Rex Ross Web Site Transiting the Panama Canal
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Transiting the Panama Canal.

A look at the map of Panama shows that Panama basically runs East to West and the canal itself
runs mainly North from the Caribbean southwards to the Pacific.

The canal spans about 40 miles and normally takes 6 to 8 hours for to complete a transit.
The largest ships that can transit the canal are 965 feet long, and 106 feet wide. Ships built to those dimensions
are known as "Panamax" size ships.

Each year more than 12,000 ships transit the canal, shaving about 7,830 miles from the trip around
Cape Horn at the tip of South America, also escaping the notoriously bad weather at Cape Horn.

From the Pacific, ships pass through the Miraflores locks, rising 50 feet to the level of Miraflores Lake.
A short cruise across Miraflores Lake bring ships to Pedro Miguel Locks where ships are raised
another 35 feet to the level of Lake Gatun.

At the Caribbean end of the canal, ships are lowered 85 feet back to sea level by the Gatun Locks and
then exit the canal into the open ocean.

Each of the locks has two channels, so that two ships can pass through each lock independently.

Following a disastrous first attempt to build a canal across Panama by the French, beginning in 1880, the U.S. signed a
treaty with Panama in 1903 and began construction of what is now the Panama Canal. Completed in about 10 years
the construction required about 35,000 workers and completely cleared Panama of malaria and yellow fever which had killed
almost 25,000 people during the French effort.

As with many things, the idea of the Panama Canal is simple. However, the actual engineering
and construction of the canal make it one of the greatest civil engineering tasks ever undertaken and completed.

We begin begin our transit of the canal, entering the first lock on the Pacific end just before 4:00 A.M.

The early hour entices Suzy to a brief rest.

Don stands in front of the bridge to check that everything is proceeding correctly.

Electric "mules" on each side of the bow and stern of the ship help keep the ship centered in the lock.

The mules do not pull the ship, they only center it. The ship always proceeds under its own power.

As it is a bit early for the captain to be up, Adrian assumes control of the bridge, commanding the ship into the first lock.

Dawn finally breaks on our canal transit.

With the arrival of dawn, the captain relieves Adrian from command of the bridge.

Relieved of duty on the bridge, Adrian joins Suzy on the sun deck.

We observe a lot of traffic in the canal.

We pass a freighter on Lake Gatun, about mid-way through the canal system.

Several hours later, we arrive at the locks on the Caribbean side of the canal.

Even with all of the technical innovations which characterize the Panama Canal
operations, no one has ever found a better way than just rowing the lines out to ship to attach to the "mule" on shore.


The electric mules continue to center the ship in each lock.

The captain and the Panamanian pilot carefully watch the transit.

A portfolio of the operations of the Panama Canal locks.

Adrian approves of the lock opening process.

The Gatun Locks.

Don supervises from the bridge.

Hearing that Don Sanders would be transiting the canal, masses of admiring fans gather to cheer.

The last lock leading to the Caribbean opens in front of us.

Having completed our transit of the canal, the Panamanian crew departs the ship.

Looking back at the end of the Panama Canal.

A successful transit of the canals brings smiles to the captain and his team on the bridge.

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