Daily Archives: April 7, 2013

From the Panama Canal to Angkor Wat

leaving the locks

For those of you who know me, you know I am an avid podcast listener. Most of the podcasts I listen to are story oriented, but a few lean toward education. I just learned about the podcast Stuff You Should Know, and they did an episode on How the Panama Canal Works.

Among other things, I learned that a river was dammed up to create a lake to get boats over the continental divide. There was fantastic discussion about the impact of disease (i.e. Yellow Fever) and how knowledge changed over time so workers were getting killed by industrial disaster instead of disease. Don’t ask me why I’m saying this in such a chipper manner, because of course I think killing people in the name of building something like this is horrifying.

My favorite thing about the episode, however, was toward the end, when they mentioned how vessels are charged by weight to go through the locks. I was wondering if they knew about a certain human who swam the locks, and lo and behold, they did! They mentioned Richard Halliburton’s traverse.

I don’t expect many of you to recognize Halliburton’s name, but growing up his name was said with a sort of awe. He was the first adventure travel writer and we read about his exploits in his Book of Marvels and discussed them with my father many times. As a matter of fact, his writing impelled my father to drag our sorry asses many places around the globe. Two years ago, I finally got to return the favor when my father met me in Cambodia to explore the ruins of Angkor Wat.

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