2127: Panama Canal
Title text: Once they selected the other proposal, we could have kept shopping ours around, but we would had to modify it include an aqueduct over their canal, which would be totally unreasonable.
The Panama Canal is, as the name suggests, a canal through the country of Panama. It is important for bridging the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, and is an important trade route. The canal is in Panama because this is the narrowest piece of land for crossing between the two oceans. When the Panama Canal was being proposed, several alternate routes were suggested such as the recently-revived Nicaragua Route.
Cueball says that when the Panama Canal connecting the Caribbean Sea to the Pacific Ocean was being planned, he proposed an alternate route that connects the Arctic Ocean to the Great Southern Ocean. At the time, the northern terminus would have been inaccessible, because the Arctic Ocean was almost completely covered by ice. His suggested route runs somewhat to the east of the continental divide and has a total length of slightly over ten thousand miles, in contrast to the real-life canal which is only fifty miles long. The extra length and more-rugged terrain make his proposal much more difficult to build and maintain than the real-life Panama Canal.
Moreover, while the real-life canal significantly shortens the travel distance between major cities on the east and west coasts of the Americas, his alternative offers little benefit over traveling north or south in either the Atlantic or Pacific oceans. In fact, with the lack of currents that can aid travel and the slow speed required to traverse canal locks, it would be significantly slower. In addition, ships would have to wait approximately 100 years for global warming to melt the ice in the Arctic Ocean along the northern coast of North America sufficiently for them to enter or exit the northern end of the canal. (However, since construction of this canal might take even longer, the ice might not be a problem by the time it was completed.)
The title text references the now-existing Panama Canal, and the fact that Randall's canal would need to cross it at some point. The title text suggests that crossing two canals would have to be done via aqueduct, instead of the more useful at-grade crossing, most likely at Gatun Lake, which would allow boats to travel between the two canals by simply connecting them. The humor here is that this canal would be one of the most ambitious construction projects in history; an aqueduct being added to the costs is an expense on the same scale of needing an extra screw to hold something in on Apollo 11. The route depicted appears to cross the Mackenzie, Missouri, Rio Grande, and Amazon rivers anyway, so only this additional crossing is apparently "unreasonable."
- [Cueball is standing in front of a poster with two maps showing the Americas. He is pointing to the right one with a stick he is holding in his hand. Specifically to the red line going through the Americas from the Arctic sea above Canada near Alaska, down through North America, through the middle of Central America down through the middle of South America to end up in the Antarctic sea below the tip of South America. On the map to the left there is a similar red line indicating the Panama Canal crossing the thinnest part of Central America from the Pacific Oceanto the Atlantic Ocean. Both lines end in small dots on either "side" of the continent. The two maps have labels above them:]
- Atlantic-Pacific option
- Arctic-Antarctic option
- [Caption below the panel:]
- I still don't understand why the Panama Canal planners rejected my proposal.
- The Panama Canal was the main theme in 1632: Palindrome and there is a scene in 1608: Hoverboard where a song that Cueball sings references the canal. Panamax is referenced in the title text of 1865: Wifi vs Cellular.
- If Cueball had proposed an alternative Panama Canal when the original was being built, he would have to have been alive in the early 1900s. Assuming he was at least 18 when the Hay-Bunau-Varilla Treaty was signed to authorize the canal (a very generously low estimate), this version of Cueball would been born no later than 1885.
- This is the second comic in a row with a map based theme. Randall likes maps.
- A canal crossing a canal occurs at several places. One of the more famous ones is the Magdeburg Water Bridge in Germany. It also features some locks nearby, so ships can change from the canal to the Elbe river, and vice versa.
- Another interesting connection of canals on different height levels is the Falkirk Wheel in Scotland.
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