Miraflores Visitors Centre
Skipper and First Mate Millard (Big Bear and Pepe)
Tue 12 Feb 2013 23:23
Miraflores Visitors Centre
The Miraflores Visitors Centre, the memorial to those who died between 1907 and 1913 and Bear’s Jubilado (retired) half-price ticket.
We arrived at the Visitors Centre and went straight up to the viewing area on the fourth floor, meaning to stay just a little while – that was before we got absorbed. We watched as this motor cruiser entered, go down until she nearly disappeared, then pop out the other end of the lock. Then of course a couple of chums came in and we watched those too.
There was a wonderful carnival atmosphere, Louis and two of the guides in ‘happy’ orange.
We dragged ourselves away to grab a late lunch. As Bear, Dee, Eric and I settled, a lady was very captivated with us, stopped took up our cameras and clicked away, took some on her own camera, that done, off she went. Back down to the first floor to watch a short film on the canal, then in to the exhibition.
The first floor had examples of digging, dredging and spreading machinery and were labeled in both Spanish and English.
In 1881, the distinguished Cuban physician Carlos Juan Finlay theorised that yellow fever was spread by the stegomyia fasciata mosquito, known today as aedes aegypti. His collegue Walter Reed confirmed the theory after experiments in Cuba. William Crawford Gorgas, who worked with Walter Reed in Cuba, implemented the sanitation measures that banished yellow fever from the Isthmus of Panama. The first ship through the canal was the cargo ship SS Ancon. Coincidentally, this was also the same month that fighting in World War I began in Europe. The advances in hygiene resulted in a relatively low death toll during the American construction; still, about 5,600 workers died during this period (1904–14), bringing the total death toll for the construction of the canal to around 27,500.
The Culebra Cut in 1904. Trains worked hard throughout the construction of the Canal.
During the French period 59,747,620 cubic meters of rock and soil was removed. Tropical rain, unstable terrain and constant landslides delayed work, eventually bankruptcy occurred. In the Culebra Cut, dry excavation lasted seven years, from 1907 to 1913. More than one hundred and fifty three million cubic meters of earth and rock were removed. Works in Culebra Cut included drilling, blasting, digging, dredging, hauling and dumping the excavated material. Powerful machines built by the Bucyrus Company could remove more than eight thousand tons of rock and earth in eight hours. These steam shovels were up to three times larger than those used during the French period. Built in Scotland for the Panama Canal, the ladder dredge Corozal began operations in 1912. With a massive chain of fifty two buckets, she could dig more than a thousand tons of material in less than forty minutes. The dirt-spreader moved along the railroad tracks, flattening enormous mounds of rock and soil left along the track, each blade, on both sides of the spreader measured over ten feet long. On the 10th of October 1913, US President Woodrow Wilson blew up the Gamboa dike. The signal was sent by telegraph from Washington D.C. The waters of the Gatun Lake flooded Culebra Cut and from that day on, they were one.
Towing locomotives were designed to control ship movements inside the locks and prevent collisions against chamber walls and miter gates. The first forty Canal locomotives, known as mules, were supplied by the General Electric Company in 1914.
The SS Kroonland in 1915. The USS Vermont in July 1919. The Gaillard (later Culebra) Cut in 1921.
The Gatun Locks – middle wall. The USS Missouri transits in 1945. The Miraflores Lock.
The escalator took us to the second floor, which resulted in a surprise, real, healthy fish in large tanks - beautifully clean.
Next were mounted specimens. The cerambycid beetle is one of the largest beetles in the world. Adults have two strong jaws and long antennae. Their larvae are tree borers and can tunnel through tree trunks. There are approximately six thousand species of cockroaches. They live mostly among vegetation, although some feed on household food, cause misery on boats and one or two have been dispatched when coming uninvited to Beez on the wind. The grasshopper caught in flight was quite lovely and the same size as the one we saw in Venezuela.
The third floor had a model showing how the gates opened and closed. Bear had a go.
There was a series of fantastic pictures showing the locks in a very different way.
The best bit for me was in the simulator. We stood on a pretend bridge of a chum, heard the engine noise and the voices of the pilots giving instructions. The film gave us the speeded up version of coming up to the locks and going through. A really great experience.
The fourth floor had new machinery, the dredger D’Artagnan, a massive bucket dredger and Bear showing a drill hole.
Very strange to stand in the car park at the end of our visit and see a chum pass by. The American Society of Civil Engineers has named the Panama Canal one of the seven wonders of the modern world and we can highlight the page in the 1000 Places book.
ALL IN ALL A REALLY GREAT PLACE TO VISIT
FASCINATING AND VERY INTERESTING