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Tale Of Two Canals

To celebrate the centennial of both the Cape Cod and Panama Canals, local resident Elizabeth Roosevelt delivered a special illustrated lecture on the subject at the Oyster Bay Historical Society’s Koenig Center on Friday, Aug. 8. The former Oyster Bay High School teacher discussed the importance of the two canals to the United States and to the shipping industry .

The two canals, which were both officially opened in 1914, have had many ships pass through them over the years.

“The Panama Canal, which cost $350 million to build, creates a water passage between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. It has approximately 14,000 ships pass through on a yearly basis and saves ships 8,000 miles of extra travel,” said Roosevelt. “Unfortunately, during the building process there were 5,609 lives lost in the effort.”

Roosevelt said that former United States President Theodore Roosevelt believed that a United States-controlled canal across Central America was of vital strategic interest to the U.S.

“In November of 1906, President Roosevelt took a three-day visit to Panama to inspect the canal’s progress. This was the first trip outside the United States by a sitting President.”

Other interesting notes about the canal include an increased income from $769 million in 2000 to $1.4 billion in 2006. Shipping traffic through the canal went up from 230 million tons in 2000 to 300 million tons in 2006.

The Cape Cod Canal is an artificial waterway in the state of Massachusetts connecting Cape Cod Bay in the north to Buzzards Bay in the south. It was opened on a limited basis on July 29, 1914 and was fully operational by 1916.

It has a historical significance in World War II, as shipping vessels used the canal to avoid offshore German war boats.

The event was well-attended, with about two dozen local residents on hand to listen to Roosevelt’s presentation.

The lecture was followed by the last Historical Society Walking Tour of the summer on Saturday. Oyster Bay Historical Society Director Philip Blocklyn led tour goers on a foot tour through the hamlet featuring historical sites along East and West Main Street, Audrey Avenue and South Street.