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Panama Canal Transit

This is a discussion on Panama Canal Transit within the A Kodak Moment: not necessarily plants... forums, part of the Orchid Photography category; Here I will take you through the Panama Canal. The night before going through the ...

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  1. #1
    orchidlady's Avatar
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    Default Panama Canal Transit

    Here I will take you through the Panama Canal.

    The night before going through the canal we anchored off the coast of Panama City with many many other container and tanker ships.




    Early the next morning we start our canal transit by passing under the Bridge of the Americas. This is part of the Transamerican Highway that goes from Alaska to South America.




    The entrance to the canal area is also a busy shipping terminal. Ships that don't want to pay the high fees to go through the canal (the fees for our ship were about $250k) can unload here and the cargo will transit to the Caribbean side or vice versa by train.


    As we get closer we pick up pilots that help our captain take the ship through the canal. They arrive by boat and climb up the side of our ship by rope ladders.


    We are also joined by one of the $11M tugs that constantly hover around to give a nudge in the right direction if needed.


    Susan

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    Next I will give you the process of going through the locks at the Panama Canal. Some of the pictures will be of different locks used to illustrate the process. I moved all over the ship to try and get a comprehensive view of the process and had to photograph different locks to get some of the action. As you can imagine, the decks were quite crowded.

    The Panama Canal currently has 2 lanes of traffic that operate independently.

    As the ship approaches the locks, there is a large red and green arrow on the building to the left that points the direction to the lane our ship is to enter. Even with modern technology and radio communication this original part of the system is still used.



    Some of the canal workers row out in a small boat to retrieve lines from our ship and attach the cables that will be used to guide our ship through the canal.


    The crew then walk the cables over to the "mules" that will walk us through the canal. These are powerful locomotives that hold the ships steady as they move through the canal. It is important to note that they do not pull the ships through, the ship moves under its own power. There are 2 mules on the front and one on the back on each side for our ship.






    The mule drivers as well as the rest of the workers are quite friendly with the passengers.


    Here we are entering a lock.




    Susan

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    Here is a set of gates for one of the locks.


    Lock gates opening-in this case leaving the lock after the water has adjusted.
    View My Video

    Once we are settled into the locks you can see there is not much space on either side. In our case there was about 4 feet of clearance between the ship and the walls of the lock, but there are other "Panamax" ships that come much closer-not a lot of room for mistakes .


    Once settled into the lock, the doors close and the water rushes in or out depending on if the ship is being moved up or down during its transit. About 26 million gallons of water goes in or out a given lock and no pumps involved-it is all done by gravity. Each lock fills or empties in about 10 minutes.

    Here is a little video showing a ship being lowered in a lock.
    View My Video

    Here we are after being raised in a lock


    The gates with the lock filled.


    Susan

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    After the lock has been filled or emptied, the ship is walked to the next lock by one of the mules.
    View My Video

    The mules themselves have a cog system between the track rails that allow them to go up and down some rather steep hills.
    View My Video

    Once through the locks on the Pacific side, we start through what is called the Gaillard Cut on the way to Gatun Lake.

    Ahead is the Centennial Bridge constructed in 2003-I personally love the look of these cable-stay bridges.






    There is a lot of construction seen as well. There is a new set of locks being built that will be able to handle larger ships. They say it will be completed by the 100th anniversary of the Panama Canal in 2014, but they have a lot of work to do still.


    Susan

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    We continue our journey. On the right of this photo is Gold Hill which is famous for the area said to contain gold when the French were working on the canal and started the (untrue) rumor in order to sell more construction bonds.


    Along the way we come across traffic going the opposite direction.


    We also see that the battle to keep nature from filling the canal continues. There are dredges working constantly to keep the channel open.

    Cutting type dredge-they were changing out a blade at the time.


    Scooping dredge


    Susan

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    Now we are at Gatun Lake. This is a very large man made lake that supplies all the water necessary to run the canal operations.



    Gatun Lake was created by the construction of a very large dam that is 1/2 mile thick at the base.


    Gatun Lake also serves as a holding are for ships waiting to transit the last set of locks leading to the Caribbean Sea.


    Fortunately we don't have to wait and proceed through the last set of locks without delay.

    We are near the end.


    The total transit time through the canal takes 6-8 hours. In our case we were finished in about 7 hours.

    Hope you enjoyed the trip. I would highly recommend it to anyone.

    Susan

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    Absolutely amazing! Until now I had no idea how this actually worked. Thanks for taking the time and effort for posting.

  8. #8
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    Susan, thank you so much! This is so cool. I love that you documented it so well. The videos are a great help too! Thank you.

    Cheers,
    BD

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    Hi Susan...Thanks for the trip down "Memory Lane!" My husband was raised in the Canal Zone, and we visited in the 60's and stayed with family for a week. Beautiful place...wish we could live there! Thanks for the great, updated pictures...Betty :-)

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    Wow thanks for sharing this.... I have watch countless times on how this works on Discovery and National Geographic but nothing beats when someone tells you the story.
    At first I was surprised at the cost of passing to the canal... but after reading through
    all of the process that a ship has to go through I understand now. Hopefully one day I'll
    be able to experience it in person.

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