Seven Wonders Of The Industrial World (2003) BBC

Seven Wonders Of The Industrial World: The Panama Canal

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Video Description

The Panama Canal

With the growth in travel and trade, by the late 19th century shipping had become big business. Having completed the building of the Suez Canal in 1869, a Frenchman, Vicomte Ferdinand de Lesseps, dreamed of an even bolder scheme: the Panama Canal.

Lesseps decided he would cut a path across the isthmus of Panama,and thus unite the great oceans of the Atlantic and Pacific. He knew that the long journey around South America's Cape Horn would then become unnecessary for ships carrying cargo across the world, and the world itself would seem a smaller place. Once out in the tropical heat of Panama, however, the French found themselves facing impenetrable jungle, dangerous mudslides and deathly tropical diseases, as the project proved to be an undertaking of nightmare proportions. The extravagant dream eventually came true, but in the process it stole over 25,000 lives, and 25 years had to elapse before the oceans were finally united.

Documentary Description

Seven Wonders of the Industrial World is a BBC docudrama television series that examines seven great feats of engineering that occurred during the Industrial Revolution. Starring Robert Lindsay, the series uncovers the truth behind the epic monuments of the Industrial Revolution, from Isambard Kingdom Brunel's 'great ship' the SS Great Eastern to the Panama Canal that linked the Atlantic and Pacific oceans more than half a century later.

These are stories driven by burning ambition, extravagant dreams, passion and rivalry of great minds. Each film uses dramatic reconstruction to tell a different story. Each film is based on real events and the actors' words are adapted from records of the day. Each ground breaking film explores ways the Industrial Revolution changed the world and reveals how the modern world was forged: In rivets, grease and steam; in blood sweat and human imagination.

This three DVD set contains all seven films : The Great Ship; The Brooklyn Bridge; The Bell Rock Lighthouse; The Hoover Dam; Transcontinental Railway; The Sewer King and The Panama Canal which were originally broadcast on BBC Two in 2003.


The period of over 125 years from the beginning of the 19th century saw the creation of some of the world's most remarkable feats of engineering. These are now celebrated as great wonders of the world - revealing as much about human creativity and the determination of the human spirit as they do of technological endeavour.

The wonders described here cover a great range. They include Isambard Kingdom Brunel's extraordinary ship - the Great Eastern, sometimes known as the Crystal Palace of the Seas - which its designer hoped would travel between the two farthest ends of the British empire, and the ground-breaking Panama Canal, which linked the Atlantic and Pacific oceans more than half a century later. The slowly evolving industrial revolution was the fertile ground that gave life to these dreams in iron, cement, stone and steel. The pioneers of the age were practical visionaries, seeing beyond the immediate horizon, the safe and the known, as they cut a path to the future. Yet their unique masterpieces could never have been built without an army of unsung heroes, the craftsmen and workers also willing to risk their lives as they laboured to bring each dream to life. Not to mention the financiers and shareholders hanging on for the ride, as reputations were lost and won.

The journey from the oldest 'wonder' described here, the Bell Rock Lighthouse, to the most recent, the Hoover Dam, illustrates the swiftly moving frontiers of technological progress in the 19th century. And each 'wonder' serves as a unique monument, a marker for what was known at the time it was created.

Source: BBC


* BAFTA Awards 2004

   Nominated: Huw Wheldon Award for Factual Series or Strand

   Nominated: Best Photography (Factual): Mike Spragg

* RTS Television Award 2004

   Nominated: Best Production Design (Entertainment & Non Drama)

   Nominated: Best Science & Natural History


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