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The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal, 1870-1914
The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal, 1870-1914
The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal, 1870-1914
Audiobook (abridged)8 hours

The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal, 1870-1914

Written by David McCullough

Narrated by Edward Herrmann

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

4.5/5

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About this audiobook

Winner of the National Book Award for history, The Path Between the Seas tells the story of the men and women who fought against all odds to fulfill the 400-year-old dream of constructing an aquatic passageway between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. It is a story of astonishing engineering feats, tremendous medical accomplishments, political power plays, heroic successes, and tragic failures. McCullough expertly weaves the many strands of this momentous event into a captivating tale.
Like his masterful, Pulitzer Prize-winning biography John Adams, David McCullough's The Path Between the Seas has the sweep and vitality of a great novel. This audiobook is a must-listen for anyone interested in American history, international intrigue, and human drama.
LanguageEnglish
Release dateJun 1, 2003
ISBN9780743549486
Author

David McCullough

David McCullough (1933–2022) twice received the Pulitzer Prize, for Truman and John Adams, and twice received the National Book Award, for The Path Between the Seas and Mornings on Horseback. His other acclaimed books include The Johnstown Flood, The Great Bridge, Brave Companions, 1776, The Greater Journey, The American Spirit, The Wright Brothers, and The Pioneers. He was the recipient of numerous honors and awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award. Visit DavidMcCullough.com.

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Reviews for The Path Between the Seas

