The World's Shortcut: How the Panama Canal Works

  • Published: 02 July 2019
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    Animation by Josh Sherrington
    Sound by Graham Haerther (
    Thumbnail by Simon Buckmaster

    Special thanks to Patreon supporters Adam Chelminski, Arkadiy Kulev, Charles Zilinski, Chris Allen, Connor J Smith, Daddy Donald, Etienne Dechamps, Eyal Matsliah, Hank Green, John & Becki Johnston, Kyle, MyNameIsKir, Plinio Correa, Qui Le, Remi_Scarlet, Tom Dooner, Tyler Hamm, and Vaughn Mudrick

    Music by
    Select footage courtesy the AP Archive


Comments • 1 921

  • Wendover Productions
    Wendover Productions   5 months back

    I hope you found this video interesting! If you're looking for more Wendover Productions content, we recently started a podcast called Extremities. It's all about the world's most isolated places with the first season focusing on Pitcairn--the tiny British Overseas Territory in the South Pacific with a population of 50. You can listen to that on any major podcasting app or all the links are here:

    • Octopus
      Octopus  3 months back

      Can you please do one on how ships get to states like Minnesota

    • Karl Johan Felsager Jakobsen
      Karl Johan Felsager Jakobsen  3 months back

      What about goung North og Canada egen the ice melts

    • Proud Deplorable
      Proud Deplorable  4 months back

      Do a video about HAARP and weather modification as well. It appears you are really interested in the weather and weather modification is 100 percent proven. Ever heard of seeding clouds for rain? That's just the start.

    • aziz ali
      aziz ali  4 months back

      Look how small Trinidad and Tobago looking

  • good 'un
    good 'un  20 hours back

    "Dubious land deals"? They might have added "fomented a revolution", three important little words.

    • good 'un
      good 'un  20 hours back

      Cute graphic at 1:30 showing the "operation" of the locks, except....the boundary gates of the locks don't actually rise straight up out of the bedrock as the graphic shows, they work more like saloon doors. If any lock gates anywhere in the world DO indeed move up and down ( vertically), I'd be very impressed.

      • Victor Vizcaino
        Victor Vizcaino  6 days back

        What a weird white-washed opening.
        The U.S. actually funded an independence war so that Panama would separate from Colombia (which was planning to build the canal in their territory - panama was part of Colombia). After the separation of panama from Colombia, the u.s. forced panama to give up control of the route till the year 2000

        • Nomecla Absorber
          Nomecla Absorber  2 days back

          Victor Vizcaino this be a bruh moment frankly if your interested in the Panama Canal you probably went to 6th grade so you should know about the history behind it

      • jackie cs
        jackie cs  7 days back

        I appreciated the $90/TEU figure for the Panama canal, but it would have been awesome to see similar figures for the Suez and for cross-coast trains. You said the first is lower and the second is higher, but not by how much.

        • Madhura Karibe
          Madhura Karibe  1 weeks back

          Everybody gangsta until global warming comes along and submerges the whole of Panama

          • Ajisaurus
            Ajisaurus  1 weeks back

            You see

            • Cal Commercial Insurance

              That's hilarious! So they rebuild the Panama Canal from 5000 container ships up to 15,000, only to unload them back onto 5000 container ships once they pass through the canal. Why couldn't they just move the contents BEFORE going through the canal with the old smaller standards? Progress is funny that way!

              • Jeon Tanianakara
                Jeon Tanianakara  2 weeks back

                Thats Japan,
                Not Hong Kong.

                • angel orellana
                  angel orellana  2 weeks back

                  Divide 2 continents to unite the world

                  • Boyce T
                    Boyce T  2 weeks back

                    You new a new narrator. This guy is horrible!!!

                    • Papa Franku
                      Papa Franku  2 weeks back

                      I hate people of colour

                      • Molloy
                        Molloy  2 weeks back

                        Can anyone recommend a good book on this topic?

                        • Teriza Marvell
                          Teriza Marvell  3 weeks back

                          5600 worker fatalities????? holy SHIT..... feel like there could be a video on that.

