How the Panama Canal Works


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It's on more than one list of the Seven Wonders of the World and for good reason - the Panama Canal is one of the great feats of engineering ever undertaken. First conceived of in the 1580s and finally completed in 1914, the canal has a fascinating history (including a stint where it was considered U.S. soil). Learn all about it on this episode.

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Welcome to stuff you should know from howstuffworks.com

Josh: Hey and welcome to the Pod Cast. I'm Josh Clark and with me as always is Charles W. Chuck Bryant and that's stuff you should know, the Pod Cast. The two of us together at a couple of mikes and our voices.

Chuck: You know what I've been singing all day of course. Panama. Over and over and I just whistled it and Jerry was like, now I've got that stuck in my head.

Josh: Yes. When we were growing up my sister was singing it and I realized she was singing, turn and run, like what. She said, that song, that Van Halen song. Don't be an idiot.

Chuck: She thought that's what they were saying?

Josh: Yes.

Chuck: That's so interesting, because there are so many misinterpreted song winners famously over the years, but I never have heard Panama as being one of them.

Josh: Yes, especially since the song is named Panama.

Chuck: "Turn and run".

Josh: Maybe they were talking about the people who were working on the early French effort to build a canal in Panama.

Chuck: Yes, boy that didn't go over so well. We'll get to that. Spoiler, the French didn't build the Panama Canal.

Josh: I thought we were going to get to it right now.

Chuck: All right.

Josh: Do you want to talk about Da Gama or Balboa? Which one was George Costanza's favorite explorer? Was it Da Gama or Balboa? It was one of the two.

Chuck: I think Da Gama.

Josh: Was it?

Chuck: Yes, I think so. That was a funny conversation though. Balboa back in the day was wondering around in a region called Darien and he summited a peak there and was like, holy cow if I look this way I see the Pacific Ocean and if I look that way I see the Atlantic Ocean.

Josh: Or the Caribbean.

Chuck: And the only thing between these two big bodies of water is this little isthmus of land.

Josh: Yes, I'm going to get in a lot of trouble with that word.

Chuck: That's okay, just say strip. So the strip of land here is the only thing in-between and we should figure out a way to use this as a thorough fair.

Josh: Yes, because this is it.

Chuck: It connects the world.

Josh: It does exactly. At the time, the Spanish were trying to trade with the Chinese and were doing a pretty good job of it in the Philippines and the best way to get to that was to come across the Atlantic and go into the Pacific.

Chuck: That's right.

Josh: That worked very, very well. And the idea of just having a place where you could go straight through rather than go all the way down South America and then back up was just mind-boggling. It's like you said, it opened up the world. This guy got it immediately. The problem was, it would take 400 more years before anyone finally got around to completing it successfully.

Chuck: Yes, and forget the rest of the world. The United States was just like hey, I want to ship this by boat from New York to San Francisco. How can I do that? I can kind of sneak around Florida right? No. Block. Well then what do I have to do. You have to go 8,000 nautical miles around South America to get to California.

Josh: Or when you and me were in Nicaragua we were in a town that in the 19th century was a weigh station for miner 49ers going on to California and they would sale on to Nicaragua, take a train and then ship out from Nicaragua up to California.

Chuck: Except a handful that was like, I think I might just kick it here in Nicaragua. I bet there were some dude that did that.

Josh: Oh definitely, I'm sure.

Chuck: Yes.

Josh: But there was a continent in the way and the idea that it was just this little narrow strip of land that made a lot of people say, this is the place to be. In the 16th Century no, the 18th Century the Scottish showed up. They tried to establish an outpost, failed spectacularly. There's a great section in 1493 about it. The Spanish were there, the French were there.

They established pretty good outposts there. It was very clear that this little area, which was then part of Columbia, which is now present day Panama, was going to a hopping spot because there was no thinner portion of the North or South American Continents than this one. And everyone needed to figure out a way to get through.

