Isthmus of Panama

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The Isthmus of Panama Pm-map.png
The Isthmus of Panama

The Isthmus of Panama (Spanish : Istmo de Panamá), also historically known as the Isthmus of Darien (Istmo de Darién), is the narrow strip of land that lies between the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean, linking North and South America. It contains the country of Panama and the Panama Canal. Like many isthmuses, it is a location of great strategic value.

Spanish language Romance language

Spanish or Castilian is a Romance language that originated in the Castile region of Spain and today has hundreds of millions of native speakers in the Americas and Spain. It is a global language and the world's second-most spoken native language, after Mandarin Chinese.

Caribbean Sea A sea of the Atlantic Ocean bounded by North, Central, and South America

The Caribbean Sea is a sea of the Atlantic Ocean in the tropics of the Western Hemisphere. It is bounded by Mexico and Central America to the west and south west, to the north by the Greater Antilles starting with Cuba, to the east by the Lesser Antilles, and to the south by the north coast of South America.

Pacific Ocean Ocean between Asia and Australia in the west, the Americas in the east and Antarctica or the Southern Ocean in the south.

The Pacific Ocean is the largest and deepest of Earth's oceanic divisions. It extends from the Arctic Ocean in the north to the Southern Ocean in the south and is bounded by Asia and Australia in the west and the Americas in the east.

Contents

The isthmus formed around 2.8 million years ago, [1] separating the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and causing the creation of the Gulf Stream. This was first suggested in 1910 by North American paleontologist Henry Fairfield Osborn. He based the proposal on the fossil record of mammals in Central America. [2] This conclusion provided a foundation for Alfred Wegener when he proposed the theory of continental drift in 1912. [3]

Gulf Stream A warm, swift Atlantic current that originates in the Gulf of Mexico flows around the tip of Florida, along the east coast of the United States before crossing the Atlantic Ocean

The Gulf Stream, together with its northern extension the North Atlantic Drift, is a warm and swift Atlantic ocean current that originates in the Gulf of Mexico and stretches to the tip of Florida, and follows the eastern coastlines of the United States and Newfoundland before crossing the Atlantic Ocean. The process of western intensification causes the Gulf Stream to be a northward accelerating current off the east coast of North America. At about 40°0′N30°0′W, it splits in two, with the northern stream, the North Atlantic Drift, crossing to Northern Europe and the southern stream, the Canary Current, recirculating off West Africa.

Henry Fairfield Osborn American geologist, paleontologist, and eugenist

Henry Fairfield Osborn, Sr. was an American paleontologist and geologist. He was the president of the American Museum of Natural History for 25 years.

Alfred Wegener German meteorologist, geologist and astronomer

Alfred Lothar Wegener was a German polar researcher, geophysicist and meteorologist.

History

Nunez de Balboa's travel route to the South Sea, 1513 Balboa Voyage 1513.PNG
Núñez de Balboa's travel route to the South Sea, 1513
An 1850 oil painting by Charles Christian Nahl: The Isthmus of Panama on the height of the Chagres River Nahl 1850, Der Isthmus von Panama auf der Hohe des Chagres River.jpg
An 1850 oil painting by Charles Christian Nahl: The Isthmus of Panama on the height of the Chagres River

Vasco Núñez de Balboa heard of the South Sea from natives while sailing along the Caribbean coast. On 25 September 1513 he saw the Pacific. In 1519 the town of Panamá was founded near a small indigenous settlement on the Pacific coast. After the discovery of Peru, it developed into an important port of trade and became an administrative centre. In 1671 the Welsh pirate Henry Morgan crossed the Isthmus of Panamá from the Caribbean side and destroyed the city. The town was relocated some kilometers to the west at a small peninsula. The ruins of the old town, Panamá Viejo, are preserved and were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997.

Vasco Núñez de Balboa Spanish explorer, governor, and conquistador

Vasco Núñez de Balboa was a Spanish explorer, governor, and conquistador. He is best known for having crossed the Isthmus of Panama to the Pacific Ocean in 1513, becoming the first European to lead an expedition to have seen or reached the Pacific from the New World.

Peru republic in South America

Peru, officially the Republic of Peru, is a country in western South America. It is bordered in the north by Ecuador and Colombia, in the east by Brazil, in the southeast by Bolivia, in the south by Chile, and in the west by the Pacific Ocean. Peru is a megadiverse country with habitats ranging from the arid plains of the Pacific coastal region in the west to the peaks of the Andes mountains vertically extending from the north to the southeast of the country to the tropical Amazon Basin rainforest in the east with the Amazon river.

Henry Morgan Welsh pirate

Sir Henry Morgan was a Welsh privateer, landowner, slaveholder and, later, Lieutenant Governor of Jamaica. From his base in Port Royal, Jamaica, he raided settlements and shipping on the Spanish Main, becoming wealthy as he did so. With the prize money from the raids he purchased three large sugar plantations on the island.

