Sunday, September 28, 2008

Panama Canal Part 2: Miguel Lock and Gatun Lake

I found my diploma and no additional news on the move to Italy, so back to the cruise!

After a short trip through Miraflores Lake, we were into the Miguel Lock. This is the third and final lock up from the Pacific into the Canal. We had a better view of the ship next to us being hooked up to the locomotives at this lock.
From there we moved into the Gaillard or Culebra Cut, which is a 7.5 mile long cut through mountains and the Continental Divide. Shortly after entering the Cut, the ship goes under a very cool cable-stayed bridge that connects both sides. This is one of only two ways that vehicles can cross the Panama Canal. It was interesting to see how close we were to the land on either side, very good views of the incredibly dense jungle of Panama.

The Cut is the tightest part of the Panama Canal, at 192 meters wide. Because of the size of Disney Magic, while we were in the cut, no other ships could pass us in the opposite direction. This is also the source of the most problems for Canal operations, with mud and rock slides being a problem. It is dredged frequently to maintain a depth such that the ships can go through. This is the price of creating a canal where mountains should be! The earth seems to want to normalize back to its natural state.

Once through the Cut, we moved into the giant Gatun Lake. The channel for ships widens out and ships will pass each other, even though it still seems close!

All around small islands can be seen, these are the tops of the mountains that were flooded to form the lake. The lake was flooded without removing any trees, and the story goes that occasionally a large tree trunk will break off and float around in the lake bumping into ships here or there.This is where we sat back and watched the islands go by, and just marvelled over the fact that we were on a ship where no ship should be. We were looking at the tops of mountains, while sailing on an ocean-going vessel. Just amazing!

We enjoyed a hot and sunny day on the ship. It was fun to wander around and take in the views or watch the lake go by while Brandon swam in the pool. Everyone was excited, even the crew, who would stop here or there and take a picture. This was unique to them too!
Late afternoon, the clouds got dark and the storms rolled in. Lightning and thunder and rain closed the pools and sent everyone inside until we reached the Gatun Locks on the other side of the lake.

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