Saturday, September 29, 2007
The Panama Canal
From the Miraflores Locks, we watched as gigantic ships entered from the Pacific and made their way through the first leg of the Panama Canal on their way to the Atlantic. The canal cuts across the lowest point in the Continental Divide and through one of the narrowest points between the two oceans. There are 12 sets of locks. Each may be filled or emptied in less than 10 minutes, and each pair of lock gates takes two minutes to open. Electric towing locomotives, called "mules", pull ships by cable through the locks. The mules are the only locomotives of their kind in the world, designed specifically for the Canal. You can see two different ships passing through at different levels in the photo at left and the little mules as well.
The Panama Canal expansion project broke ground on September 3rd. The expansion will cost $5.25 billion (WOW!) and is scheduled for completion in 2014. When finished, the Canal will have a new lane for ship traffic and a whole new set of locks, which will double capacity and allow more traffic and longer, wider ships. It is amazing to see the Canal and realize that it was completed in 1914 and has been running efficiently, 24/7 with no reworking in almost one hundred years. Impressive indeed.