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Panama Canal


78th Day


Panama was widely inhabited by the people of Chibcha, Choco and Cueva before the arrival of Europeans. The Spanish explorer Rodrigo de Bastidas arrived at Panama in 1501, and the following year, Christopher Columbus arrived and explored the Mosquitos Coast. In 1513, Vasco Nuñez de Balboa arrived at the Pacific Ocean, another side of the isthmus of Panama. Panama was part of the Spanish Empire for more than 300 years, serving as the important shipping point to and from South and Central America. Explorations and conquest expeditions also launched from Panama City. In 1821, Panama declared its independence from Spain, and became a part of Gran Columbia. Gran Columbia was dissolved in 1830 and Republic of New Granada was established. Panama separated itself from Republic of New Granada for a short period of time, but rejoined it in 1841. In 1846, the U.S. and Republic of New Granada signed the Bidlack Mallarino treaty, which allowed the active intervention of the U.S.A. until 1903. Under the treaty, the U.S. guaranteed the control of Republic of New Granada over Panama and gained rights to construct railway through Panama. In 1855, the first transcontinental railway, the Panama Railway was completed by the U.S. During 1880’s, the French company under the direction of Ferdinand de Lesseps, who had completed Suez Canal, first attempted to construct the Panama Canal. However, due to diseases and engineering challenges, the attempt resulted in failure. In 1902, the U.S. planed to take on the Canal project but its proposal for the canal rights was rejected by Colombia. In 1903, Panama proclaimed independence with the support of the U.S., which originally supported Colombia but changed sides. In the same year, the Hay-Bunau Varilla Treaty was signed which allowed the U.S. to construct the Panama Canal and to exercise the sovereignty over the Canal Zone “in perpetuity”. The Panama Canal was constructed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers between 1904 and 1914. In 1977, Omar Torrijos, the Commander of the Panamanian National Guard as well as the President of Panama, and U.S. President Jimmy Carter signed the Torrijos-Carter Treaties for the complete transfer of the Panama Canal from the U.S. to Panama by 1999. The revenue from Canal tolls is of economic importance to Panama. Panama is the fastest growing economy in Central America, promoting tourism and international trade.

Our ship departed the port at 2 a.m. to the Panama Canal and arrived at 5:30 a.m. at the first gate, the Gatun Locks. It was still dark because the time of sunrise was 6:03 a.m. The ship entered the Gatun Locks while it gradually brightened up outside. The ship would be raised to be 26m above sea level in about two hours, the same height as Lake Gatun. Since the ship would pass three locks on the route to the Lake Gatun, it would be lifted by about 9 meters in each step. It was more interesting to see the Gatun Locks from the ship than from the observation deck we visited yesterday.

*DMC-ZS10/TZ20 records images in max.14-megapixel and DMC-ZS7/TZ10 in max.12-megapixel.

There are only two bridges built over the canal, and both two are built on the side of the Pacific Ocean. So the people in Colon use the Gatun Locks to cross the canal to the opposite side.
The bus was running on the bridge in front of the gate. I heard that this bridge was nicely stored in the tunnel when the gate was open.
Every time the ship entered the lock, the water level increased. Repeating this process three times, the ship arrived at Lake Gatun.

Crossing Lake Gaten, the ship entered the second locks, the Pedro Miguel Locks. Here, the ship was lowered to the same level as Lake Miraflores in a single flight. When the gate was closed, the water was drained quickly to lower the ship to the same level as Lake Miraflores. The gate in the front was opened when the water level of each side was equal. Our ship was guided through the locks by six electric locomotives in total provided on each side at the bow and at the stern. Since the ships are kept centered in such narrow locks only with the wires from the locomotives while moving , considerable skill is required on the part of the operators.

We left the Pedro Miguel Locks to the Miraflores Locks crossing Lake Miraflores. In a two-step flight at Miraflores, the ship was lowered to the same level as the Pacific Ocean.

Leaving the Miraflores Locks and passing under the Bridge of the Americas, the ship finally arrived at Pacific Ocean. From here, I could see the Panama City in the distance.
The national flag of Panama was raised on Balboa Hill and the new urban area spread on the right side. I was not sure it was because of the high economic growth in Panama, there were many high-rise buildings in the city. When I looked the city through my camera at maximum magnification, I could see many buildings being under construction and the huge monitor placed in the town.
I heard that Panama was the second largest free trade zone after Hong Kong. I had an impression that the Panama City was five times as large as Hong Kong in terms of its area. I did not know about Panama well and had never thought that Panama had grown to such a large city and still been growing. I realized there were many things I did not know in the world.

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