Panama Canal (Dec. 3, 2003) -- The guided missile frigate USS Stephen W. Groves (FFG 29) is pulled through the Panama Canal by steel mooring attached to a powerful electric locomotive, called a mule, (lower right). The entire trip through the canal takes between 8 and 10 hours plus waiting time. Construction of the canal began in 1906, with a projected schedule of ten years but was finished in 1914 ahead of schedule with over 75,000 men working on the project. The United States had control of the Panama Canal Zone until 1999 when the U.S government turned control of the Canal Zone over to Panama. Prior to the Panama Canal's construction, the fastest way to travel by ship from New York to California was a long and dangerous route around the tip of South America. U.S. Navy photo by Journalist Seamen John Hastings McIver.