t2.bmp (300054 bytes)  Gatum Locks

 

Thunder and lightening awoke us at 4:00 AM, so we got breakfast and wandered around the ship.  Luckily the rain stopped.

At 6:00 AM they finally opened the door to let us go out onto the forward deck. The sun was just starting to come up, and the Gatun Locks were right in front of us.

Lou set up his tripod and we settled in for the long haul.

Another ship, a working vessel and not a passenger ship like us, was just a little ahead of us, on our right, in the other lane.  Each set of locks in the Panama Canal has two lanes.
Here we are approaching the first lock.
We're entering the first lock, and the red ship is just ahead of us in the right lane.
Just through the white ship's railing, you can see a gray vehicle with the number 156 on  it.  It is a locomotive and they call it a mule.  We had four on each side of the Regal Princess. They used steel cables to keep us straight as we went through the lock.
A ship going through the Panama Canal cannot exceed these dimensions:

Length: 965 feet (294.13 meters)

Draft: 39.5 feet (12.04 meters)

Beam: 106 feet (32.31 meters)

The Regal Princess is 811 feet 8 inches long, and 105 feet and 6 inches wide, so we just about squeaked through. 

The gates look like they are painted white and black, don't they?  But the black is actually sediment from the water.  There came a moment when we realized that the black showed us exactly how high we would be raised up in this lock.
Lou zoomed in for a closer look.  The cool thing in this picture is that you can see the water level in the second lock -- all the way up to the top. 

Soon that water will drain out of that lock to fill the one we are currently in.

Now we are looking at the red ship in the right lane.

You can also see the railroad tracks for the locomotive mules.

This is the control tower in the middle of the locks.  This is a close-up shot.  See below for a wider view.
 
This is our mule on our left, number 156.
Karen saw some kitty cats roaming around the buildings, and Lou tried to get a picture of them.
We have exited the first lock (the one with the white gates) and we are now in the second lock (the one with the red gates).

You can see that the water is coming into the lock. We have risen about halfway.

Now you can see the third (and final) lock of the Gatun Locks as well as the Gatun Lake beyond.

The locks use fresh water from watershed lakes. For each ship passing through the canal, about 197 million liters of fresh water end up being flushed into the sea.

Why not use salt water?  Salt water would require pumping from sea level 26 meters below canal.  Operating and maintaining salt water pumps would be exorbitantly expensive.  Salt would corrode lock mechanism and destroy vegetation.

This was a tricky picture because by the time you could read this on the side of the control tower, we were moving by it pretty quickly.  Luckily Linda, who has been through the Panama Canal already, told us early enough so that Lou could set up the camera.
Here is another mule working with the red ship.  This time you can see the driver guy.
Another mule
Right below us on Deck 10 was the crew pool. They covered it up and let passengers out there while we went through the canal.  But they were crowded.  We clearly were in the better spot.  We were on a sort of balcony that stretched across the whole front of the ship.
This is a nice shot of use leaving the Gatun Locks and heading out into Gatun Lake. 

Passenger ships have priority over other vessels.  So here you can see that the big red ship in the right lane is nowhere to be seen -- it is now BEHIND us.  We got through the locks before them even though they started before us.

This is a fuzzy shot of Gatun Dam, which is on the right just when you exit the Gatun Locks.
We though that the trip through Gatun Lake would probably be boring, but it was really beautiful.

 

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