The new Panama Canal
Eva will arrive tomorrow, and of course I look forward to that. When she arrives in her taxi from Tocumen international airport in Panama City and after Colon, she will have to pass over both the new and the old Panama Canal.
The new canal is to be operational from May this year. Not only can it accomodate bigger ships, it is also a different sort of engineering. Both canals lead to and from the Gatun Lake – on the Atlantic side. The Gatun Lake was created by damming the Charges river and the artificial lake made it possible to construct the transit with one canal on each coast and lead the traffic between them on the lake. This was the genious solution the Americans introduced when they succeded to build the Canal. Both Japanese engineers and the French engineer who built the Suez canal had given up earlier attempts. And the American army who succeded not only faound the right solution, but also understood the necessity of giving better living quarters and health conditions to the workers. Earlier death numbers were enormous.
The old canal had one weekness. The heavy traffic threatened to use more water filling the locks than Chagres were able to supply to the lake – at least if there were years with less rain than the normal.
So will the new canal, operated in parallell with the old one empty The Gatun Lake? No, not at all. The water will be recycled. Beside the locks there are enormous water tanks, or rather basins like large swimming pools. The same water is pumped in and out of the locks. That is the kind of engineering I like.
The traffic from Colon has to cross the new canal, as it does with the old one. They say there are plans for a bridge, but there are no traces of construction activity so far. Maybe there will be a ferry as an intermediate solution? – That definitely will mean more waiting than we already have here. Today there is a small bridge at one of the Gatun locks. It is open for cars a short time when the ships are on their way up or down in the closed locks. It seems that there will be no similiar solution in the new canal.
The winds are a little on the heavy side this year. But we have seen very little of Panama so far, so maybe we shall take the opportunity to travel inland, while we wait for a possible weather window...