Chuck: Yes, and it wasn't as easy as hey, let's just dredge all this sand and let the waters meet because that's not too hard. It's like dense jungle and mountains and the Continental Divide. My first thought was, how hard could it have been. I didn't realize how treacherous that area was.

Josh: Yes, and I think that Balboa and a lot of people who succeeded him would have thought the same thing, like how hard was it. But it is. That Continental Divide, that's a tough thing to break through.

Chuck: That's why they call it a divide.

Josh: That where two tectonic plates come together and form a mountain range. That's - you're cutting through not one but two tectonic plates everybody. Wrap your head around that. Let's talk about it, because obviously, we were successful eventually but the first attempt was not. And the first attempt was by the French, who in the 1820s I believe started to undertake what is known as a sea level canal. Which is basically they were going to cut their way through the Isthmus of Panama.

Chuck: Right, and canals were all the rage at the time because of steam technology so all of a sudden you didn't have to use the very cool and quaint towpath and have a mule walk along the side of a river or canal.

Josh: Have you ever been on one of those?

Chuck: Well yes, a lot of them now are like jogging trails and stuff. That's great. It makes for good use. I don't see any mules on them these days. But it's great that people can use these towpaths now, it's like a nature trail.

Josh: So the steam technology gave the French the idea that, hey man, we can build a sea level canal here because we can just dig right through it, we have steam. We don't need the mules for the towpaths any longer. All we need is some good steam shovels and we are going to cut right through this Continental Divide, right through this jungle and as a result of his ambition, 20,000 people died.

Chuck: Yes, and they were able to get a little far thanks to the railroad there in Panama. Believe it or not, it was the first railroad in the world to connect both sides of a continent. It wasn't very big, but it didn't need to be. Which was kind of great. But, that allowed the French to get in there. They were deciding between Nicaragua and Panama at the time. And they said, like you said, we can do sea level. We don't need these locks.

Josh: Yes, if you look at a map of Nicaragua and look at Panama, like the idea of going through Nicaragua over Panama is just nuts.

Chuck: Yes, and we'll explain how the locks work, but it essentially just raises and lowers your ship.

Josh: Yes, for sure.

Chuck In a little like a bay station of water that's flooded and drained.

Josh: So the French organized this thing called The Company Universed du Canal Inter Ossineke. Led by a guy named Ferdinand de Lesseps who had created a sea level canal through the Suez that connected the Mediterranean and the Red Seas. It was a big deal, so they brought him in and he was like, sure, we'll do another sea level canal. I'm feeling good about this.

Chuck: He was like, I did the Suez Canal with my eyes closed. I can do this with one arm tied behind my back.

Josh: Well he didn't realize that digging through a bunch of sand is not like digging through two tectonic plates and a bunch of jungle and malaria. And like I said, 20,000 people died as a result of this. This guy was like, no we can do it, we can do it. We are going to do a sea level canal. We can do it. And then finally he was like, I don't think we can do this. A lot of people were dead from yellow fever and malaria, from accidents.

Chuck: It was privately financed so a lot of people lost a lot of money too.

Josh: Exactly. And this company goes under.

Chuck: He tried to salvage it though first. He tried to hire Gustave Eiffel of the Eiffel Tower fame. He said, hey I think we need those locks after all and you are good at building big steel things, so can you help. And he was like, of course I can. And then it was too late though, the business was done.

Josh: Right. And they had done a little bit. Well they had done a lot. They made 11 miles of canal up to that point.

Chuck: Not bad, it's about a quarter of the way there.

Josh: Right but this was the - when did they start Chuck, the 1820s?

Chuck: The 1820s yes.

Josh: So Chuck as we understand it, they started in the 1820s and this thing went bust by 1902 I believe.

Chuck: Well that's when Congress - well they were bust before that, but that's when the U.S. stepped in and said, hey we'll buy your junk.

