This is the approach to the Gutan Locks on the Atlantic side of the canal. It is actually west (by just a mile or two) of the Pacific side. The canal runs almost north to south, but there is enough angle to put the Pacific side east of the Atlantic side. We are approaching the entrances to the first of three locks here.
I love the little neon arrow pointing to the middle of the two sides.
I would have thought that the two sides served ships going in opposite directions, but we locked throught with the big ship on the starboard (right) side. My guess is that it has to do with keeping pressure somewhat equal between the two sides. But, I don't know. Maybe someone can write me.
This is a small polit vessel that is used to send out pilots to ships.
It was about 6 AM when we started into position. If was just breaking day when I arrived on deck. This is looking forward on the starboard side of the ship.
Here we are entering the locks.
Our ship had lots of room between the ship and the sides of the locks. I think we had at least three feet on each side. There have been ships with six inches on each side when going through.
These locomotives are called mules. There is more about them in later photos.
The canal is carved into the jungle. The forest is quiet thick, but not as much as I had imagined. We traveled across the isthmus via bus and train and the growth was not that heavy.
Looking down from deck 13 at the mules. The ladder on the left is part of the ship,
Notice the opening on the side of the ship beside us. It is right behind the word Line. Notice how small the men look compared to the ship,
Another shot of the island and the mules.
The ship beside us is transporting automobiles. The guide told us that it has 6,500 vehicles in it. I don't know if it was full or empty. I suspect it was on the way to Asia to pick up cars and trucks. The holes in the side were for loading cars. Imagine spending all day driving cars up ramps, loading onto elevators and parking them within inches of each other.
Notice the little arm things on the side of the mules. That is to attach cables to the ships.
The mule on the extreme left is attached to the ship in the other side. I always thought when I saw video of these that they pulled the ships through. Not ture. The only keep the ship in the very center of the locks. The ship uses its propulsion to move forward. So there are about eight mules (four on each side) and the ships propulsion that have to move in precise synchronization so the ship doesn't skew.
These are the four guys in the hole in photo number 13 above. I got one of the guy's attention and he waved back.
The mules waiting the next ship.
I'm not sure what those guys do with that little boat, but I would not want to be in it as a big ship came by.
This is much like a ballet of movement. Everything works in perfect union to move ships. The cost to lock through the canal for our ship was about $250,000 per trip. It better be right.
A tug gets ready to push the ship to line it up to start through the first lock.
I noticed this old light house--a relic from the past. Now the canal locks operate 24 hours a day, but at one time, it only operated from 6 to 6 daily, year around. Then lights were added and the light house was useless relics.
Those little tugs on each side were amazing. How can something so small move that huge vessel?
This is a shot of the area just before the locks. Lots of equipment. When the revenue is about one million dollars an hour, they can't afford to have broken equipment holding up the process.
I was running from one end of the ship to the other getting various views. The ships photographers noticed me and gave a friendly wave.
I am standing mid-ship looking forward. You can see people were gathering at every vantage point. One of the weaknesses of this ship (Island Princess) is that there is no clear vision forward from the decks. There were glass windows at the front and sides that really restricted photography and sightseeing. I regreted that we were not on Hollard America which has really open decks for viewing.
This shows the windows, which are really wind screens, on the front of the ship. It was almost impossible to get a good shot through them. People were kind to allow others to take a quick shot, but there was good angle or time to find one.
We moved into the first lock before the ship beside us. This is the auto transport ship.
I noticed the vehicles lining up at a gate on each side of the ship. I was puzzled as to what they were doing until later in the process.