• 2019 Panamá City and the Locks

     After an interesting and rather long ride through skyscraper-packed and glitzy Panamá City in the evening, we got to our Radisson Hotel (nice) just in time for a much-appreciated Sangría in the "lobbybar".

    We were on the third floor and after some sleep discovered that we had a great balcony with a view.

    We had Neotropic Cormorant

    Pale-vented Pigeons

    Yay, Orange-chinned Parakeets. Yeah, I can't see the orange either. 

    the ever-present Tropical Kingbird (TK)

    and a couple of Red-crowned Woodpeckers

    We arrived a day before our birding trip started to view and learn about the shipping lane locks.  The hotel arranged a driver for us and he took us to the close-enough and quite wonderful Miraflores Museum and viewing platform.

    I took this from the 4th floor viewing deck of the museum. We could see the whole operation from here. This is a ship exiting the last lock on its way to the Pacific by entering into the artificially created Lake Gatún. Lake Gatún is named after the village that was inundated when the lake was formed. 

    View of locks

    Tugboats play a big role in guiding ships in and out of the locks. It's a tight fit.

    These tugboats were on their way to guide the next ship from the lake to enter the locks going toward the Atlantic.

    The different levels of the locks are necessary because the mean Pacific sea level is a little higher in elevation than the Atlantic and the tides on the Pacific side are significant and introduce constant change in the sea level. The tracks and engines on the tracks are there to provide guidance to the ships as they go through the locks. Cables are hooked up between these so-called "mules" and the ships and kept under tension when they get to the locks. They help keep the ship on the straight and narrow as they make their 10-hour journey through the locks.

    Here's a closer look at those "mules".

    Below is the dam that made the lake and provides the hydroelectric power to the locks.

    From our vantage point at the museum we could see a very large cargo ship passing through the new larger locks completed by Panamá in 2016.

    The museum was excellent and had interactive displays and a terrific IMAX movie that helped us get some basic understanding of this astounding engineering feat and its history. I learned that the French were the first to start digging a canal but had to give it up after 20,000 men died. Why? Mostly from Yellow Fever and Malaria.  Panamanians have not forgotten and are grateful to the French. There are memorials to these "hero workers" and an entire museum dedicated to the French effort and the terrible losses they sustained. The role of the US in separating Panamá from Colombia is complicated as well as the new engineering ideas that went into the completion of the canal, but the scientific discoveries about mosquito transmission of disease and DDT may have been the breakthroughs that made it possible for workers to complete the digging and construction required for canal completion.

    The lock walls are hollow so they require less energy to move in and out.

    Our driver waited while we visited the Miraflores locks, and then drove us through Casco Viejo which is the second oldest city, the first being in a state of ruin after Pirate Morgan destroyed it on his march across the isthmus. Our driver told us that Casco Viejo is a wonderful and safe place for people to come and stay, that walking around here is very pleasant and interesting..full of history, Spanish and otherwise.  Indeed, the narrow streets and old Spanish architecture were appealing. At this point I couldn't take any pictures due to an afternoon  downpour.

    Later, back at the hotel, we saw more Pale-vented Pigeons

    and this Tropical Mockingbird from the rear restaurant behind the hotel.

    As we sipped our Cokes, this enormous ship sailed by SO close to the shore on its way to the Pacific. There are eight layers of containers here. Impressive.

    Clay-colored Robins. Not rare.

    The next morning we were set to connect with our birding group and leader and start our trip.

    We were about to get wet, but also enjoy the pleasant company of new friends and see some beautiful natural sights and birds. We were excited!

  • Comments on this post (5 comments)

    • Kathy Wingert says...

      I feel lucky to have met you two years ago in Trinidad. So enjoy these trips with you via photos and text. Appreciate your perspective on the places you visit. Thanks.

      December 17, 2019

    • Rachelle Kalkofen says...

      As always, so educational to read about your travels and the photos are incredible. That ship with 8 layers of shipping containers, WOW!! Thanks for sharing!!

      December 15, 2019

    • Susan Clifton says...

      Thanks Carole. Four of us Brits visited Miraflores probably at the same time as you but as we had not yet met we would not have recognised you.
      A good account of a visit to the locks- highly recommended!

      December 15, 2019

    • Carol Blackard says...

      The memories are the best of everything, Linda! We sure missed you on the second half of the trip!

      December 14, 2019

    • Linda Smith says...

      I’m sitting here at Point Lobos watching squadrons of brown pelicans, remembering the best part of the Panama trip. Meeting you two! Love your photos and concise writing. I’d send pix but my iPhone can’t work wonders on its own!

      December 14, 2019

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