Transiting the Panama Canal (part two), Gatun Lake, Panama

Entering Lake Gatun after exiting the upper Gatun lock, to then sail south across the lake; Panama Canal, Panama

Entering Lake Gatun after exiting the upper Gatun lock, to then sail south across the lake; Panama Canal, Panama

Our first blog post on “Transiting the Panama Canal” took us from the Caribbean Sea entrance at Colon, Panama, and through the Gatun locks.  This blog post follows our journey across Gatun Lake in very inclement weather.  Our third blog post in this series will take us down through the three Pacific-locks (84 feet, or 25.6 meters) to the Pacific Ocean.

Gatun Dam (completed in 1913), which created Lake Gatun by damming up the Chagres River; Panama Canal, Panama

Gatun Dam (completed in 1913), which created Lake Gatun by damming up the Chagres River; Panama Canal, Panama

The Gatun Dam is a large earthen dam across the Chagres River in Panama, near the town of Gatun.  The dam, constructed between 1907 and 1913, is a crucial element of the Panama Canal; it impounds the artificial Gatun Lake, which in turn carries ships for 33 kilometres (21 mi) of their transit across the Isthmus of Panama.  In addition, a hydro-electric generating station at the dam generates electricity which is used to operate the locks and other equipment in the canal.  Construction of the dam was a great engineering achievement, eclipsed only by the parallel excavation of the Culebra Cut; at the time of completion, the dam was the largest earth dam in the world, and Lake Gatun was the largest artificial lake in the world. — Wikipedia

As we began sailing south across Lake Gatun, we encountered an hour-plus series of powerful and drenching thunderstorms; Panama Canal, Panama

As we began sailing south across Lake Gatun, we encountered an hour-plus series of powerful and drenching thunderstorms; Panama Canal, Panama

Torrential rains while sailing across Lake Gatun; Panama Canal, Panama

Torrential rains while sailing across Lake Gatun; Panama Canal, Panama

Sailing across Lake Gatun we saw some amazing lightning strikes (and BOOMING thunder), many less than 0.2 miles (0.32 km) from our ship; Panama Canal, Panama

Sailing across Lake Gatun we saw some amazing lightning strikes (and BOOMING thunder), many less than 0.2 miles (0.32 km) from our ship; Panama Canal, Panama

With the visibility on Lake Gatun dropping close to zero, it was comforting to know our experienced captain had excellent radar and GPS systems for navigating; Panama Canal, Panama

With the visibility on Lake Gatun dropping close to zero, it was comforting to know our experienced captain had excellent radar and GPS systems for navigating; Panama Canal, Panama

[A note to our readers:  CLICK on any photograph in any blog post and it will be displayed in a larger size;  expand the borders of your browser window to enlarge the window and enable the photograph to be displayed at full size.]

By mid-afternoon on Lake Gatun the worst of the thunderstorms were behind us; Panama Canal, Panama

By mid-afternoon on Lake Gatun the worst of the thunderstorms were behind us; Panama Canal, Panama

Approaching the Continental Divide and the infamous Culebra Cut, we passed several current significant dredging operations to keep the channel open for the larger ships; Panama Canal, Panama

Approaching the Continental Divide and the infamous Culebra Cut, we passed several current significant dredging operations to keep the channel open for the larger ships; Panama Canal, Panama

Low mountains of the Continental Divide and rain forest jungle as we sailed past the northern entrance of the Culebra Cut; Panama Canal, Panama

Low mountains of the Continental Divide and rain forest jungle as we sailed past the northern entrance of the Culebra Cut; Panama Canal, Panama

A straight, man-made channel that is part of the 7.8 mile (12.6 kilometres) long Culebra Cut; Panama Canal, Panama

A straight, man-made channel that is part of the 7.8 mile (12.6 kilometres) long Culebra Cut; Panama Canal, Panama

The Culebra Cut, formerly called Gaillard Cut, is an artificial valley that cuts through the Continental Divide in Panama.  The cut forms part of the Panama Canal, linking Gatun Lake, and thereby the Atlantic Ocean [and Caribbean Sea], to the Gulf of Panama and hence the Pacific Ocean. It is 12.6 kilometres (7.8 mi) from the Pedro Miguel lock on the Pacific side to the Chagres River arm of Lake Gatun, with a water level 26 metres (85 ft) above sea level.  Construction of the cut was one of the great engineering feats of its time; the immense effort required to complete it was justified by the great significance of the canal to shipping, and in particular the strategic interests of the United States of America.  Culebra is the name for the mountain ridge it cuts through and was also originally applied to the cut itself.  From 1915 to 2000 the cut was named Gaillard Cut after US Major David du Bose Gaillard, who had led the excavation.  After the canal handover to Panama in 2000, the name was changed back to Culebra. — Wikipedia

Approaching the Centennial Bridge and the southern section of the Celubra Cut, the site of numerous catastrophic land slides during (and after) construction; Panama Canal, Panama

Approaching the Centennial Bridge and the southern section of the Celubra Cut, the site of numerous catastrophic land slides during (and after) construction; Panama Canal, Panama

Approaching the Centennial Bridge and, beyond it, the Pacific-locks (three) that will lower us 84 feet (25.6 meters) to the Pacific Ocean; Panama Canal, Panama

Approaching the Centennial Bridge and, beyond it, the Pacific-locks (three) that will lower us 84 feet (25.6 meters) to the Pacific Ocean; Panama Canal, Panama

 

2 thoughts on “Transiting the Panama Canal (part two), Gatun Lake, Panama

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