Posted by: orst86 | February 14, 2012

Day 8

9 d 10′ N
79 d 37′ W

Temp near 90F with lots of humidity. Come on what do you expect from a jungle?

We entered the locks at about 7am or so, the locks being the Gutan locks. There are three steps of about 20-27ft to get up to the 85 ft difference of the lake. All gravity fed, no pumps needed. And the ship had about a foot clearance on either side. The rail locomotives are two on each side and both pull the ship through the locks as well as make sure we are positioned centered in the channel. No scraping of the sides.  Wouldn’t want to ruin the hull paint job.

We saw the container ship next to us had probably less than six inches clearance on the sides.

Takes about an hour normally to get through, but they were doing some maintenance on a few of the gates so we’re going slow.

The photo is from when we were returning to sea level, there was another cruise ship following us through the locks.  Notice that ships a lot narrower, they had lots of space on the sides.

Some facts, the cost for a transit for our ship is a fee of $35,000 for for a transit spot, then $130 per person. Total cost,$350,000!
The most expensive was a fee of $475,000 for a cruise ship, the least amount paid was $0.36 for someone that swam the canal in the sixties. Every ship that goes through the canal uses 52 million gallons of water to raise and lower the ship.

The canal was first designed to be a sea level idea, by a Frenchman. They started worked 1880 . He failed because of the large amount to earth that needed moving to get through at the continental divide mostly because of the high rain fall causing so many land slides. 22-25,000 workers died while the French were working on the Canal. The US go into the mix after gold was found in CA and that prompted a search to shorten the travel time from coast to coast. The Corp of Engineers got to work and designed the lock system in place today. That had wanted to expand the locks but WW2 stopped the project. Currently the new locks are being built, they should be done in 2016.
The current locks can handle 965′ long and 106′ wide ships. The new five billion dollar locks will handle 1200′ long and 160′ wide ships.  It’s quite an earth moving project just to the east of the Gutan Locks.

At one time the Canal held several world records, including largest man made lake and earthen dam. However only one record stands,the one of the largest locks in the world.

The US used to run the canal as a break even business. But in 2000 panama took over the canal zone (ten miles of land on either side of Canal). Panama decided to change the fees and started charging to make money. So far in the last seven years, they have made over $360 million bucks between 2000 and 2007.

While the US was working on the project there were still 5600 people killed, bringing the total deaths to about 27,000 people died building it, many from land slides and many more from diseases. It was finally completed August 15 1914. Same time as the start of the Great War (also known as WW1)

The US also figured out that the mosquitoes were the vectors of malaria and yellow fever. (as a side, this was done by Walter Reed in 1900 while in Cuba, not Panama, but his work made the Canal building go much safer).  Matter of fact the French thought it was bad air and other bugs. In order to keep the bugs out of French hospitals they placed all four legs of the bed into pans of water to keep bugs from climbing up into the bed. Little did they realize that those pans of stagnant water were just breeding grounds for mosquitoes right there in the hospital.

After the ship left the Canal we docked in Colon. Not the nicest place. Too many armed machine gun toting military types wander around. We were only allowed to stay in the immediate area of the port.  Don’t know why I’d want to go any further.  Once we left the ship, there were only a few spots to look at things, all of them shops selling the same old same old.  Panama hats looked cool (literally).  $20 for a woven hat that rolls up, but retains it’s shape.  Didn’t buy one.  Someone back in MN would say that they didn’t have my size…but I just figured I’d never use it.

That’s all for now. Tomorrow our last port of call, Porto Limon in Costa Rica.

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