Panama Canal / Canal de Panamá

Jan 21 – Today was our day to travel to Miraflores Locks to see The Canal. Although we traveled through the canal for a day in 2008 (while Jim was teaching for the Semester at Sea), this was our opportunity to see the locks from the land.

Jim plotted a way to get us to Miraflores using the subway, several buses, and an hour of time, but we opted instead for a $4 Uber ride, and were there in 20 minutes.

Look at all the shipping containers – we must be getting close!

Miraflores is totally a tourist attraction, with a $17 entrance fee and a 3D IMAX movie in English, narrated by Morgan Freeman. Turns out that the movie was the entire attraction, as there were no ships going through the locks when we were there.

Here is a $17 history of the Canal. The Spaniards thought about a canal across the isthmus, but didn’t have the technology. The French tried and failed to dig a canal in the late 1800s: between the rain undoing their digging and malaria and yellow fever killing the workers at a rate of 500 deaths for every mile dug, they gave up.

In 1903, Teddy Roosevelt orchestrated a one day coup to free Panama from Colombia and take over the Canal Zone. A US engineer had the idea to dam up the Chagras River / Río Chagras, creating a lake in the middle. This simultaneously provided hydroelectric power for the project and decreased the number of miles to be dug. A UK doctor discovered that mosquitoes were the carriers of the diseases, and they started aggressive spraying the canal area to eradicate the pests.

Ten years later and voilá! A canal run by the US from 1914 until 1977, when Jimmy Carter agreed to gradually give it back. Panama took total control in 1999.

The locks looking toward Lake Miraflores and the Atlantic
The locks looking toward the port of Balboa and the Pacific
I’ve looked at locks from both sides now – low water on the left and high on the right. It takes about ten hours for a ship to traverse all 12 locks.
Some ships have less than a foot of clearance on either side. (photo from visitor center)

When it was determined that the Canal was becoming obsolete due to the size of newer container ships, larger locks were added on both sides of the originals, just like adding new lanes to the Interstate. The upgrade was completed in 2016.

Newer ships can carry 24,000 containers (photo from visitor center)

We’ll, that was quite an education. Thank you, Morgan Freeman!

As it didn’t take too long to see the Canal, Jim had a plan for our afternoon. There is a park / bike path called Cinta Costera that runs right along Panama Bay, providing us a scenic, semi-shady walk. To get there, we had to walk by all the posh skyscraper hotels.

Jim had the idea to walk into the tallest hotel and ride the elevator up to the top floor to see the view. We boldly strode in with our shorts and walking sticks, right past the staff in their formal dress.

Unfortunately, once upstairs, we found just a hallway with no windows, so Jim sweet-talked a maid into letting us into the Royal Suite!

I wonder if Harry and Meghan ever stayed here?
Quite the view! Thanks, Jim!
Now, back to our walk. First, we crossed over the highway.
Which way should we go?
Watched kids playing volleyball, riding scooters and bikes. We even saw a group practicing a Tik Tok dance!
Wouldn’t this be a pretty place to live?
Your yacht could be here!
Vendors selling shaved ice
There is a famous statue of Vasco Núñez de Balboa here – the first European explorer to find the Pacific from the new world in 1513 (the indigenous people holding him up do not look happy)
Ta da! A beautiful day!

2 thoughts on “Panama Canal / Canal de Panamá

  1. Thank you so much for educating us and allowing us to virtually take the journey(s) with you. I know it takes a lot of time to write and upload especially when one must be tired. Please keep on doing what you’re doing. It’s absolutely fascinating and I look forward to the next posts!

    Liked by 1 person

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