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South America 2015

Amazing - the Panama Canal

PANAMA | Monday, 13 July 2015 | Views [383]

Water being emptied from the lock and the ship descending. It was coming from Gatun Lake out to the Pacific Ocean (lower water level).

Water being emptied from the lock and the ship descending. It was coming from Gatun Lake out to the Pacific Ocean (lower water level).

Amazing - the Panama Canal

 
We had one day in Panama City, which was perfect to tick 'see the Panama Canal' off the before-I-die-bucket-list.
 
The hostel had free pancakes all day, so Jorge cooked up brekky then we jumped in a cab across town to see the canal. The canal has three locks on it, we went to the Miraflores Locks which are close to town, the other two are much further away as the canal is 80kms in length.
 
The exhibition centre at the locks was fantastic, well worth the US$15 entry fee. Really informative and very interactive. Had a good few hours there, then it was announced that a ship was passing through the lock in half an hours time, so we went up to the viewing platform to stake out a good spot to see it. 
 
Had a great view of a ship carrying 5000 automobiles passing through the lock on Gatun Lake (the man-made lake that is the canal). In the morning the ships pass from the Caribbean side (Atlantic Ocean) out to the Pacific Ocean. And in the afternoon travel through the locks in the opposite direction from the Pacific to the Atlantic Ocean.
 
The process happens surprisingly quickly. Ship pulls up at the entrance of the lock and the little choo-choo trains on either side pull the ship into the lock. It's amazing to watch as the world build their ships to fit the Panama Canal, so the ships have 1.22m breathing room to fit through the locks. A very small 0.6m on either side of the ship, without hitting the lock wall.
 
The locks take 8 minutes to fill up, then the little trains pull the ship to the end of the lock and out it goes into the new ocean on the other side. The gates on the Miraflores Locks are the biggest on the canal due to the tidal changes. Eight stories in height, so it's an amazing and huge piece of engineering to watch. Jorje was engineer geeking big time.
 
Found a bar on the next viewing platform so we had a very refreshing (it's very hot in Panama, very similar heat to Perth summer) vino on the outside balcony and were lucky enough to see another ship pass through the lock, a petroleum tanker. Was thrilled to see so much as a lot of tourists go at the wrong time of day and don't see any ships passing and the locks filling up and emptying.
 
Spent the afternoon in the old town which was beautiful. Cobbled stoned streets, brightly painted buildings, overlooking the harbour and new part of Panama City. We had dinner at a local restaurant and ate way too much then back to the hostel to pack for the next day when we head for 5 days sailing through the Caribbean ! 
 
 
 
 

 

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