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The Panama Canal

In the second week of our trip to Panama we visited what Panama is best known for: the Panama Canal. Indeed, in terms of economc importance to Panama the canal ranks number 1, followed by banking, co-operatives, imports/exports and tourism respectively. It's a modern engineering marvel - most impressive.

It was France who first had the idea of a canal through Panama in the late 1800s. It was Spain who undertook its construction. But after years of effort and thousands of lives lost it was the United States who took over the canal and completed the waterway. And they owned it until finally turning it over to Panama in 1999.
We transited a part of the canal beginning about mid-point at Gamboa and ending at the Port of Balboa on Flamenco Island. In between there was plenty to see...
The good ship Pacific Queen was our mode of transport. It has a capacity of 300 passengers. (Shades of Gilligan!)

We sighted our first super tanker before we even left the dock.

Our tour guide told us to be on the lookout for this, Panama's only five star hotel. It's actually a prison.

The canal's going through an extensive expansion. This is one of the dredging ships being used in that operation.

A heavily laden container ship travels towards the Atlantic as we pass on our way to the Pacific.

This military ship looked like something right out of Star Wars (or Sea Quest, I guess)

A view of the bow of the Pacific Queen from the upper deck.

Pleasure craft navigate the canal, too.

This mountain marks the Continental Divide, located near the Centennial Bridge.

More expansion activity, this time on shore.

Look up, look way up as we pass below the Centennial Bridge, completed in 2004.

Ah, our first set of locks, Pedro Miguel, where we drop 30 feet before we can continue towards the Pacific.

Locomotives like this one help guide the super tankers through the locks along the canal.

We go below deck and pause for lunch and a wee libation. Not only is Balboa one of Panama's founding explorers but they named a pretty decent beer after him too!

A deck hand throws a line to help tie off as we get ready to transit the Milaflores locks.

In the Milaflores locks ships drop another 60 feet from sea level in the Atlantic.

Leaving Milaflores we're at sea level with the Pacific Ocean.

Our intrepid tour guide looks a little like Indiana Jones, or I guess Panama Smith, perhaps.

More dredging work...Another container ship, this one framed against the Bridge of the Americas, the Pacific gateway to the canal.

The Panama Canal Authority provides its own pilot to take each and every ship through the canal. At the end of the trip he disembarks and the regular pilot takes over.

This is St. Joseph's Island and telling from all that white stuff the birds love it!

A view of the Panama City Skyline prior to docking at Flamenco Island.And that was our day transiting the Panama Canal. Hope you enjoyed the tour.


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