We arrived at the Panama Canal at about dawn today. Since we did this passage last year, we did not jump out of bed in the dark to watch the approach. However, the call of the “Panama Rolls” and coffee DID get me dressed and on deck early. They only serve these treats until 9:00 a.m. and only in certain areas of the ship. I went out to the bow of the ship to watch our approach to the first lock of three that ultimately raises the ship from sea level to about 90 feet above sea level where we enter a huge man made lake to cross toward the Pacific Ocean.
Even though we are a relatively small ship in length, we still are wide enough that there are only a few feet between us and the wall of the canal. At the exit end of the canal, when we pass through three more locks that lower the ship back to sea level, the view from our cabin window changes from the buildings surrounding the canal to the walls of the canal. This is pretty cool to watch since it only takes about eight minutes to raise or lower the ship in the lock.
During the day-long trip from one set of locks to the other, Ron was able to photograph a pelican and some sort of eagle-like bird. One thing I found very interesting is that a huge suspension bridge is being built (top right-hand photo) that will allow auto traffic to cross the canal. Currently, the automobiles and trucks must pass directly in front of the canal gate on a road that folds away when the gate is open (see third picture down on the left). Cars can get stuck waiting to pass for 20-30 minutes at a time!