Friday, July 8, 2011

Day 3: Panama Canal Cruise

The Panama Canal, nearing its 100th year anniversary was quite something to experience. We cruised aboard the "Pacific Queen" and had the unique opportunity to see the Canal up close in operation. We transitted with the big ships and experienced the process up close and personal.
There are three locks and we experienced two of them. This is the Miraflores Lock where our vessel was raised 18 meters in two distinct steps.

There are two chambers for each set of locks (Northbound and Southbound). As we approach the first lock you can see the other chamber to the right.
Each time the chamber fills, it uses 26 million gallons of fresh lake water. We were in the chamber by ourselves, but they often try to double up if possible to conserve water. When a big container ship goes through, there is only two feet to spare all around.
These next two pictures show how the water has risen-it only takes 8 minutes-and the gates are now opening. We then travel across the large Lake Milaflores to the next set of locks, the Pedro Miguel Locks (on the Pacific side), which raise us again to the level of the next Lake-Lake Gatun.
After traveling through this lake, we enter the Gaillard Cut, which was carved throuth the Continental Divide. This is where our trip ends.
We passed many other ships on their way through. If we were to have continued, there would be one more set of locks which would then lower us back down to sea level on the other side.
Since this was built nearly 100 years ago, it is unable to accomodate today's supertankers, so they are currently working on the 6 billion dollar expansion project, which will be done in 2114.
This was amazing!!
Tomorrow, an early morning flight will land us on the Island of Bocas del Toro and then we'll ferry over to the Isla Popa. It's now R&R time on the Carribean side tropical islands of Panama (where several International Survivor shows have taken place). Stay tuned....

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