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The Panama Canal is a 50-mile long engineering wonder connecting the
Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean. Completed by the United States in
1914, it runs southeastward from Colon, through the man-made Gatun Lake,
to Panama City on the Pacific side of the Isthmus of Panama. The canal,
a major artery of international shipping, uses a series of massive locks,
manmade lakes, and water supplied by the copious tropical rainfall of
the region to lift and lower transiting ships a height of 85 feet over
the continental divide.
Thick rainforests border the canal, and the protected Canal Zone is
easily delineated by the dark green band of forest, which contrast the
lighter green cultivated areas of Panama. The ecologically sensitive
Canal Zone supports diverse lowland rainforest that is crucial for water
balance and erosion/siltation control around the canal. Scientists
monitor the edges of the Canal Zone rainforest for degradation from
The crew of the International Space Station acquired this image on the
afternoon of January 30, 2003, using an electronic still camera with 85 mm lens. Fair-weather cumulus clouds from the
Caribbean can be seen pouring southward through the natural gap in this mountain chain
of Central America.
Astronaut photograph ISS006-E-23743 was taken
with an Electronic Still Camera equipped with an 85 mm lens, and is
provided by the Earth Sciences and Image Analysis Laboratory at Johnson
Space Center. Additional images taken by astronauts and cosmonauts can
be viewed at the NASA-JSC Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth.