The Panama Canal


The Bridge of the Americas (Panama)picture-050.jpgpicture-076.jpg

Waiting our turn entering the Panama Canal

One of the most fascinating engineering feats I’ve ever seen is the Panama Canal. This was on the central/south America cruise I talked about earlier. While our ship did not pass through we were able to take a day trip and visit the Miraflores locks, one of two in the canal. All I can say is awesome!

The canal is a gateway to trade and if you think Chicago, Dallas, or Atlanta airports are busy, they look like a lazy Sunday afternoon compared to what you see sailing by the entrance to the canal. Cargo ships, cruise ships, yachts, little fishing boats, gather in a long line of sea traffic, each waiting for their turn to enter the canal. The beautiful Bridge of Americas greets you as you get closer to the opening. After several hours of waiting in a mariners traffic jam our 90,000 ton vessel enters the mouth of the canal and it hit me that we were sailing over what was once marsh land and jungle.

The locks themselves function like elevators using millions of tons of water to lift ships the size of skyscrapers off the ocean and onto a manufactured passageway.

Here’s some interesting facts about the canal.

 It traverses the Isthmus of Panama connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, and is one of the largest and most dangerous engineering projects ever undertaken. Between the first efforts by the French in 1880 to it’s completion by the US in 1914 over 27,000 workers lost their lives to fever, malaria and mudslides. Why is the Panama Canal so important? A ship sailing from New York to San Francisco would have to sail 22,000 miles around Cape Horn but with the Panama Canal it’s only 6,000 miles.Each year more than 14,000 ships pass through the canal, carrying more than 205 million tons of cargo, the journey taking about nine hours to complete. Around 40 vessels per day transit the canal. So what’s the toll? Ships over 100 feet in length pay $1,500 while ships under 50 pay $500The Canal consists of 17 artificial lakes, several artificial channels and two locks. The Miraflores locks, where I took these pictures, including the approach wall is over a mile long. 



One Response to “The Panama Canal”

  1. I showed these pictures to Paul and he said that where he was stationed at Fort Clayton in Panama was just a short distance from where some of your pictures were taken. 🙂

    Fascinating facts about the Canal!! I’m surprised that the charge for the ships to go through isn’t higher considering the round-about alternate course!

    Before I forget to tell you… That series on “Tribal Life” is starting a NEW SEASON on 16Dec (Sunday) starting at 8pm on the Travel Channel. Set your automatic reminder! Don’t miss it! It’s a good one. Different tribes are featured every week.


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