                          • Cyndie C
                            Cyndie C  3 weeks back

                            Great video! I was today old when I learnt about locks and Panama Canal ❤

                            • bandido alone
                              bandido alone  3 weeks back


                              • Polyphony
                                Polyphony  3 weeks back

                                So I guess what happens in Panama doesn't stay in Panama..?

                                • Bertl Barm
                                  Bertl Barm  3 weeks back

                                  They charged me 2000 USD for my 31 ft boat and 2000 USD for 4 deckhands for the transit, next time l go thrue the magelan street

                                  • Crazy Cruzito
                                    Crazy Cruzito  4 weeks back

                                    For ocean overland route, I am pretty sure more cargo goes into Huntington than LA. (Source, my uncle who is a Huntington dockhand)

                                    • relative pronouns and demonstrative pronouns

                                      "The single most important and influential waterways in the world"
                                      Suez canal: hold my water

                                      • Puff 'n' sting enthusiast
                                        Puff 'n' sting enthusiast  5 days back

                                        @Lewis Charles it was meant to be a roast, not a personal attack just because he doesn't know the best english. There is a difference between the two. It is arbitrary and subjective, but i think it was pretty obvious.

                                      • Lewis Charles
                                        Lewis Charles  5 days back

                                        @Puff 'n' sting enthusiast so should you. You're attacking him for not using the right English when you know nothing about him.

                                      • Puff 'n' sting enthusiast
                                        Puff 'n' sting enthusiast  5 days back

                                        @Lewis Charles 1. I don't t live in the USA 2. I can speak Romanian, English and quite a bit of French.
                                        Maybe you shouldn't attack other people if you don't know everything about them.

                                      • Lewis Charles
                                        Lewis Charles  5 days back

                                        @Puff 'n' sting enthusiast and how well do you learn Russian in the US? Stop attacking someone for speaking more languages than you.

                                      • Puff 'n' sting enthusiast
                                        Puff 'n' sting enthusiast  2 weeks back

                                        @Rodion Makovskiy North ocean? i guess they teach geography in Russia as bad as they do English.

                                    • GSGators
                                      GSGators  4 weeks back

                                      5600 people died making the canal? Thats wild.

                                      • Tony Vallés
                                        Tony Vallés  1 months back

                                        I saw my house in this video

                                        • SzopenPan
                                          SzopenPan  1 months back

                                          Stupid question; "26M above sea level" why this elevator system? digging 26M canal is more simple and low cost?

                                          • the protobe
                                            the protobe  1 months back

                                            are you saying sea has to float up to 26 meters above its sea level?

                                        • noConnect ifc
                                          noConnect ifc  1 months back

                                          Seems like a vulnerable spot to be sabotaged by some doomsday terror cult.
                                          Bringing down the world economy into depression.

                                          • Green shark
                                            Green shark  3 weeks back

                                            Well my country might be fucked

                                        • Jonius7
                                          Jonius7  1 months back

                                          5:44 Trains, with their relatively low cost...

                                          Sees Wendover Productions video in the sidebar on why Trains are so Expensive.


                                          • Ameha K
                                            Ameha K  1 months back

                                            The Panama canal was made to fit the largest ship of the time: the titanic.

                                            • tgdwarf
                                              tgdwarf  1 months back

                                              You see!!!!

                                              • carlos cardoso uchia
                                                carlos cardoso uchia  1 months back


                                                • Lone Wolf
                                                  Lone Wolf  1 months back

                                                  That Nicaragua thing is really complicated because the land is kinda rough... especially at the "shorter" western section... costs would probably be enormous

                                                  • Edward Gehringer
                                                    Edward Gehringer  2 months back

                                                    Why did you call the 1903 treaty "dubious"? Sounds like liberal bias to me!

                                                    • Dharsh Srinath
                                                      Dharsh Srinath  2 months back


                                                      • Tero256
                                                        Tero256  2 months back

                                                        Sweet video.

                                                        • boobio1
                                                          boobio1  2 months back

                                                          global warming will make it rain more in panama.

                                                          • Saurav Shukla
                                                            Saurav Shukla  2 months back

                                                            "5600 workers fatality later" you sounds like only American lives matter.