Josh: Oh, I'm sorry, 1888, so in about 60 years they had managed to dig 11 miles of canal, build a bunch of buildings, made a lot of equipment and supplies there, and yes, the U.S. said, we smell a really, really great opportunity. And Congress said let's spend some cash. We are feeling good about things these days. We annexed Hawaii recently, Puerto Rico, the Philippines, what else. Why not take over this very ambitious project why it's the American Century by now.

Chuck: And we can stick it to the French at the same time.

Josh: Exactly.

Chuck: So they did this in in 1902 with the one stipulation that said, you know what, you guys have to - Columbia controls Panama right now and you guys have to work out a deal with them and we tried and that failed. So he said, you know what, we just going to over throw Columbia then and give the control to the Panamanians.

Josh: Yes, we support this Panamanian movement and through off the shackles of Columbia and Columbia is like, what did you just do. Because, we gained control of that - we followed that Congressional Mandate and gained control of this Panama Canal Zone.

Basically the swath that went through Panama was considered American soil, thanks to a treaty from I believe 1902, The Hay Bunau-Varilla Treaty. Where Panama signed over the Canal Zone. There was no Spanish translation of this treaty. So basically, the U.S. went in, over threw Columbian control of Panama, supported Panamanian Independence and then robbed Panama of its canal in one fell swoop, in like a year.

Chuck: And Columbia is like, I guess we will start exporting cocaine in mass amounts and we'll get you back one day.

Josh: Exactly.

Chuck: So in the end they paid about 40 million bucks in 1904 for the assets of the French company, just a lot of money back then and about 10 million dollars as this very cheeky article by the way, did you notice?

Josh: A little.

Chuck: It's cheeky. They offered - she referred it as alimony of sorts to Panama, $10 million bucks to gain the rights to this Canal Zone and basically we're going to run the show and we're going to finish your canal from the 11-mile mark to the ocean where it belongs.

Josh: And like you said, I think there was a certain amount of snub to it, right?

Chuck: Probably so. But they said you know what we've got to do first though, is we have to decide on if we can go sea level.

Josh: Was it like the French were incompetent or is it really impossible to do sea level?

Chuck: Yes, we really need to do our own due diligence basically. And they did that and Theodore Roosevelt chose chief engineer, John Frank Stevens, and he was like it's all about the locks dudes. If you want a canal here, you're going to have to go over these mountains, not through them.

Josh: So here's the thing and this is just brilliant because there was another problem with this isthmus. And there is this thing called the Shawgrass River and it is very temperamental. It was prone to flooding, all sorts of crazy stuff associated with this river. Not only did you have the Continental Divide and the jungle and the malaria to contend with, once you completed it, what were you going to do with this river.

Steven came up with this great idea that you go over the mountains and you kill two birds with one stone by damming the river and you create a lake that will carry you over the mountains.

Chuck: Like Tuden Lake, I'm sure that's pronounced correctly.

Josh: Think about that. That is one of the most brilliant feats of engineering I've ever heard of.

Chuck: The Panama Canal?

Josh: Yes, but that specific aspect of it. Damming the river to create a lake so you can go over the mountains. That's just incredibly beautiful.

Chuck: The whole thing too and in the 1900s it's just like amazing that they could pull this off.

Josh: Yes, because they are all wearing like knickers and stuff.

Chuck: Yes, there are some awesome documentaries out there by the way, you should watch. In fact, there is one, just go to YouTube and put in the time laps Panama Canal and it takes you the full route in like a minute and a half instead of eight to ten hours and it's kind of neat. The boat goes in and sinks, not sinks, but lowers and raises and it tools along in the lake for a little while and sinks and lowers and raises.

Josh: Yes, because it's like an eight to ten hour transit right?

Chuck: From deep water to deep water, eight to ten hours, depending on your boat I guess.

Josh: Once you finally get clearance to go through.

Chuck: That's right. So he's dammed up the river, created Tuden Lake, ships going through the Pacific entering at Lemone Bay in the Caribbean, go through a couple of locks upward, it's like walking up steps basically except it's a big boat and it's done with water. And then they navigate through that lake for a little while and then go toward Panama City through another series of locks and down, down, down over the mountains and boom, you are connected to the rest of the world.

Josh: Right, so when they agreed on the lock method they had one other thing to handle.

Chuck: I wonder why if that's why the - maybe they were getting confused with locks I mean lakes.

Josh: Where are all the locks, they are right there, no but where are the locks. So there was one other big problem that had leveled the French effort, which was yellow fever, which you can be immune to if, you are exposed to it in childhood. But if you are from New York, you're not.

So you go down to Panama and you are stung by a mosquito and you die. The thing is, nobody knew that it was mosquitos until a guy named Ronald Ross in 1897 studied mosquitos in India and found malaria present in their stomachs and that it was transmittable through their saliva.

Chuck: Yes, they didn't know what it was. There were all sorts of different theories.

Josh: Yes, they thought it was maybe from unclean living. When they found out it was the mosquitos that changed everything. So, they instituted to this really rigid anti mosquito program.

Chuck: They cleaned up the country basically and came to close to eradicating yellow fever in the area, which paved the way for this, lock system to be built. And you can thank Colonel William Gorges for heading up that sanitation squad and it worked and that was the key. Because, you can't have your workers dropping dead of yellow fever every day.

Josh: They have to drop dead of landslides.

Chuck: Yes, even though a lot of these workers were poor black people. I think 85 percent of the people that died were black. And a lot of people still died but it was like the 22,000 dropping dead from yellow fever. But it's still a very dangerous project, mudslides, all sorts of drownings and things like that.

Josh: So we've got yellow fever, we settled on the lock system and John Frank Stevens is replaced again by a man named Lieutenant Colonel George Washington Goethals. And he was a lock expert. And had looked at the plan and he said you know what, we're going to divide this up into three sections.

Chuck: That makes perfect sense.

Josh:" It does. You get the Pacific section that's going to be working from Lemone Bay, which by the way means lime in Spanish, did you know that?

Chuck: I did not.

Josh: So they are working from Lemone Bay to the newly created Lake Gatun.

Chuck: Yes, that was the Atlantic Division.

Josh: Okay you are right, so the Atlantic Division is synonymous with the Caribbean.

Chuck: Yes.

Josh: And so you've got the Atlantic Division working form Gatun to Lemone to Gatun. You have the Central Division, and this is the hardest part. They are working in Lake Gatun to basically create a channel through this Continental Divide. You don't have to cut sea level but you do have to make sure these ships are going to run aground on a mountain. And then you have the Pacific Division, which is working from the end of the Continental Divide Pass, which is Pedro Magel lock down to the Pacific. Right? Chuck: That's right. And like we said, the Panamanian Railroad is there and we had like awesome gear at the time. It was no longer men with chisels and sledgehammers and stuff. It was steam shovels, rock drills, dynamite and they moved 96 million cubic yards of earth and rock.

Josh: Yes, which is 73 million cubic meters.

Chuck: That's right. It was really hot though and it was a pretty bad scene and they called that Hells Gorge and it was dangerous and I think that's where most of the lives were lost on this second pass.

Josh: And that was hardest work, but they made it through. And by 1913, a crane that was used in the construction of the Panama Canal was the first thing to ever make it through all the way.

Chuck: And they were like, sweet.

Josh: Yes, and eight months later it was open for business as far as I understand.

Chuck: Yes, big business. Shall we walk people through, or I guess swim people through.

Josh: Yes, I think we should.

Chuck: Okay. You approach from the Atlantic, you go through the Gatun Locks, it's going to lift your vessel up 85 feet, pretty awesome, and take you to Gatun Lake, very nice there. You are going to wind through that channel for about 20 miles and then enter the Gaillard Cut, about eight miles through there and you are going to reach the Pedro Miguel Locks and then they are going to lower your ship about 30 feet to Mirror Floors Lake.

