Nicaragua. The San Juan River is in the far south, in part forming the border with Costa Rica. (Photo:

China is planning to build a canal across Nicaragua to rival the Panama canal. The Chinese are not the first to dream of using Nicaragua as a trade route to connect the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. The World's History Editor Chris Woolf recalls a disastrous British attempt way back in 1780, at the time of the American Revolution.

  • The Fortress of the Immaculate Conception, or Fort San Juan, is little changed from how it looked in 1780 when it helped thwart British plans to take over Nicaragua and open a trade route to China. There are still no roads to El Castillo.

  • Sunset over the Rio San Juan, Nicaragua. (Photo: Wiki Commons)

  • Captain Horatio Nelson with Fort San Juan in the background, painted by John Francis Rigaud in 1781. (Photo: Wiki Commons)