Observations from Kew Gardens (UK) and now Houston (US).
March 27, 2010
OAT Panama: Panama Canal
We drove quite a ways to get to the starting point of our northern partial transit through the Panama Canal.
We were regaled with facts during the entire transit:
The Panama canal will celebrate its 100th anniversary on August 15, 2014. The canal is being deepened and straightened for post-Panamax ships at a cost of over $14 billion. The canal is a fresh water canal, depending on an annual rainfall of 16 feet. Lake Gatun is the 2nd largest man-made lake in the world (Hoover is the largest).
There are about 36 full transits per day. All morning travel goes north and all afternoon traffic goes south. Transit tolls through the canal are based on vessel size, type and cargo. The cruise ship Norwegian Star pays $487,000 to make the full transit but Richard Halliburton (registered as the S.S.Halliburton) only paid 36 cents to swim the entire canal in 1928.
Herman the German is the largest floating crane in the world. The US bought it for $1 after WWII but it cost $3MM to move it from Germany to Panama.
We passed through the only gap in the Continental divide. Passing under the Avenue of the Americas bridge was spectacular.
At the Panama Canal museum at the Miraflores Locks, we learned even more about the operation of the canal. From the observation deck, we were able to see the locks open and ginormous ships being guided through by trains.