As we steamed south from Norfolk, I periodically checked the compass repeater in the IC room expecting us to turn toward the west, but we just kept heading south. I checked a map and discovered that the Panama Canal was almost directly south of the US east coast; not much further west as I had believed .
At the Atlantic end of the canal are the Gatun locks; two sets of 3 locks connecting the Atlantic ocean to Gatun Lake, the surface of which is 85 feet above sea level.
Because there are two sets of locks, two ships can be handled simultaneously. This picture shows one of the other ship of our squadron in the lock next to the Damato.
We took aboard a group of family members of US military and civilian canal zone workers and a tour guide. The 1-MC became a public address system for occasional commentary on the construction and history of the canal. At one point everyone was ordered inside the ship while the deck crew took advantage of the canal's fresh water and the ABC washdown piping to give the ship's exterior a fresh water washdown.
We passed this dredge involved in the ongoing maintenance and improvement of the canal.
The canal crosses the continental divide at Culebra. The Culebra cut was the most challenging part of the canal construction.
At the Miraflores locks, excavation for a third set of locks is visible. I understand construction of this third set was abandoned when calculations showed that the flow of water available was not sufficient to support the operation of three sets of locks.
The Damato spent a day tied up near the Pacific end of the canal, and the crew had liberty. Unfortunately for me, I had duty and did not get to see Panama beyond what I could see from the ship.
Page last updated April 21, 2012