Book Beat Babes

Book Beat Babes

Thursday, February 19, 2015

A Visit to the Panama Canal! by DL Larson

We had the great fortune to take a trip to the Panama Canal this winter. I remember learning about the building of the canal back in school, but I was surprised to learn the canal celebrated 100 years in 2014. The only changes made in that time are dredging the river and canal to keep it deep enough for ships and changing the locks from mechanical gear drives to hydraulics. The American Army Corp of Engineers had a grand vision and thousands of people from many nations worked to make the Panama Canal a reality.

Some ships are too large to fit through the locks and another canal is nearly built to accommodate their size. They expect the new locks to be completed by 2016. But this has been a problem for many years and even before the canal was completed in 1914, trains hauled cargo and people from the Atlantic to the Pacific and vice versa. That still goes on today. The Panama Canal is a busy, international port.

This is our ferry entering the first stretch of the lock. There are three sets of locks. The small rail tracks on the right are for the electric mules that once hitched to the ship, help guide the ship into the locks.

This picture shows the walls of the canal lock. The water will rise using gravity. Some ships have only a foot of space on each side. This picture, we are probably about 6 feet away from the canal wall.

Here we are ready to pass through the second set of locks. The water has risen to the same level as the lake. The third set of locks is further down and out of view. Every ship that travels through the canal must have a Canal pilot on board to direct them through the canal. We waited about twenty minutes for our pilot to arrive before we could enter the channel. As a sign of respect, we were asked to applaud when he stepped on board.

 This is taken from our resort, a beautiful place, for sure. But if you look toward the horizon, the bumps to the left of the mountain are actually ships waiting to pass through the canal. All ships pay according to the weight of their cargo. Sometimes it's cheaper to unload at the shipyard, have the train move the cargo to the other side of the canal and load up on another ship. There are many, many options to traverse cargo and people. All financial transactions must be paid before moving through the canal. Most ships wait from 24 hours to longer for their turn to move through the canal. Approximately 30 ships pass through in one day.

So other than sharing my vacation time with you, my writer's mind was on overload thinking of images and plots for an international romance/mystery. I most wanted to ride the train, but we did not have the time to do that. But it didn't keep me from thinking of other famous stories that involved trains and fascinating people on board. Sometimes it takes a vacation to rejuvenate my imagination. I may never write a novel with the Panama Canal as a setting, but our trip intrigued me to the many possibilities available.

Til next time ~



  1. I would love to do this someday! These are great pictures, thanks for sharing.

    The Panama Canal is truly one of the great engineering wonders of the world.

  2. I've heard of that place, but never could picture it in my mind. This for shedding light on it!

  3. I had a short video I wanted to add, but I couldn't get it to work. It was a fascinating trip, one I had never contemplated going on. So glad we did! Thanks for stopping by.

  4. Thanks Dyanne! Thanks for stopping by.