'Culebra Cut, Culebra. Air drills on side of Contractors Hill. Looking south'. One of a series of 12 photographs depicting the building of the Panama Canal in 1912-1913. The idea of building a canal between the Atlantic and Pacific was first planned by the French civil engineer and builder of the Suez Canal, Ferdinand de Leseps. The French began work in 1880, but 9 years later the difficulties posed by the terrain, disease and spiralling costs doomed the project to failure. The United States bought the land in 1904 for $40 million, and proceeded to complete the 80 kilometre long canal between 1904 and 1914. The building of the canal cost the lives of an estimated 25,000 workers due to accidents and tropical diseases.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library