The Panama Canal

The Panama Canal is 50 miles long and is the maritim link between the Caribbean sea (Atlantic) and the Pacific Ocean. It has been digged in the narrowest part of the Americas, the isthmus of Panama. It is know as one of the 7 wonder of the modern world by the American Society of Civil Engineers.

The canal has locks working like elevators rising the ship up to 27 meters over sea level ( 3 chambers of 9 meters on each side), from the Ocean to the artificial Gatun lake and then from the Gatun lake to the other Ocean. The ships sail the Gatun lake by themselves.

Each lock had the name of the place where they have been built: Gatun ( 3 chambers) on the north coast (Atlantic), Pedro Miguel ( 1 chamber) & Miraflores (2 chambers) on the south Pacific coast.

Water comes, by gravity, from the Gatun lake and fills the chambers: to go UP. Then water is ejected in the lake or the oceans (except for the new locks see here under): to go DOWN.

The norrow part is called the Gaillard cut as builders had to cut part of a hill: this is the real ” canal” part.

About 13.000 to 14.000 ships transit every year the canal.

New locks opened in 2016 to allow ships more than twice as big, called New Panamax o Neomax. They are 55 m (180 ft) wide by 427 m (1,400 ft) long, and 18.3 m (60.0 ft) deep. New channels recycle fresh water.

9,500 persons are working for the ACP (Panama canal authority). It is working 24/7/365.

Old pictures :

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