                                                            • UTubeGlennAR
                                                              UTubeGlennAR  2 months back

                                                              >^. .^< A non planned and un regulated Cannabalistic Capatolism planet like Earth may just one day eat it self out of house, home and a good future. I sure honestly hope I am wrong.......

                                                              • Basit Khan
                                                                Basit Khan  2 months back

                                                                False information

                                                                • Bluejanis
                                                                  Bluejanis  2 months back

                                                                  Why is the train route more expensive?
                                                                  Its the best solution, but apparently pricier. Why?

                                                                  • Bluejanis
                                                                    Bluejanis  2 months back

                                                                    Wait! There was a limit in width and length for the ships. What about height? Technically you can expand in height. Both above and below see level!

                                                                    • Bluejanis
                                                                      Bluejanis  2 months back

                                                                      Okay, width and length are mentioned in the beginning while height & weight only get mentioned at the end. No wonder I got surprised it wasnt mentioned together.

                                                                  • bksunsetlady
                                                                    bksunsetlady  2 months back

                                                                    New Jersyans enter the chat *thats why my taxes are so highhhhhh*

                                                                    • Madhura Naik
                                                                      Madhura Naik  2 months back

                                                                      You see
                                                                      He says that so much

                                                                      • Joks iZantos
                                                                        Joks iZantos  2 months back

                                                                        Do canal here in the Philippines, i expect it to be full of plastic

                                                                        • Metal Jacket
                                                                          Metal Jacket  2 months back

                                                                          Why would they use fresh water from the lake when they have two oceans on either side of the canal that "global warming" should supply with plenty of water in the future..and at present for that matter .

                                                                          • theralfinator
                                                                            theralfinator  2 months back

                                                                            @Metal Jacket True, there is probably a point where it would make more sense to pump in ocean water.

                                                                          • Metal Jacket
                                                                            Metal Jacket  2 months back

                                                                            @theralfinator well yeah , but at those prices they charge to move the ships through the canal , pumping water or simply letting the water in from both oceans when the levels of the oceans rise, seems more logical than waiting for fresh water to replenish in a lake that lacks water , wasting that fresh water to simply float a ship from one compartment to another through the locks . ..Using the global warming excuse of lack of fresh water , doesn't justify the cost , or the lack of technology , when the ocean levels increase ..its ridiculous to not see the benefits of using ocean water in large supply with the aid of pumps vs wasting fresh water that is small supply.

                                                                          • theralfinator
                                                                            theralfinator  2 months back

                                                                            My guess is that it's easier and cheaper to let gravity move water down from the lake than it is to use pumps to move water up from the ocean.

                                                                        • Americus Patrioticus
                                                                          Americus Patrioticus  2 months back

                                                                          Perhaps Trump should build a 200 to 300 foot wide canal along the US Mexico border. That would solve multiple problems. It would stem the influx of illegal aliens while providing a huge passageway for future shipping. The terrain for the most part is lower than the Panama Canal and contains the Rio Grande, so much of the digging is already done. While the initial cost would be high due to the length required for the canal, the future benefits would outweigh the costs. Both Mexico and the USA would reap tremendous profits from managing the canal.

                                                                          • george georgantas
                                                                            george georgantas  2 months back

                                                                            Well researched and interesting videos on this channel. You have 2m+ subscribers so should employ a voice actor to present this hard work in a less monotonous way.

                                                                            • Daniel HN
                                                                              Daniel HN  2 months back

                                                                              The amount of times you say "You see.." almost makes me go crazy lol
                                                                              Yes, I do see!

                                                                              • I Appreciate Slaps
                                                                                I Appreciate Slaps  2 months back

                                                                                But it's more risky to go through the Suez canal because of pirates

                                                                                • Sunny Wu
                                                                                  Sunny Wu  2 months back

                                                                                  Why don't they just dig deeper until the 2 oceans connect directly?

                                                                                  • Soviet Spud
                                                                                    Soviet Spud  2 months back

                                                                                    its amazing how Western technology really *peacefully* or *forcefully* opened up world trade like this