The Panama Canal transit was awesome in the truest sense of the word. I’ve been to this part of the world before, but never in the capacity of someone who needs to know the historical context of such things as the building of this Canal, which is in fact, a monumental achievement!
The Panama Canal unites the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans at one of the narrowest points of both the Isthmus of Panama and the American continent. The Canal is 50 miles long and operates 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The Panama Canal has three sets of locks: Gatun, Pedro Miguel and Miraflores. Each of of the locks has two lanes. These locks also functions as lifts, elevating vessels 85 feet above sea level from the Atlantic or Pacific Oceans to Gatun Lake. Fed by gravity from Gatun Lake into each set of locks, the water enters the locks’ chambers through a system of drains that extends under every lock chamber from the center and side walls.
After sailing through the Continental Divide, vessels are again lowered to sea level on the opposite side of the Isthmus of Panama. Each lock is 110 feet wide by 1,000 feet long. The maximum dimensions of ships that can transit the Canal are 106 feet in beam; 965 feet long (depending on the type of vessel); and 39.5 feet of depth reach in Tropical Fresh Water.
Panama Canal Fun Facts:
As the Panama Canal was being built, there were numerous attempts to put the enormity of the project into perspective. This was difficult to do, because the Panama Canal involved a lot of “firsts.”
· It created the largest earth dam ever built, which is the Gatun Dam, which is a mile-and-a-half long and 105 feet tall.
· It created the largest artificial lake. Gatun Lake is 164 square miles.
· It included building the largest concrete structure ever built. This was Gatun Lock; almost a mile long, and more than 2 million cubic yards of concrete.
· In order to create the canal it was necessary to drill and blast into the Culebra Mountain Range, This is an area about 8-1/2 miles long, where a huge trench had to be cut through the Continental Divide, which caused numerous earth slides.
· Additional obstacles included torrential rains and tropical diseases.
OK, ok, enough with the lecture, I’m still on a high knowing I am intuitively able to provide an informative, educational and entertaining presentation. I’ve included some shots of Gamboa, the Chagres River, and a couple of cool shots of the ship approaching the Pedro Miguel Lock with a neighboring cargo ship to the right.
Today we are at sea, currently sailing the Pacific north toward Costa Rica. I gave a presentation this morning on “Puerto Caldera and the Natural Beauty of Costa Rica.” Once again, the company provided me with a turgid template of information on which to base my lecture, up to me to tweak and anoint with fairy dust as needed.
Tomorrow we arrive in Puerto Caldera, my first time on Terra Firma since embarking the ship in Aruba on Monday.