The Panama Canal cuts across the Isthmus of Panama. Work began on the canal in 1881 but stopped in 1894. Work resumed in 1904, and the canal officially opened in 1914; after that point, ships no longer had to sail around South America. This shaved 12,875 kilometers (8,000 miles) off each trip.
In 2007, a $5 billion expansion project began on the Canal. As of 2014, this project is expected to be completed in 2015 and adds a third, larger canal over the isthmus. This will increase the number and size of ships that can pass through the canal.Learn more about Bodies of Water