On the border of Panama and Colombia, highway construction workers are currently pushing their way through almost impenetrable jungle and swampland to complete a section of road once thought "impossible".
On the border of Panama and Colombia, highway construction workers are currently pushing their way through almost impenetrable jungle and swampland to complete a section of road once thought "impossible". They're working on one of the last and most difficult sections of the Pan-American highway, the vast project to link Alaska in North America to Tierra del Fuego in the south.
Visnews cameraman Antonio Halik flew into the border jungle of the Darien Gap to film progress of the 200 million dollar project. He found that work is pressing ahead despite the nine-month rainy season.
SYNOPSIS: This is the country of the Darien Gap. For more than two-hundred-and-fifty miles, jungle and swamps form a great natural barrier between Central and South America, between Panama and Colombia. For the last few decades, planners have been coming to terms with a project long thought impossible--to drive a major routeway thorough these jungles to link the north and south of the American continent. Initial plans were for a canal. That were back in 1947, but then scientists and geologists produced surveys showing it would be possible to build a road--as part of the vast Pan-American highway linking Alaska in the north with Tierra del Fuego in the south.
Primitive Indian tribes, long isolated in their jungles, watch as civilisation catches up with them in the form of one of the biggest construction jobs ever undertaken by man. The Darien Gap section of the Pan-American highway will cost over two-hundred million dollars--that's nearly a million dollars for every mile of new road.
Swamps, jungle and river are not the only obstacles confronting the road-builders. There's also the formidable problem of the rainy season. In these parts, the rains last for nine months and the average rainfall of eighty-five inches a year is one of the highest in the world. Tropical fevers are a recurring health hazard for the international work force constructing the road. In this kind of jungle, axes and machetes are still the chief weapons of the advanced party.
The sings went up and work started on the highway this year, when the United States Congress voted a hundred-million dollars for the object. Construction work will take at least five years. When complete, the road will provide a twenty foot wide carriageway and planners envisage that traffic will be restricted to a sixty mile an hour top speed. But it will add a new dimension to travel between Colombia and Panama, which is currently only available by air and sea. The project, say the roadbuilders, will bring the Darien Gap into the Twentieth-Century.
Ahead lies the great Atrato swamp, where ballast will have to be sunk to a depth of up to eighty feet. But the road-builders believe their task will open up the long mysterious Darien Gap to commerce and tourism.