America’s emergence as a global superpower. American ingenuity and innovation had succeeded, but the U.S. paid a price for victory: more than a decade of ceaseless, grinding toil, an outlay of more than $350 million — the largest single federal expenditure in history to that time — and the loss of more than 5,000 lives. Along the way, Central America witnessed the brazen overthrow of a sovereign government, a revolutionary public health campaign, the backbreaking removal of hundreds of millions of tons of earth and construction on an unprecedented scale. The story of the canal features a cast of colorful characters ranging from an indomitable president to visionary engineers to tens of thousands of workers from around the world, rigidly segregated by race. Using an extraordinary archive of photographs and footage, some remarkable interviews with canal workers and firsthand accounts of life in the canal zone, director Stephen Ives and producer Amanda Pollak unravel the remarkable story of one of the world’s most significant technological achievements.
Watch Tuesday, April 3, 2012 at 8:30pm.