Friday, April 25, 2014

Wondrous Panama Canal connects the oceans, delights our travelers

 The graceful Bridge of the Americas is the first impressive site, beginning the Panama Canal transit.from the Pacific  

 Engineering marvel thrills as it raises the ship 85 feet to move it across land, Pacific to Atlantic

It's a tight squeeze aboard the Legend of the Seas, at Mira Flores.


WHEN TEDDY Roosevelt traveled to Panama in 1914 to proudly christen the new canal, he likely did not envision 14,000 ships a year transiting this “eighth wonder of the world.”  He surely knew, though, savvy man that he was, that the idea was not new.
SINCE 1534, sailors, explorers, kings and merchants had dreamed of connecting the oceans.
It took Teddy and nearly 400 years, for the canal to happen.
OUR RECENT transit of this engineering wonder brought respect and delight for the feat often called the Crossroads of the World.

Our bully President Theodore Roosevelt oversaw the realization of a long-term United States goal, knowing  the world needed a trans-isthmian canal to shave off thousands of miles, months of time and the long and arduous "around the horn" trip .
THROUGH THE 1800s, American and British leaders and businessmen schemed for a way to ship goods quickly and cheaply between the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. The California Gold Rush and the 1855 railroad put the notion back in the news.
Abandoned by the French, after thousands of their workers died of malaria, the U.S. took a shot at the project in the early 1900s.  
A colorful array of some of  one  freighter's shipment. 
PULITZER Prize winning author David McCullough describes the intricate political maneuvering in his epic, "The Path Between the Seas."  The sweeping tome chronicles the complex creation of the Panama Canal. It's a first-rate drama of the bold and brilliant engineering feat and all its tragedy and triumph, told by a master historian.
Tugs and pilot boats are part of the water traffic during transit.
The French had built the earlier Suez Canal, but that was in the desert on sandy earth.  They didn't have the savvy or equipment to break through the rocky earth in Central America.
HERE ARE some fun canal facts.  Did you know?
*The Chagres River is the only river on the planet flowing into two oceans, dumping its waters into oceans on two continents – on opposite sides of the Continental Divide. 
*The Panama Canal is essentially a “water elevator” moving ships between the two oceans, Atlantic and Pacific.  It’s a gravity fed
The thrill of transiting oceans through the locks attracts tourists worldwide, here aboard Royal Caribbean's Legend of the Seas.  The transit is narrated, through all three sets of locks, and takes a full, fascinating day on ship.
elevator raising ships 85 feet up and over the Divide and across two earthquake faults.
* It represents a savings of 8,000 miles (rather than going around the tip of South America or “the
The Pedro Miguel station awaits ships in transit on both sides. 
horn”) avoiding some of the coldest, windy, dangerous and rough waters of the world.
*The opening of the new, enlarged canal project has been delayed, due partly to flooding, and  to awarding the contract to the low bidder who ran out of money.  When we booked this spring cruise for 2014 – nearly two years ago – the new lane was to be open.
*It is designed to increase the capacity for transporting goods and services from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and vice versa, enabling ships to carry three times larger capacity.
* That the new, enlarged canal carried a price tag of $5.3 billion with contracts awarded to four countries:  Spain, Italy, Belgium and Panama. How is that international endeavor unfolding? It's $7 billion now and 18 months late.

The expansion project is underway again, cutting a new trench.
COMING WEDNESDAY:  The Panama Canal expansion may be open by late 2015.  That, too, is unfolding like a suspense novel.  It was supposed to open this year, but it was sidetracked, went way over budget and construction was stopped for months.  What will this "major heart surgery" do to the canal, and how much do ships pay for passage?  All at:
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