Christopher Columbus has gone down in history as the discoverer of the “new world”, or North and South America and the Caribbean. However, what many people don’t know is that he never actually stepped foot on the main land of Central or South America! It was Vasco Núñez de Balboa, about 20 years later, who was the first European to establish a permanent foot hold on the main land when he founded the settlement of Santa María la Antigua del Darién in present-day Panama in 1510. Soon thereafter, inspired by the rumors of a kingdom rich in silver and gold, Balboa in the company of Pizzaro – the future conqueror of the Incas – became the first Europeans to lay eyes on and name the Pacific Ocean when they crossed the Isthmus in 1513. From that day the thought of creating a water way dissecting the continent and connecting the two oceans played on the mind of explorers, governments and investors for 400 years!
The canals history has been one of political turmoil as well as personal challenges; from the politicians who conceived the idea to the engineers and laborers who constructed the canal – many losing their life in the process. Finally finished in 1914, the result – one of modern man’s most amazing achievements that not only cut a continent in two but opened the door a world of trade, travel and commerce.
If Balboa was to stand today, knee deep in the newly discovered Pacific Ocean as he did in 1513, and look back to see what had come to pass with the construction of the canal, not only would he think – “now that would have made that trek of discovery easier” – but also how far his trek led the modern world on its own quest for discovery of new worlds and new frontiers.
In 2014 the Panama Canal celebrates its 100 year anniversary and here at Goway we’re offering a FREE PANAMA CANAL TOUR for any trip booked to Panama by December 31st, 2013. Alternatively, and an easy way to add a little sun to any trip in Latin America, the same ‘free tour’ is also available if you stopover for one night in Panama city flying with COPA, Panama’s national airline, which allows you to use Copa to connect anywhere they fly too, and stop in Panama city for some sun, shopping, history, and your free Canal tour!