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Bert’s Beauty Shots: The Panama Canal

Westerdam transited the Panama Canal Saturday, Oct. 10.

I told you last week that I couldn’t wait for the sunrises in Panama. The transit was great. Perfect weather, good view.

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As always, the transit is the highlight of the cruise, and rightfully so. The techniques used for this system and of course the way Captain Van Zaane, Chief Officer Marco Carsjens and all the navigators maneuver the ship through the canal, are amazing.

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One of the most remarkable feats in the history of engineering is the building of the Panama Canal. It has had an affect on the commerce of the whole world. For example, it not only shortens the distance between many Atlantic to Pacific ports by 8,000 miles, but it cuts the total mileage from Great Britain to New Zealand by 1,500 miles.

The United States undertook the building of the Canal in 1904. The locks form a kind of “staircase” for taking ships through the canal. This means the ships are raised at certain points to where the water level is higher, and then lowered to other levels. Nearly half of the canal runs through Gatun Lake. Vessels approaching the lake from the Pacific side are lifted 54 feet from sea level by a series of two locks. A mile further on there will be a third lock raising the ship another 31 feet. We then sail along a narrow channel called the Gaillard Cut, a distance of eight miles. Near the Atlantic side, we will again be lowered 85 feet by a series of three locks to sea level. Within the locks, the vessels are hauled by electric locomotives called “mules” moving along the banks.

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At the beginning of the locks you see the stop signs. REALLY, we get the point!

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Only Holland America Line offers you this great deal: A sunny day while transiting the Panama Canal, not on drop of rain and to finish of your relaxing day we offer you some crocodiles and even an afternoon jumping show from the dolphins … Book now!

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Bert van Mackelenbergh is Westerdam’s hotel manager.

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