18 October 2017:
Transit of the Panama Canal:
Floating Across the Continental Divide

By Corey Sandler, Destination Consultant Silversea Cruises

Silver Muse arrives at the Miraflores Locks at the Pacific side of the Panama Canal, 18Oct 2017. 

Early Wednesday morning, before sunrise, Silver Muse took her place in line for a trip through one of humankind’s greatest adjustments to the face of the earth: the Panama Canal.

We arrived outside of Limon Bay in the Caribbean Sea and then moved slowly south to the Atlantic Approach of the canal.

Yes, south. Although we are moving from the east coast of the American continent to the west, at the narrow isthmus through Panama the land bends nearly 90 degrees. And so we enter from the north and exit into the Pacific Ocean sailing south.

Map data (c) OpenStreetMap (and) contributors, CC-BY-SA

That’s just one of many things around which mariners and travelers need to wrap their mind. The most astounding is the fact that our ship—for the very first time in her young career—will rise about 80 feet in three steps at the first set of locks and then descend about the same distance at the end of the day as we enter the Pacific.

Silver Muse makes her maiden transit of the Panama Canal. Photos by Corey Sandler

In between, we sailed the fresh water of Gatun Lake, created in the early 20th century by the construction of a dam across the Chagres River.

The Panama Canal itself is nearly unchanged from the way it was when it began operation in 1914. Last year, a new set of wider and longer locks were opened alongside the original ones; think of them as new entry ramps to an existing watery highway.

I have made the passage many times, and it always is a thrill to view the technology and relive the history of its construction.

All photos and text Copyright 2017 by Corey Sandler, all rights reserved.

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