Oh my goodness – if you haven’t had the opportunity to see the Panama Canal in action you can always log onto www.panamacanal.com and watch ships, on a web camera pass thru the Mira Flores (Pacific end) locks.
We arrived at 5:30am this morning and we’re up and out on the deck. It’s still very dark and the flashing lights on the first set of locks welcome us to watch ships in front of us be directed thru the first of 3 locks on the north end of the Panama Canal.
This really is a masterpiece of engineering. Some people consider it to be the Eighth Wonder of the Modern World. It has shortened the trip around the continent of South America by 7,000 miles or 11,265 kilometres. There are numerous facts about the canal – too many to mention in our blog but here goes some: The Canal is 48 miles long; the average transit takes approximately 9 hours and the maximum beam of any ship is 32.3 metres. It currently employs 9,000 workers (for canal transportation only). Right now there is a MAJOR construction project underway at a cost of $4.1 billion.
The Canal itself was first perceived by King Charles V of Spain, who, in 1523 prompted by Balboa the discoverer of the Pacific and Cortez, conqueror of Mexico decided to make a survey of the Canal area. The survey was completed in 1534 but the enormity of the task disillusioned the Spanish and discouraged any attempts at construction. The eventual route chosen was the same as in 1534!
In 1894, the Gold Rush brought about both the completed of the Panama Railroad across the Isthmus and the development of the West Coast to the USA. After Panama’s independence from Colombia in 1903, Panama and the US signed a treaty authorizing the construction of the Canal. The US guaranteed Panama’s independence and for the sum of $10 million US Panama granted the US power and authority within the the Canal Zone.
On May 4, 1904 the US purchased the rights and properties of the Canal construction from the French Canal Company for $40,000,000. Ten years later, after the loss of over 6,000 lives from Yellow Fever and Cholera, the Panama Canal was completed at a combined French and American outlay topped a cost of $639,000,000. The American cost was $352 Million. In 1999, the government of Panama was granted full authority of the enterprise. Over 40,000 people died building the canal, with the loss of life finally stemmed when the connection between mosquitoes and malaria was found.
We have a very knowledgeable guide on the ms Amsterdam providing commentary about the Panama Canal as we journey through the 3 locks at each end. We went through the Gatun locks early this morning. We’re now crossing Gatun Lake and will continue through the Canal to Pedro Miguel locks and finally Mira Flores locks at around 4:30pm. In the meantime we’re watching out for crocodiles and turtles.
Construction on another set of locks is well underway and it’s Panama’s goal that it be completed by 2014. Mountains are literally being moved to accomplish both widening areas as well as building new (wider and longer) locks. It’s amazing the amount of land being reclaimed by all the dredging – the canal is currently only 40 feet in depth in places, but will need to be a minimum of 60 feet to accommodate the new ships being built. Just an amazing experience.
The view of Panama City!!!!