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The Nicaragua Canal?

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Eruption of mount Momotombo
Headline of The San Fransisco Call, reporting of the eruption of Moount Momoton
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The Nicaraguan Mt Momotombo 5c blueOkay, it doesn’t yet exist. But had the Nicaraguan Post not made a mistake in issuing a certain stamp, it may well have been in place for a hundred years!
Although building is due to start shortly on a new canal linking the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, if the Nicaraguan Postal authorities hadn’t produced a graphically-exaggerated stamp in 1900, the canal might have already been in existence for a hundred years.

Before a canal was built to link the two oceans there were proposals from the United States and France to build a canal through either Nicaragua or Panama. Then, by a strange quirk of fate one small mistake led to victory for those favouring the route through Panamanian territory. A set of definitives released by Nicaragua in 1900 depicted with proud artistic licence Mount Momotombo, a volcano that had been extinct for many years, spouting fire and smoke from its crater. This was all the Panamanian lobby needed. The stamps were distributed to every U.S. senator and the alarming prospect of a canal being cut through unstable terrain caused the Nicaraguan proposal to be thrown out. In another twist to the story, in 1905 Mount Momotombo actually erupted.

Eruption of mount Momotombo
Headline of The San Fransisco Call in 1905, reporting of the eruption of Moount Momoton

The first attempt to construct a canal through what was then Colombia’s province of Panama began on 1 January 1881. The project, designed as a sea-level canal (i.e., without locks), was undertaken under the leadership of Ferdinand de Lesseps, builder of the Suez Canal, with substantial financing and support from Paris. The cost and difficulty of construction in the rain-soaked tropics through unstable mountains exceeded expectations, and the French effort eventually went bankrupt after reportedly spending US$287,000,000 and losing an estimated 22,000 lives to accident and disease.
The project was taken over by the United States in 1904 and finally completed in 1914.

Stamps issued by Panama in 1955 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the birth of Frenchman Ferdinand de Lesseps
Stamps issued by Panama in 1955 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the birth of Frenchman Ferdinand de Lesseps

Through a land lease agreement the U.S. government controlled the canal and part of its surrounding land as the Canal Zone, from 1903 until 1979 – when it was jointly controlled before being handed back to Panama in 1999. The Panama Canal Zone issued its own postage stamps from 1904 until October 25, 1978.

1931 Canal Zone issue, 25th Anniversary Panama Canal
1931 Canal Zone issue, 25th Anniversary Panama Canal (1964)
Stamps commemorating Egypt's new Suez Canal carries an image resembling the Panama Canal
Stamps commemorating Egypt’s new Suez Canal carries an image resembling the Panama Canal

Egyptian postal authorities recently halted the official launch of stamps commemorating a new waterway after they were found to have mistakenly featured an image resembling the Panama Canal.
State-run Egypt Post were heavily criticised after the stamps were leaked. The controversial stamps show a map of the Suez Canal with an image of a green area in which a two-lane waterway is seen looking like the Panama Canal that links the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. The design mistakenly shows greenery on both sides of the canal, whereas the Suez Canal runs through a desert! The stamps were issued to celebrate the 72-kilometre-long waterway that Egypt is building parallel to the existing Suez Canal.

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