26 April 2024

Boy! Was I wrong!!

That is the Panama Canal! You can see a set of locks. And a few ships waiting behind. And a large one crossing in the parallel channel away from us. The ships fit very tightly in the canal. So, they have to be guided by the railcars on either side that you can see. In fact, all ships are categorized as Panamax if they can fit into the Canal. Now, there is another newer one built a few hundred yards away from this original one that can take bigger ships.

And you have to use a Panama Canal pilot to cross. The other two requirements are that you have to pay the tolls 72 hours before crossing and you have to fly a Panama flag in your boat when you cross. The toll runs into tens of thousands of dollars. The highest ever paid was $450,000! The lowest? 38 cents by an American swimmer who swam the distance of the canal!

But here is the crazy thing. I always thoughts the locks existed because of the height difference between the Atlantic and the Pacific. They are indeed different but not that much. The engineering marvel of Panama Canal was in utilizing the large lake of Gatun to minimize the digging. But the lake is 86 feet above the ocean level. So the locks lift the ships up to Lake Gatun and then bring them down on the other side!!

Also, geographically, the route is where the land mass takes the shape of a “S”. This means, when you go from the Atlantic to the Pacific, you will be driving the ship west to east (northwest to southeast to be precise) and not the other way round!!

Posted April 26, 2024 by Rajib Roy in category "Vacations

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