Rating: 4.488888888888889 out of 5 stars
4.5/5

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  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    4/5
    I've become a real fan of David McCullough's writing. He has a rare talent for writing history like few can. The Panama Canal didn't seem like an interesting topic when I began, but by the end I was astounded at the stories behind this enormous undertaking.? Some of the engineering and technical aspects went a little beyond my understanding. I found the most interesting parts to be about the medical challenges and the blend of politics and technical expertise that went into choosing the site for the canal and whether or not to build it ?a niveau?In my work, I've seen aspects of major projects such as pipelines and the creation or expansion of national parks. There are so many aspects to such projects and Mr. McCullough really shows the multiple issues and interests involved in building the canal, as he did for the Brooklyn Bridge. Some of the highlights for me were: the medical challenges, the kinds of society that developed in Panama, the role of the Canal in Panama's independence revolution, the French investment scandal and the ?cult of personality? surrounding de Lesseps.
  • Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
    3/5
    Another McCullough with depth and readability. There is much more to this book than just talking about the logistics of moving the dirt for the Panama Canal. The most interesting parts there are Gorgas annihilating yellow fever and malaria in Panama. Actual building of the locks is further down the book. It can easily be mind-numbingly boring. One of the interesting parts of the book was the description of the construction methods used in the completion of the canal locks. Very little time spent on explanation of the then cutting edge hydro electric system.
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    5/5
    McCullough has written an outstanding account of the creation the Panama Canal, starting with initial discussions as to whether the canal would be located in Panama or Nicaragua, proceeding to the France's failed attempt to build it, America's discussion on its location and subsequent resumption of the French efforts, its construction and the headaches and triumphs that came with it. He's managed to make his narrative quite readable and withstand the test of time. There are a lot of things that I find interesting in the narrative. I found the parts detailing Gorgas' fight against tropical diseases fascinating. I also particularly enjoyed the glimpses into the cultural and social life of canal workers fascinating. He paints fascinating pictures of both Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft. A very readable history of a remarkable feat in engineering!
  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    4/5
    This epic story of the construction of the Panama Canal, "the greatest engineering feat of all time", begins with the struggles of the French plans with its shortcomings and ends with the success of the United Sates endeavors to cut a corridor from the Pacific to the Atlantic.The details are tremendous telling how the French first decided to start the project after their success with the Suez Canal. The French were granted a concession by the Colombian government (then owners of Panama) to start the construction.Lacking engineering expertise on the team and coupled with the difficulties with the terrain and malaria/yellow fever, the French were doomed to failure. However, the US had its own issues with a preliminary project due to the political atmosphere. The US, with military recommendations pointing toward another site in Nicaragua, not Panama. When Colombia rejected United States plans to build a canal across the Isthmus of Panama, the U.S. supported a revolution that led to the independence of Panama in 1903 who ceded control of the Panama Canal Zone to the US, which took over the Panama sites in 1904. The efforts made in the next 10 years included the building of 4 dams and creation 2 man-made lakes. Research and studies have shown that even with today's technical advances, the construction couldn't have been any faster. What a fascinating project and thoroughly enlightening story told by a master storyteller.
  • Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
    3/5
    A lengthy but detailed work on how (and why!) a canal was attempted by the French and then completed by the US in Panama. There is very little looking forward in this book. How is it still relevant (the canal)? What are the implications of the canal going back to local contract? Lots of unanswered questions looking to the future, but this is a great overview on why we did it in the first place.
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    5/5
    This is a very good book. I learned quite a bit about the canal I had not known. It was no surprise that public officials in those days were just as hard headed as they are today. I always enjoy reading David McCullough his storylines always flow and keep you interested in the subject matter. I would recommend The Path Between The Seas to all readers.
  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    4/5
    One might think that the historical retelling of the construction of the Panama Canal would be as dry and boring as five day old stale bread but David McCullough makes the process from start to finish fascinating. Being one of the seven man-made wonders of the world, the Panama Canal is an example of ingenuity, technology and sheer grit at its best. What is not as well known is all the controversy that surrounded the who, what, where, when of the project (everyone knew the why - sailing around Cape Horn was not only time consuming but it was also extremely dangerous. McCullough maps out every step of the process from the vision birthed in 1870 to the triumph of the first successful trial lockage of September 1913. From the French preliminarily attempts to the eventual success of the United States, every trial and tribulation is accounted for. The book version has wonderful photography while the audio version is entertaining for long car rides.
  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    4/5
    I read this after recently hearing that Nicaragua is planning to build a new canal, with Chinese engineers, and wanted some historical context, why did the original canal end up in Panama? Given the option I went with the 8hr abridged version - the unabridged version is 35 hours. Even the shortened version seemed to drag in places so I'm content to have a lot of extraneous detail of the longer version set aside for another time. The abridgement is mostly seamless and at 8hrs as as long as many other full-length books. However I think reading the book (non-audio) in full, with time to absorb the text, would be rewarding given the depth of detail, but for the casual introduction this audio abridgement gets the main story and is not a disappointment as many abridgements can be.The actual digging of the canal is the last third of the book, which is the most interesting due to the triumph of engineering. The rest of the book is face-palming hubris, boondoggle and misadventure - ugh. Utter incompetence and failure. It's also a history of the founding of Panama which is a story of American Imperialism in Latin America. This is my second McCullough book, Johnstown Flood remaining my favorite.
  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    4/5
    A great narrative about the building of the Panama Canal. For me, McCullough can be slow at times but the information he provides is terrific. A must read.
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    5/5
    Wow. What an undertaking, to say the least. This was an incredibly long book to listen to--over 35 hours. But I knew that I would finish it by listening to it while I drove and thereby finish it,The book begins with the first dream of a Central American canal dream, and ends with the completion of that canal. It may sound straightforward and obvious, but it was anything but,My next cruise should be through the canal...but I may only be wishing. After all. I went through it in 1968. More than many!
  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    4/5
    Fascinating and informative history of a remarkable project. Well worth the read.
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    5/5
    David McCullough, as the subtitle spells out, here tells of the "creation of the Panama Canal," a tale spanning the first surveys in 1870 a few years after the American Civil War to the opening in 1914 just before the first World War. The tale had world dimensions I was unaware of before reading the book. As McCullough put it in his Preface: Because of the Panama Canal one nation, France, was rocked to its foundations. Another, Colombia, lost its most prized possession, the Isthmus of Panama. Nicaragua, on the verge of becoming a world crossroads, was left to wait for some future chance. The Republic of Panama was born. This doorstopper of over 600 pages is divided into three parts, and each really is a book onto itself, with plenty of surprises. The first part, "Vision" deals with the French chapter in the building of the canal; I had never known that France was involved. It continues to amaze me how much French and American history is intertwined. The French attempt to create the canal was headed by Ferdinand de Lesseps, who was credited with building the Suez Canal, and McCullough paints him as a mix of con artist and visionary. By the time France's almost decade-long effort ended, over 20,000 workers on the canal from directors to laborers had died, primarily of malaria and yellow fever, over 287 million had been spent, and the French government had fallen over scandals involving the financing of the unfinished canal. In the next section, "Stars and Stripes Forever," we turn to a new century and the American chapter, and there we get a tale of intrigue, conspiracy and gunboat diplomacy starring Theodore Roosevelt. Finally in "The Builders" we get the story of how the canal was completed and opened. Although marred by a "rigid caste society" and "color line" on the American-governed canal zone, it's a mostly inspiring, even heroic tale, at least when it comes to the accomplishments in engineering and medicine. The story of Colonel William Crawford Gorgas, the doctor who largely wiped out yellow fever and greatly diminished malaria in the canal zone, saving thousands, maybe even tens of thousands of lives, is what stood out to me in that section.This is my first book by David McCullough, a Pulitzer-Prize winning author, and after this I'd certainly read more of him. It's not only well-written and comprehensively sourced, but especially after having read a lot of histories and biographies lately, I was impressed that McCullough didn't try to smooth out the complexities and the ambiguities in this story--that there are conflicting sides and some mysteries may never solved. McCullough conducted interviews "with the descendents and friends of many of the central figures in the book" and consulted "more than four hundred books, one hundred different newspapers, magazines, technical journals and notebooks, company reports, bulletins, contracts, meteorological records, maps, surveys, boxes of press clippings, scrapbooks, photograph albums." I found the first part a bit slow, but the book picked up for me the further I got into the tale, and found the last part fascinating. He certainly made the era and personalities in his story come to life and ably explained the technical sides of the endeavor. I learned a lot. I can hardly ask for more out of a work of history.
  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    4/5
    This is a wonderful new exploration of the building of the Panama Canal. A great natural history of Panama. A political thriller and a deeper look into the suffering of the people who constructed this grand canal.
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    5/5
    Themes: Exploration, engineering, trade, disease, politicsSetting: Columbia and the part which became Panama, France, Washington DCI listened to this one on audio at it was very absorbing. McCullough does his usual thorough job at exploring all the aspects of the canal. It wasn't quite up to the job he did on John Adams, but it was much better than The Great Bridge.Sorry for a rather perfunctory review, but I'm a little under the weather and I keep putting it off. To sum up, I learned so much with this book. Lots in here about the history of the canal, about the French and their involvement, none of which I knew before. Then we get on to the Americans and their entry into the area. I had heard some of this before, especially about the yellow fever, but it's covered in better contest here. Great stuff. Highly recommended at 4.5 stars. Now I would love to see the canal in person, especially to get a peek behind the scenes.Oh, and about the narration - great job. He got all the various accents - French, West Indies, Irish - just right, and kept the story interesting. The only thing I didn't like was a little unpleasant surprise - "This book was abridged by..." Dang! Now I want to read the unabridged book, but I will probably wait a bit. I'm counting it anyway, as it was 18 hours or something like that.
  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    4/5