Our 2008 Rainforests and Reefs expedition to Belize, Honduras, Costa Rica, and Panama recently returned and we are excited to share with you some video footage of our transit through the Panama Canal onboard Le Levant. As you can see from the entry below, it was a truly memorable day.
Our Panama Canal Transit
Sort the travel destinations of the world by any criteria you wish, but a transit of the Panama Canal will always remain on the list of things a world traveler must do in his or her lifetime. The canal represents an epic feat of engineering that changed the course of human events. When it opened in 1914, it was called the Eighth Wonder of the World. The narrow isthmus, so alluring, so suggestive of an easy connection between oceans, has drawn adventurers, dreamers, and builders for centuries. They came in droves and most squandered their lives and their countries’ resources in vain attempts to bridge that short gap. Along with everything else it represents, today’s great “Path Between the Seas” is a monument to their sacrifices.
The schedule we secured was ideal for a coveted daylight transit. We had picked up our pilot and our special canal interpreter, Patricia Holmes, the night before. Before 0600 Le Levant had weighed anchor and moved into the queue for Gatun Locks.
The massive iron doors, weighing 800 tons each, closed behind us, and there was no turning back. Small electric trains, called mules, helped stabilize the ship as we rose to the level of Gatun Lake, 87 feet above the sea. We crossed the Continental Divide through the narrow Gaillard Cut, which had proved the most fearsome portion of the Canal to build. We cruised under the soaring Bridge of the Americas and into Miraflores Locks. They lowered us gently to the level of Pacific tidewater, into which we sailed at 1630. We dropped anchor in the Bahia de Panama in company with many other, mostly much bigger, ships. The towers of Panama City gleamed surrealistically in the distance.
In the evening we all enjoyed a cocktail party hosted by Zegrahm and Stanford where we raised a toast to our great accomplishment: a passage through a continent from one ocean to another.