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Panama Canal 2014 [no bird photos]

Sally had been through the Panama canal twice and I was anxious to see what she was always talking about. Thus, when the opportunity to take an Oceania Cruise from Miami to Los Angeles via Santa Marta and Cartagena, Columbia, through the Panama Canal, out to the Pacific Ocean to Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Hautulco and Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, San Diego and finally Los Angeles, we jumped at it.. However, upon arriving in Cabo San Lucas we decided to jump ship and fly from Cabo to Orange County, CA via Southwest Airlines three days early so we could be home a few days before Christmas.

Before leaving we read David McCullough’s
A Path between the Seas, learning all about the difficulties experienced by both the French and the Americans in building the canal. As a result all the locks and sites like the Culebra cut had more meaning to us.

The following map shows to important aspects of the canal.

panama-canal-map 3

The canal-lock elevations are shown here.

The first thing to come into view was the breakwater at Cristobal/Colon on the eastern end of the canal.
Breakwater at Colon 220

A huge container ship entered the left canal as we approached the right one.
Container ship ahead of us at 1st Gatun Lock 0248

But we beat it to the first Gatun lock.
Approaching first of Gatun locks 0256

In the first lock, looking at the second and third with a ship in it.
First of the Gatun Locks 0258

Looking back from the Gatun Locks.

Looking back from Gatun Locks 0261

In the last Gatun Lock before Lake Gatun.
Last of Gatun Locks before Lake Gatun 0279

It was a tight fit. The distance between our ship and the locks.
Distance between our ship and lock 0260

The Gatun Dam producing Gatun Lake. This dam, and the use of locks, were the critical elements that allowed the Americans to succeed while the French failed.
Gatun Dam 0298

Boats in beautiful Lake Gatun.
Boats in Lake Gatun 308
After a long trip on Lake Gatun we approached the famous Culebra cut, the most difficult part of building the canal. The land kept collapsing till the builders learned to terrace the land.
Culebra cut & bridge 0312

Close up of the terraced Culebra cut.
Culebra cut 0322

We then approached the Pedro Miguel lock.
Approaching Pedro Miguel Locks 334

View of a freighter from our ship in the Miraflores Locks.
A freighter from our ship 0365

Sally and David at the Miraflores Locks.
Sally & David at Panama Canal 0282

Water release at the last Miraflores lock.
Water release at Miraflores Locks 0347

The Panamanians are constructing a new set of wider locks next to the present ones. This will increase the width from 103 meters to 180 meters, allowing for the new super-container ships carrying up to 20,000 containers. The fee will approach one million dollars. The following are some photos of the construction of the new locks.

The huge new lock gates.
New Lock gates 0246

Construction at the Gatun Locks.
Construction at the Gatun locks 0296

Excavation at Miraflores.
Evacuation for new locks at  Miraflores 0348

Construction at Miraflores.
Construction of new locks at Miraflores 378

Construction at Miraflores.
Construction on new Miraflores locks 0359