In the early hours of the morning, we approached the entry to the Panama Canal, to the first set of locks, Gatun Lake Locks.
Alongside the canal, a bus passes by
and this tree is full of white balls. At first I thought they were birds, but they are not. A fruit of some kind, perhaps?
A tugboat joins us
and moves in more closely
to gently guide us
this way and that, to keep us on a straight path.
We moved up to the Crow’s Nest on Deck 10 so we could see forward as we approach the first gate of the Gatun Lake Locks.
The gate opens
and we slowly approach the second gate ahead of us as the water rises.
Below you can see the modern mules that pull the ships forward while in the locks. Back in the day, the mules used were the hay-eating, braying, four-legged type of mule.
The water raises us higher as the ship ahead of us moves forward to the gate in front of it, and we move ahead.
And so we maneuver through this set of locks, ever so close to the sides of the canal
You can see why a new canal is needed, since many ships are much larger than the one we are on. Those ships must now go around South America, a much longer journey.
Once into Gatun Lake, the ship docks and we disembark to begin our journey to Panama City. As we travel, we pass the site of the new canal, and we see some of the new gates – which will be ten stories high as compared to the seven stories of the current gates and will be one and one-half times wider. In addition, instead of opening like a door, as the current gates do, they will slide to the side – like a pocket door.
Beyond the barbed wire you can see the cranes working. Look hard, they really are there!
Here you see the path of part of the new canal. They say it will be completed this year, but to my eye that appears doubtful. There is much left to be done.
Did you know that only fresh water is used in the locks? Did you know that each lock must be flushed after each ship passes through, and each ship must donate 52,000 gallons of fresh water to accomplish that? In the new canal, a recycling system is being installed so that the water will only have to be flushed out after three ships pass through. This will be a much more economical system, and will reduce the cost for the shippers.
We head on to Panama City – but that will wait for another day.