During the our trip, we went from sea level to 85 feet about sea level through a series of 3 locks, to match the Gatun Lake. The locks function by fresh water flowing into the chamber causing the water level rise, in turn raising the boat. When the water level was the appropriate depth, the next set of doors opened allowing us to proceed to the next set of locks. If anyone is interested in crossing the canal for themselves, there are just three requirements:
- Pay your fees 48 hours in advance, cash only!
- Make sure you vessel is properly inspected and will not breakdown in the canal
- You must allow a Panamanian engineer to drive your boat through the canal
After we docked, we went to the Miraflores Museum. There we had the opportunity to watch a cargo ship and a cruise ship pass through the locks, being brought down from 85 feet to sea level. With seemingly inches to spare on either side, the cargo ship was pulled by "Mules," which were essentially little trolleys guiding the ship on tracks on either side of the canal. Once the excitement had passed, we watched a 10 minute, 3-D film at the museum giving us a bit of history and more in-depth information about the canal and how it was built.
The Panama Canal used to be under US ownership, but since 1999 it has been under the laws of the Panamanian Government, however the canal itself is a sovereign entity with a board of authority directors who are elected, and are completely separate from the government to prevent political intervention.
Our day concluded with the Alumni Dinner. We arrived in style, as our awesome professors arranged for us to be transported by a "Diablo Rojo," which is a bus typical of Panama, but will soon be extinct as they are updating their public transportation system. At the dinner we met some prospective students and current students from Panama, as well as some alum. It was a great experience, and we were happy to share it with Dr. Griffiths and her family!
Overall, it was an awesome day, and we can't wait to see what's in store for us tomorrow! Each day gets better and better as we learn more about the culture and history.
-Claire and Blayne