The Panama Canal is a waterway in the country of Panama (Central America), that connects the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean. The Panama Canal uses three locks for lifting and lowering the ships on different water levels. Each year, about 14,000 ships come through the canal. By 2002, around 800,000 ships came through. The French tried building it in 1880, but failed. It was finally finished in 1914 by the United States who spent ten years on building it. The canal is 77 km (48 miles) long, cutting across the Isthmus of Panama, and saves ships 15,000 km (10,000 miles)compared to going around South America.
The biggest ships that can go through the Panama Canal are called Panamax. New locks to allow ships more than twice as big are being built.
It is an interesting fact that, because of the way Panama twists, the entrance to the Pacific Ocean is farther east than the entrance to the Atlantic Ocean. This is the opposite of what one would expect.