You are going to pass through this. It's about a mile long and the two-step Mirror Floors Locks are going to return you finally back to sea level to seven miles passage to there from the Pacific and in all toll you have gone 50 miles in about eight to ten hours. Josh: And, mind-boggling I saw that it takes 52 million gallons of fresh water to move a ship from one end to the other. 52 million and they are getting all that from Lake Gatun.

Chuck: And I imagine it's recycles back into the system right?

Josh: No.

Chuck: What happens to it?

Josh: They lose most of it. It's either pumped back in - it either flows back into Lake Gatun or else it flows out into the oceans. Which is not necessarily good. They are worried that Lake Gatun may become brackish and Lake Gatun is now the fresh water supply of Panama and it - they are using a lot of it up.

Chuck: Well, it's always presented a big of an environmental quagmire. Especially with their plans to expand which we will get to. But right now, they have two-way traffic. They are looking to make that a three-lane highway.

Josh: Which would actually be adding that third lane and will double the amount of traffic, which is crazy. You would think it would increase it by a third.

Chuck: Yes, I don't know, maybe it's wider. Maybe it allows for two ships at a time.

Josh: They just jam like eight in there at once.

Chuck: I don't know. I do know that if you are a large enough ship, they don't let you drive yourself because you have one drunk sea captain and all of a sudden, your locks are out of commission. So they use electric towing locomotives to tow those big bad boys.

Josh: And we should say just briefly with the locks. If you want to move a ship upward, you flow into a lock, the lock closes behind you and it fills up with water so that you can float over the lip of the next higher lock that the gate closes behind you with that one and it fills up with water, and so on and so forth.

Chuck: It's remarkable basic.

Josh: And then the opposite takes place when you are stepping down. It's just basically going into a little square pool, and raising or lower the water level so you can go up or down. It's really neat.

Chuck: And if you got a minute and half to kill you can take this voyage in high speed on the YouTube.

Josh: So, like we said, the U.S. used gunboat diplomacy to and good old-fashioned old timey 1902 swindling to gain control of the Panama Canal Zone. And it had complete control until 1979 when Jimmy Carter, malaise forever, right. Did you ever see the Simpsons?

Chuck: No.

Josh: They unveiled a statue of Jimmy Carter and it says malaise forever on the base and one of the town's people goes, it's history's greatest monster. Anyway, Carter negotiated with the leader of Panama at the time, General Omar Torrijos Herrrera and said, hey how would you like this thing back.

Chuck: I think they said, hey we'd like this back.

Josh: I like to think of America magnanimousness. So we said, sure, we've had it for this long. Plus we are talking Carter. It's entirely possible he just started contacting people and said, what does the U.S. have that we can sell or give back.

Chuck: That's a good point.

Josh: So, he sold one of the - the presidential yacht was sold by him.

Chuck: Why, because he thought it was frivolous?

Josh: Yes. And the Panama Canal. He was like, how about this, let's get rid of a significant portion of our economy. Anyway, he gives it back after 20 years and on December 31, 1999, which is why I suspect they made it a 20-year deal.

Chuck: Yes, they had to transition. You can just hand the keys over and be like, all right send your crew in.

Josh: But not only that, why not a 15-year deal, or an 18-year deal, or 10 year deal. They went with 20 because it was going to end on December 31, 1999.

Chuck: Oh, the new millennium. Actually that didn't start until 2001, isn't that right

Josh: Yes, but you know it's symbolic. So the Panamanians take over and immediately start taking flack because the things aging, traffics jammed up.

Chuck: They've done a good job with it though by nature of how things are these days.

Josh: They are victims of circumstance. Five percent of the world's trade goes through the Panama Canal.

Chuck: We sold them a lemon of the Panama Canal.