Silver and gold from the viceroyalty of Peru were transported overland across the isthmus by Spanish Silver Train to Porto Bello, where Spanish treasure fleets shipped them to Seville and Cádiz from 1707. Lionel Wafer spent four years between 1680 and 1684 among the Cuna Indians. [4] Scotland tried to establish a settlement in 1698 through the Darien scheme.

Viceroyalty of Peru Spanish Imperial colony

The Viceroyalty of Peru was a Spanish imperial provincial administrative district, created in 1542, that originally contained modern-day Peru and most of Spanish-ruled South America, governed from the capital of Lima. The Viceroyalty of Peru was one of the two Spanish Viceroyalties in the Americas from the sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries.

The Spanish Silver Train was an improvised trail used to transport silver from Potosí, Peru across the isthmus of Panama in order to ship it to Spain via the Spanish treasure fleet. The silver was usually unloaded in Panama City, then put in mule trains and taken first to Nombre de Dios, and then, following the demise of that city in the late sixteenth century, to Portobello. The Silver Train was a prime target for English, Dutch and French privateers in the sixteenth and seventeenth century. Francis Drake and Guillaume Le Testu, a French privateer, succeeded in capturing the train.

Portobelo, Colón Corregimiento and city in Colón, Panama

Portobelo is a port city and corregimiento in Portobelo District, Colón Province, Panama with a population of 4,559 as of 2010. Established during the Spanish colonial period, it functions as the seat of Portobelo District. Located on the northern part of the Isthmus of Panama, it has a deep natural harbor and served as a center for silver exporting before the mid-eighteenth century and its destruction in 1739 during the War of Jenkins' Ear.

The California Gold Rush, starting in 1849, brought a large increase in the transportation of people from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Steamships brought gold diggers from eastern US ports, who trekked across the isthmus by foot, horse, and later rail. On the Pacific side, they boarded Pacific Mail Steamship Company vessels headed for San Francisco.

California Gold Rush gold rush from 1848 until 1854 in California

The California Gold Rush (1848–1855) began on January 24, 1848, when gold was found by James W. Marshall at Sutter's Mill in Coloma, California. The news of gold brought approximately 300,000 people to California from the rest of the United States and abroad. The sudden influx of gold into the money supply reinvigorated the American economy, and the sudden population increase allowed California to go rapidly to statehood, in the Compromise of 1850. The Gold Rush had severe effects on Native Californians and resulted in a precipitous population decline from disease, genocide and starvation. By the time it ended, California had gone from a thinly populated ex-Mexican territory, to having one of its first two U.S. Senators, John C. Frémont, selected to be the first presidential nominee for the new Republican Party, in 1856.

Pacific Mail Steamship Company

The Pacific Mail Steamship Company was founded April 18, 1848, as a joint stock company under the laws of the State of New York by a group of New York City merchants. Incorporators included William H. Aspinwall, Edwin Bartlett, Henry Chauncey, Mr. Alsop, G.G. Howland and S.S. Howland. These merchants had acquired the right to transport mail under contract from the United States Government from the Isthmus of Panama to California awarded in 1847 to one Arnold Harris.

San Francisco Consolidated city-county in California, United States

San Francisco, officially the City and County of San Francisco, is the cultural, commercial, and financial center of Northern California. San Francisco is the 13th-most populous city in the United States, and the fourth-most populous in California, with 884,363 residents as of 2017. It covers an area of about 46.89 square miles (121.4 km2), mostly at the north end of the San Francisco Peninsula in the San Francisco Bay Area, making it the second-most densely populated large US city, and the fifth-most densely populated U.S. county, behind only four of the five New York City boroughs. San Francisco is also part of the fifth-most populous primary statistical area in the United States, the San Jose–San Francisco–Oakland, CA Combined Statistical Area.

Ferdinand de Lesseps, the man behind the Suez Canal, started a Panama Canal Company in 1880 that went bankrupt in 1889 in the Panama scandals. In 1902–4, the United States forced Colombia to grant independence to the Department of the Isthmus, bought the remaining assets of the Panama Canal Company, and finished the canal in 1914.

Ferdinand de Lesseps French diplomat and entrepreneur, developer of the Suez Canal

Ferdinand Marie, Vicomte de Lesseps, GCSI was a French diplomat and later developer of the Suez Canal, which in 1869 joined the Mediterranean and Red Seas, substantially reducing sailing distances and times between Europe and East Asia.

Suez Canal canal in Egypt between the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea

The Suez Canal is a sea-level waterway in Egypt, connecting the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea through the Isthmus of Suez. Constructed by the Suez Canal Company between 1859 and 1869, it was officially opened on 17 November 1869. The canal offers watercraft a more direct route between the North Atlantic and northern Indian Oceans via the Mediterranean and Red Seas, thus avoiding the South Atlantic and southern Indian Oceans and thereby reducing the journey distance from the Arabian Sea to, for example, London by approximately 8,900 kilometres (5,500 mi). It extends from the northern terminus of Port Said to the southern terminus of Port Tewfik at the city of Suez. Its length is 193.30 km (120.11 mi), including its northern and southern access channels. In 2012, 17,225 vessels traversed the canal.

