The Canal has been on my bucket list for years and years. I didn’t really ever have a plan of when or how I would get here, but finally it has come to me more than I have come to it. And it happens to be a good year for it, at least I think so. This is the 100 year anniversary of the opening of the Canal.
The Canal is an engineering marvel, and the history behind it is fascinating to me. I won’t try to Wiki you to bits about it, you can do that yourself if you want. But the idea that it basically cut two continents apart and provided a way to ship things around the world without having to go around the bottom of South America is incredible. The Canal connects the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans (via the Caribbean Sea) and at 48-miles long, it takes the better part of a day to get through it.
There are 3 sets of locks on the canal, and in a rough description, ships are raised from sea level to about 80 feet above sea level to the Gatun Lake, which they cross and then enter the next set of lock which lowers them back down to sea level on the other side. I’m at the Miraflores Locks near Panama City and get to watch a couple of small boats go through.
As the ferry and sailboat enter the locks from Gatun Lake the lock gate closes behind them and the water begins to drop in the lock, lowing the boats 1/2 of the 25 meters they need to drop to get back to sea level.
Then the gates open and the boats pull ahead to the second section of the lock and the middle gates close behind them. Then this last section of the lock releases water to lower them the second half of the 25 meters and when its done, the end gates open releasing the boats to the ocean on the other side – in this case the Pacific.
The museum is 4 stories tall and shows the history, the environmental effects of, the economic effects of, and the future of the Canal in a really interesting way. I overhear a tour guide explaining that ships are charged fees based on the ship length, width, type of load, volume of load, etc. Most large ships pay somewhere between $200,000 and $300,000 to cross the Canal. And the least expensive crossing ever made was by an American swimmer/adventure/write, Richard Halliburton, who swam the length of the Canal in 1928 and paid a fee of 36 cents. Amazing.
I post something on FB tonight after visiting the Canal, something along the lines of “bucket list item checked” but the words don’t do it justice.