Josh: The millionth ship went through in 2010. One hundred and forty four thousand ships go through a year. It's a very narrow little strip.

Chuck: You know that that means? Waiting in line.

Josh: A lot of waiting in line. Plus also, there's an upper limit of the size of ship that can go through. It's call Panamax is the ship size.

Chuck: What a great name for the biggest ship that - Panamax. What can be bigger than that.

Josh: Well, the ships that are called post Panamax. A lot of shippers are, I'm tired of waiting, it's actually going to be more economical for me to build a ship that can't go through the Panama Canal and hold a lot more and I will just go around the lower part of South America. And, that's kind of increasingly happening.

Plus, Nicaragua threatened to open their own canal. So Panama says, wait, wait, wait. Let's hold the referendum and see if we can expand this thing and modernize it and save the canal and Panamanians said yes, lets. So in 2006 they approve this third lane that is expected to be open by 2013.

Chuck: Is Nicaragua stilling planning a canal?

Josh: I don't know. I don't if that shot it down or not.

Chuck: And there also is talk now of a Northwest Passage thanks to what some people might say is climate change and melting ice caps. There may be a way to get there by land.

Josh: Henry Hudson is clapping in his grave.

Chuck: So we'll see if that happens. I didn't really get a chance to look into that research and how real is that.

Josh: Even still, the Panamanians will probably make their 5.25 billion investment back eventually. Although, it took the U.S. a good 40 years to make 400 million back.

Chuck: Yes, I think it was the 1950s when they finally broke even. That's crazy. And, you break even by charging a tool. I don't think we even mentioned that. You obviously, like any weigh station or passage, you've got to pay according to what - how much stuff you've got. And it's like - I think the record is, I looked it up, it was like $150,000 or something.

Josh: Yes, they do it by tonnage. The thing is if you are carrying a lot of really expensive natural gas, you are going to pay a lesser tool than if you are carrying a less expensive or even equally expensive coal. Which isn't fair. And if you're transporting a lot of raw steel, why should you pay more.

So they are trying to figure out a new toll system especially for the newly expanded version of the canal that takes into account the value of what's on board rather than just the weight. So they should make a little more money that way.

Chuck: Yes, I don't know if this is still accurate, but the record that I have is $153,662 and the cheapest was when the dude swam across it and he weighed like a 150 pounds so they charged him like 36 cents.

Josh: Back in 1928, Richard Halliburton.

Chuck: And he swam the Panama Canal. And I'm sure it was some kind of publicity stunt.

Josh: I'm sure. People loved doing stuff like that back then.

Chuck: But if you look at this high-speed route on YouTube, it's pretty neat. And a lot of time, you are like, look out for that boat and then it turns and you are like, okay. But there is a lot of activity out there. It's not a pleasure cruise.

Josh: Well, no and it's not one ship at a time. They have like you said, two-way traffic, right, and they try to keep them going through as efficiently as possible. And I should tell you also that the new locks that they have, conserve about 60 percent of the water used so they'll address a lot of environmental concerns hopefully.

Chuck: I've got a couple of little facts here if you are interested. The entrance to the canal on the Atlantic side is 22 1/2 miles west of the Pacific entrance which is interesting because it has a unique S shape.

And then the locks themselves are seven feet thick each. So if you are wondering how to keep out that much water, like to basically dam up the oceans, you need to do it with seven feet thick concrete. Ninety two percent of the work force is Panamanian right now which is pretty great. And, that's about all I've got. Sixty million pounds of dynamite was used to construct this thing.

Josh: That's some nice status Chuck.

Chuck: Yes, that's not bad.

Josh: You've got anything else then?

Chuck: No, the rest of these are kind of boring.

Josh: Panama Canal forever. If you want to learn more about the Panama Canal, you can read this very article on howstuffworks.com. Type in Panama Canal or Turn and Run Canal. See what happens when you do the latter. Chuck hold on, let's take a message break.