Panama scandals

The Panama scandals was a corruption affair that broke out in the French Third Republic in 1892, linked to the building of the Panama Canal. Close to half a billion francs were lost when the French government took bribes to keep quiet about the Panama Canal Company's financial troubles in what is regarded as the largest monetary corruption scandal of the 19th century.

Geology

The closure of the Isthmus led to allopatric speciation events of marine organisms isolated on each side (blue and green). Terrestrial species also migrated between the two continents (the Great American Biotic Interchange) upon the formation of a passable land bridge. Isthmus of Panama (closure) - Speciation of marine organisms (w annot).png
The closure of the Isthmus led to allopatric speciation events of marine organisms isolated on each side (blue and green). Terrestrial species also migrated between the two continents (the Great American Biotic Interchange) upon the formation of a passable land bridge.

A significant body of water (referred to as the Central American Seaway) once separated the continents of North and South America, allowing the waters of the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans to mix freely. Beneath the surface, two plates of the Earth's crust were slowly colliding, forcing the Cocos Plate to slide under the Caribbean Plate. The pressure and heat caused by this collision led to the formation of underwater volcanoes, some of which grew large enough to form islands. Meanwhile, movement of the two tectonic plates was also pushing up the sea floor, eventually forcing some areas above sea level.

Over time, massive amounts of sediment from North and South America filled the gaps between the newly forming islands. Over millions of years, the sediment deposits added to the islands until the gap was completely filled. By no later than 4.5 million years ago, an isthmus had formed between North and South America. However, an article in Science Magazine stated that zircon crystals in middle Miocene bedrock from northern Colombia indicated that by 10 million years ago, it is likely that instead of islands, a full isthmus between the North and South American continents had already likely formed where the Central American Seaway had been previously. [5]

Evidence also suggests that the creation of this land mass and the subsequent warm, wet weather over northern Europe resulted in the formation of a large Arctic ice cap and contributed to the current ice age. That warm currents can lead to glacier formation may seem counterintuitive, but heated air flowing over the warm Gulf Stream can hold more moisture. The result is increased precipitation that contributes to snow pack. [6]

The formation of the Isthmus of Panama also played a major role in biodiversity on the planet. The bridge made it easier for animals and plants to migrate between the two continents. This event is known in paleontology as the Great American Interchange. For instance, in North America, the opossum, armadillo, and porcupine all trace back to ancestors that came across the land bridge from South America. Likewise, bears, cats, dogs, horses, llamas, and raccoons all made the trek south across the isthmus.

Biosphere

As the connecting bridge between two vast land masses, the Panamanian biosphere is filled with overlapping fauna and flora from both North and South America. There are, for example, over 978 species of birds in the isthmus area. [7] The tropical climate also encourages a myriad of large and brightly colored species, insects, amphibians, birds, fish, and reptiles. Divided along its length by a mountain range, the isthmus's weather is generally wet on the Atlantic (Caribbean) side but has a clearer division into wet and dry seasons on the Pacific side.

See also

Related Research Articles

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The history of Panama is about the Isthmus of Panama region's long history that occurred in Central America, from Pre-Columbian cultures, during the Spanish colonial era, through independence and the current country of Panama.

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References

Notes

Sources

  • Angehr, G. R.; Dean, R. (2010). The birds of Panama: a field guide. Zona Tropical Publication. Comstock Publishing Associates, Cornell University Press. ISBN   978-0801476747.
  • Mellander, G. A. (1971). The United States in Panamanian politics: the intriguing formative years. Daville, Ill: Interstate Printers & Publishers. OCLC   138568.
  • Mellander, G. A.; Mellander, N. M. (1999). Charles Edward Magoon: The Panama Years. Río Piedras, Puerto Rico: Editorial Plaza Mayor. ISBN   1-56328-155-4. OCLC   42970390.
  • Montes, C.; Cardona, A.; Jaramillo, C.; Pardo, A.; Silva, J. C.; Valencia, V. (2015). "Middle Miocene closure of the Central American Seaway" (PDF). Science. 348 (6231): 226–229. doi:10.1126/science.aaa2815 . Retrieved 25 March 2018. Lay summary (25 March 2018).
  • O’Dea, A.; Lessios, H. A.; Coates, A. G.; Eytan, R. I.; Restrepo-Moreno, S. A.; Cione, A. L. (2016). "Formation of the Isthmus of Panama" (PDF). Science Advances. 2 (8): e1600883. doi:10.1126/sciadv.1600883. PMC   4988774 . Retrieved 25 March 2018.
  • Osborn, H. F. (1910). The age of mammals. Macmillan. Retrieved 25 March 2018.
  • Wafer, L. (1729). A New Voyage and Description of the Isthmus of America (1695). Scotland: James Knapton. Archived from the original on 3 July 2007. Excerpt from the 1729 Knapton edition
  • Wegener, A. (1912). "The origins of continents" (PDF). Milestones in Geosciences. Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer: 4–17. Retrieved 25 March 2018. (Original German article from 1912 with English translation from 2003)

Coordinates: 8°40′N80°0′W / 8.667°N 80.000°W / 8.667; -80.000