The Canal Du Midi is important because it is the oldest large mechanical construction in the world. It was the start of the Mechanical Revolution of mankind. It is also important because it connects two remote bodies of water.
We can therefore say that the Canal Du Midi is like the Panama Canal and the Suez Canal.
Let's compare them!
The Canal Du Midi is the only one that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The other two canals should also be qualified as UNESCO sites though, as they too are giant steps forward in the evolution of mankind. Another similarity between two of them is that fact that you can book a cruise on both the Canal Du Midi and the Panama Canal! The Canal Du Midi is the only one that can be cycled. All three canals charged tolls.
The Suez Canal
The Egyptian Pharaos were the first to try and make a canal connecting the Red Sea to the Nile River. They found, however, that the sea was higher than the river, and did not want its salty water to mix with the river's fresh water. So they build a lock to keep the salt water out. It is not clear how old this first canal is, but evidence puts it around the year 1470BC. Dwindling sea levels and silt forced the closure of this first canal and its existence was forgotten until the 20th century.
Evidence of another canal connecting the Red Sea to the Nile river was also found. This canal was build around the 8th Century. It too became full with sand and was closed around the year 1000.
Around the 15th century Venice tried to make a canal connecting the Mediterranean to the Red Sea but failed.
The French eventually succeeded.
The Suez Canal construction began in 1859 and lasted 10 years. It was finished in 1869.
It links two seas: The Mediterranean (again) to the Red Sea.
The canal is located in Egypt.
It has 0 locks!
The Suez Canal was expanded in 2015 and can now accommodate traffic going both directions at the same time.
The Panama Canal
The construction of the Panama Canal
The Panama Canal is the newest of the three. It was build between 1904 and 1914, thus taking the same amount of time as the Suez Canal.
Interestingly enough though, the French had tried to make a canal here a long time ago already. France began work on the canal in 1881 but stopped due to engineering problems and a high worker mortality rate. The United States took over the project in 1904 and opened the canal on August 15, 1914.
The person who did the first attempt was the actual builder of the Seuz Canal, Ferdinand de Lesseps. His main failure was that he did not want to use locks on the canal, just like he did not use locks on his Suez Canal. It is unfortunate that he did not study the Canal Du Midi, which of course already existed in his time.
The Americans made a very large set of locks that resemble the Nine Locks in Beziers a bit. Maybe they had studied the Canal Du Midi?
The Panama Canal in its original configuration; similar to the Nine Locks in Beziers!
Panama was at time a province of Colombia. There is no mention of any French invasion or something like it anywhere. The words "France" and "French" do not even show up on the Wikipedia page "history of Colombia," BUT... the immigration to colombia wikipedia page does mention the French.
"French immigration began in a regular pattern during the 19th century and highly influenced the country's economic and political systems (the Betancourt family are of French descent) and entertainment industry."
Number of locks: 3 going up, and 3 going down. Too speed things up a bit, two channels of locks are located next to each other.
For years the size of these locks determined the size of all boats build. Until World War II, the United States Navy required that all of their warships be capable of transiting the Panama Canal. This ship size is called the Panamax.
Very recent expansion projects (2007-2016) have added a third staircase of locks on both sides of the canal. This is to allow ever growing container ships to pass. This time Panama made the canal. Its current president had its citizens vote and they overwhelmingly voted in favor of its expansion.
The size of the boats that can fit into the newest locks is called the New Panamax size. Today only a few boats in the world are actually still too big to enter those.
Now even the largest cruise ships can fit into the new locks (2017). However, these newest cruise ships are too tall for the the Bridge of the Americas. Currently shipyards all over the east coast of North and South America are scrambling to build larger ports with bigger cranes and better infrastructures to accommodate the new larger ships. Bridges are also raised in some places. Before the 3rd Panama Canal Channel was opened the super large container ships only made port on the American west coast. Miami is even building a large tunnel to move containers from its port underneath the city to the highways.
The Panama Canal's 3rd channel
A Chinese billionaire has plans to build a new canal linking the Pacific Ocean to the Carribean Sea. This canal would be situated in Nicaragua. The project is currently on hold due to decreased shipping demand.