Panama Canal Passage - 2015 - Page 1

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In 2015, Sandy and I achieved a long held dream for a visit to a destination a little different from our previous cruises. Passage through the Panama Canal.

The cruise began with the departure of our cruise ship from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida and after some port visits to three different countries (Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica, and Mexico) and ended at San Diego, California. Photo albums for the stops in the other locations are separate from this one. This album focus solely on the Canal crossing.

A few interesting facts on the Panama Canal: The width of the Isthmus of Panama is about fifty miles wide at the canal. Thus the route of the canal, that is the distance a ship travels from one ocean to the other is about fifty miles.

The part of Panama the canal runs through lies east and west in direction. The Atlantic side is to the north and the Pacific side is to the south. The path of the canal from the Atlantic to the Pacific runs from the northwest in a southeast direction.

Passage of ships through the canal is conducted in a very precise and efficient operation, During the morning hours both lanes are used to pass ships from the Atlantic to the Pacific. In the afternoon ships pass from the Pacific to the Atlantic.

On the Atlantic side, the lock system consists of three locks to raise ships to a height above sea level of about eighty-one feet. Approaching the Pacific side there is also a set of three locks but after the first two of the three, a lake and then the final lock before the final channel passage to the Pacific.

A third lane and set of locks is under construction and scheduled for completion in 2016. That will double the traffic capability of the canal and allow for newer larger ships to pass through.

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The camera equipment used on this trip was the Canon EOS 5D MK II SLR.. Also used was a Canon PowerShot G12 camera.
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On the morning of our entry into the Panama Canal, Sandy and I were up early and up on the front of Deck 10 to gain a space at the rail for a good view. By the time the sun came up the areas all around the decks were becoming crowded. The entrance to the canal is up ahead. On each side of the "entrance" through the breakwater.
On each side of the "entrance" through the breakwater.

We are coming in site of the area of the first set of locks.

There is a lot of cargo and freight handling going on in this part of the canal.

We are coming in site of the area of the first set of locks.
Pilot boat coming to bring the Panama Canal pilots to our ship.

The area to the left of the existing operational two lanes is where the new third lane is under construction.

Slated for opening in 2016 the new lane will be considerably wider with wider and longer locks to accommodate larger ships than the current lanes can accommodate. Approaching the first lock of the set of locks which will raise our ship from sea level to the level of the lake which we will pass through on the way across the Isthmus of Panama to the Pacific Ocean.

Crew in a rowboat come out to collect the lines from the ship to secure it to the engines called "mules" which guide the ship through the locks.

Skilled Panama Canal crew members secure the ship and assist in the guiding process. Skilled Panama Canal crew members secure the ship and assist in the guiding process. The gate to the Gatun Lock just ahead.
The gate to the lock just ahead. The walls of the channel will narrow before the gates to the width of the lock. A closer view of the container ship in the next lane connected to two mules. A closer view of the container ship in the next lane connected to two mules.
A string of mules ready for their next task. The operation of moving ships through the canal is done with long practiced precision. You can see that precision in every step of the process. A closer look at the "workings" between the two lanes. Our ship has a clearance of only 24 inches on each side between the hull and the walls of the locks. Once the level of the water in the lock ahead is lowered to match that of the lock our ship is in the gate will open allowing us to enter that lock.
The gates ahead of us opening to allow us to pass into the next lock where the ship will be raised to a higher level toward reaching the water level of Gatun Lake. The gates ahead of us opening to allow us to pass into the next lock where the ship will be raised to a higher level toward reaching the water level of Gatun Lake. The gates ahead of us opening to allow us to pass into the next lock where the ship will be raised to a higher level toward reaching the water level of Gatun Lake. Approching the next lock even the tracks for the mules elevates to the next higher level.
We are very close to the walls of the locks. About 24 inches on each side of the ship. The lock before Gatun Lake. After we entered the locks we decided it was time to take a break from standing on the deck and go have breakfast. We still had a good view from Windjammer Dining Room. While everyone else is busy watching the passage through the locks, others are otherwise occupied.
In the lane next to us a Princes Cruise Line ship has entered the lock and will be traveling along side with us. In the lane next to us a Princes Cruise Line ship has entered the lock and will be traveling along side with us. In the lane next to us a Princes Cruise Line ship has entered the lock and will be traveling along side with us. Looking down at the tracks along side.
Approaching and now first looks at Gatun Lake. Approaching and now first looks at Gatun Lake. The lake had something of a parking lot look with a large number of freight ships awaiting their turn to enter the locks to pass through to the Atlantic. For the most part, the ships here were pointed toward the locks at this end of the lake. As ship traffic passing from the Pacific to the Atlantic do so in the afternoon, they will start passing through later today.

Photos shot by Dan Dooley and Sandy Dooley

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