Chuck: You know Josh, everything these days is on demand. It's all about on demand including this Pod Cast. You can listen to it whenever you like, so why do people still go to the post office when you have limited hours when you can go to stamps.com.

Josh: I don't know. It's one of the great questions of the universe Chuck. Because everything you can do at the post office, you can do right now from your desk. Or, if you are in your car, you can pull over and go to your desk with stamps.com. You can buy and print officially U.S. postage for any letter or package using your own computer and printer and unlike the post office, stamps.com never closes. So you can get postage whenever you need it 24/7.

Chuck: 24/7 is a lot of activity time at stamps.com. Right now guys we have a promo. Stuff with a special offer that is our code. That is a no risk trial.

Josh: How much risk?

Chuck: No risk, plus $110 bonus offer which includes a digital scale and up to 55 bucks in free postage.

Josh: So, don't wait. Go to stamps.com before you do anything else. Click on the radio microphone at the top of the home page and type S-T-U-F-F. That stamps.com and enter stuff. It is time for a listener mail.

Chuck: Josh, I'm going to call this listener mail about what's listener mail. Hey, guys I'm currently on the Seven train heading to Queens from Manhattan after a long day of working as a auditor at a CPA firm. As usually, I'm listening to your Pod Cast. This time it was the Death Mask Episode and you were concluding with some listener mail and in this instance it was from Martha regarding peak oil. I think Martha was talking about the auditing of oil reserves and he says this.

"She was correct for the most part regarding the audit of oil reserve held by entities whose stocks may be publically traded on the stock market. Just one thing I would sell a gas by that I felt I needed to type this from my phone as I'm on the train still. The SEC does not perform any audits of its own on these companies. It is firms like the one I work for that audit these companies albeit under SEC guidelines actually PCAOB public company audit oversight guideline is you want to get that.

The SEC may perform a type of audit, but if they do, they are usually auditing an audit firm or an audit that has already been done by and audit firm as some kind of investigation.

Josh: What?

Chuck: So they will audit and audit, like SEC doesn't audit themselves.

Josh: I got you.

Chuck: [inaudible] I've actually been through one of these audits and it's no fun at all. For some reason it seems like everyone who works at the SEC is what you stereo typically call as an accountant with no humor.

Josh: Plus the word audit losing all meaning when you hear it.

Chuck: Right. I digress though guys. If you pull up a 10K annual filing for any public company, you can see in the audit opinion, the audit firm which performed the audit for that particular year. I hope that cleared that up. Henry Gomez. And Henry, I'm not sure that cleared that up but if I was an accountant I would probably say, yes it cleared things up.

Josh: Very nice. Thank you very much Henry. That was very nice of you to correct someone who was correcting us.

Chuck: And I'm sorry you've got to take that stinky Seven train.

Josh: Is that a terrible train?

Chuck: That's the old red train that looks like it's about to fall off.

Josh: It's like the midnight meat train. Have you seen that?

Chuck: No. What's midnight meat?

Josh: Midnight meat train. It's got vintage owns and Bradley Cooper in it. It's actually based on a Clyde Barker short story.

Chuck: Because that's an old joke between me my friend PJ who you've met I believe. At cook outs PJ is a great home chef. But, he would typically take so long that we would refer to his meals as midnight meat. And then I made a joke about coal and his steak one time. It took like 24 hours.

Josh: No, this is different. This is not a slam on PJ.

Chuck: No we like the midnight meat.

Josh: If you have anything you want us to know. If you want to correct somebody's correct us or you just want to say hi. Whatever, you can tweet to us at syskpodcast. You can join us on facebook.com/stuff you should know. You can send us an email at stuffpodcast@discovery.com. And Chuck they can always find us on our website, right?

Chuck: That's right. stuffyoushouldknow.com.

Female Speaker: For more on this and thousands of other topics visit howstuffworks.com

[End of Audio]

Duration: 33 minutes

Topics in this Podcast: panama canal, transportation