mothers day

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Panama

Colon, Panama
February 14 2013

Because they don't have the new canal finished our cruise ship was too big to be able to transverse the canal.  Our Cruise left the port at Fort Lauderdale and returned to the same port.  We were on the Atlantic Ocean for  the full cruise.  

However, the morning of Valentines Day we were up and off the ship at 7am (yes...for you doubters, I did get up in time to shower, dress, get my makeup and hair fixed, have a full Breakfast and then head down to exit the ship by 7 am (That's FIVE AM to you Utahns!!!)

They loaded us on busses (I think there were 14 busloads of people heading out to go through the Panama canal from our ship that morning!)  and off we went to the opposite side of Panama - the Pacific Ocean!!!!

We learned an awfully lot about Panama on the hour long drive across country - especially about how much Panama received from the United States when we turned our whole system over to Panama itself.  We offloaded at a beautiful little boat dock area with lots and lots of sailboats moored and got onto some large ferries.

 
This is one street downtown Colon.




They drove us to a pretty little bay where they loaded us up on some ferry boats.  It was amazing how many little 'islands' were created with the dirt dug out of the canal area.  Some 283 million tons!!
This is the pilot that they brought out to our ferry to pilot us through the canal.  After waiting around for an hour we were so excited to see him clambor on board    Every  boat/ferry/ship that goes through the canal has to have an authorized panama canal pilot guide them through.
That's Panama City in the distance
One of several big bridges we went under.  The large equipment on the right is a large dredging machine to help keep the canal cleared out
After another hour or two we are finally heading up to the canal
Heading in!
To think this was FINISHED IN 1914!


Our ferries seem so small even though each one carried about 200 people!

tying us down (I guess in case the huge doors opened when the shouldn't and they don't want us being washed away!)
They tied two of the ferries next to each other -
Looking back at our side of the ferry.  Thank heavens we weren't up on top - eight hours of sun would have had us broiled!
There was so much extra room on our side and the ship on the other side filled the lock from stem to stern - it was a Greek Tanker that was built just FOR the canal - these ships have TWO feet clearance on each side of the ship!
We are almost to the top now...you can see the tracks for the 'mules' that keep the huge ships centered so they don't hit the sides of the lock.  Each boat travels through the lock under its own power.
Heading into the second part of the first lock.  On the Pacific side of the canal there are two locks but the first one has two sections.  The two locks raise the ships up a total of 85 feet.  Sea Level is sea level - so the Atlantic and Pacific are at the same level.  However the tides in the Pacific Ocean are up to 20 feet higher.  The French started building the canal first and were trying to duplicate what they did in building the Suez Canal - just a BIG ditch.  In come the American's and their engineer's come up with the lock system!  Voila!
These cement walls are almost 110 years old.
another gorgeous bridge!
Huge cables holding it up
Following our Greek ship again
Heading into the second lock

They are building a new canal to the West of this one...so larger ships can go through the locks.  I am so glad we went through this one...it was fascinating!
watch tower over the locks
gates - it takes 1.8 minutes for these gates to totally close.  Once they are closed it only takes 8 minutes to raise or lower the level of the water so the gates can open again...12 minutes total!
Noriega's prison.  Didn't look real high security!     We also got to see a brief flash of the Panama Temple - I saw a flash of white and said "look Ed"....He took a FAST picture and lo and behold, when we opened the pictures up on our computer and zoomed in - you could just barely see the angel moroni on the top!
old cement walls!!!  After we went through the second lock we entered into a big lake - we were about half way through the whole canal...a good 8 hours after we got on the ferry.  they unloaded us at a small town on the canal.  It would have taken another 3-4 hours to go all the way through the canal and we got back to our ship about an hour after it was supposed to leave as it was.  It was a long long day but definitely worth it - check that one off of my bucket list!

4 comments:

Mauri Gibson said...

Fascinating! What a neat experience, I had no idea you went thru the Panama canal. How long did it take?

Kecia Gilliam said...

What a fascinating excursion! I'm intrigued by the aging of the canal!

Kecia Gilliam said...

Haha. I guess I should have read Mauri's post first.

Susan said...

IIt WAS fascinating! Going through the locks were fast - ten minutes or so but we sat and sat and sat waiting for our turns.