Wednesday, December 14, 2011
Transit Of The Panama Canal: Pacific to Atlantic Side
This was on my bucket list. In November 2011, I got to ride the cruise ship, MS Statendam from the Holland American Lines through the Panama Canal.
The Captain had announced the previous evening that we would raise anchor at 5:30 AM begin our transit of the Panama Canal. We he actually started at 3:30 AM. So at five when I awoke he was already far up the channel and approaching the first lock in the system. It was still dark.
Things were blurry and out of focus and just not in my camera. There were things moving on the shore of the canal channel that might have been salt water crocodiles or logs being moved by long thin beavers. Pick one.
I finally got enough light to see how to set my low light settings on my camera.
And so we began a trip I never thought I would actually take. I was going through the Panama Canal. I was excited, hungry and in desperate need of coffee.
All that was made available by the crew out on the deck of the ship. Things began to clear up.
I am tempted to relate a detailed technical version of what was going on as we transited the channels, locks, and lakes of the Canal system. Anyone interested in the detail use of the electric mule locomotives, how their cog rail system and cable restraint systems keep ships from banging into the sides or gates of of their locks come spend a couple of days with me I got the picture and the dope on that. Here in this blog I will keep it simple.
The neon arrow tells the ship which of the two lock system to use.
And so we started.
With 1200 people hanging over every foot of railing on 7 decks in 80+ degree and 85% humidity weather at 5:45 AM.
The guys in the row boat pass line from the ship to the Mule locomotives.
The Mules don't pull the ship through but rather keep it in the middle of the lock. Neat trick when there's often less than two feet between the lock wall on either side and the ship's hull.
Let's see, tha's a container vessel on the left and another cruise ship on the right.
Tugs are everywhere even though the ship use their own power to go through the Canal there are tugs standing by at all times to keep the Canal clear of ships that may have problems and help them with difficult turns etc..
As I said....
A lock gate.
When closed you can use them as a bridge.
Now here we go. Panama is building a third set of locks. the new locks will handle much wider and longer ships. It should be done by 2014 and will cost $20 billion.
More construction. How can they make this pay? Well consider that our ship paid a total of $285,000 in reservation and transit fees, and look at all the ships here.
Day light comes...and the temperature is 92 degrees. People are retreating to the air conditioned areas of the ship to watch through windows.
Expanding the infamous Galbraith cut to handle the bigger ships.
At the very top of the ship it is twelve stories to the ground below.
A little tree trimming.
The secret to building the Canal is revealed. Legos.
Again the third lock construction.
Drill, dynamite, dredge.
The jungle comes right up to and often into the canal.
Panama Railway bridge.
The lakes are dotted with hundreds of islands.
Out onto lake Gatun.
A sea going box full of hotwheels.
The last locks, Caribbean ahead.
Now I wasn't done. Two weeks later I came back and went through the opposite way.