Panama Canal’s 100th Anniversary!

The Panama Canal celebrated it’s 100th anniversary on August 15th, 2014 in a day marked by a celebration at the Miraflores Locks where the Canal Authority. All Panamanians pointed with pride to the good job that they have done since taking over Canal operations in January, 2000 and a gala event that brought out a who’s who of Panamanian culture. Anniversaries can be a time of reflection as well as a time to look to the future. We recalled the engineering triumph of completing the canal but also the tens of thousands of lives lost, mostly from malaria and yellow fever, during the construction. We also saw the bright future for the canal reflected in the construction of the new locks, which will allow much more cargo to be brought through.
The intrepid crew of Mermaid served as roving reporters for Cruising Outpost magazine for the events. The media events started the previous day with a tour of the new locks under construction at Miraflores. To just say that they are impressive is an understatement. The scale of the undertaking is massive. Giant cranes tower overhead and the people operating the concrete trucks look like ants on the floor of the new locks. A huge cement plant was built on site which makes cement from the basalt they get from excavating, and concrete is poured 24 hours a day, seven days a week as the three locks, each able to accommodate a ship longer than four football fields, take shape. We learned that the new locks would use less water than the existing locks even though the ships that can pass through will be able to carry almost four times as many shipping containers.
The anniversary bash sung into high gear as Canal employees and VIPs were on hand to cheer the first ships of the day passing through the Miraflores Locks. We ran into Tito who was a line handler for Mermaid when we transited the Canal. A cake that we estimated to be 30 feet by 10 feet and decorated with a scene of a ship transiting the locks was wheeled out, traditional dancers swayed to the band and speeches were made. We interviewed Manuel Benitez, the Deputy Administrator of the Canal, who touted the benefits of the new locks. Not only will the operation of the locks be more efficient, the new ships will be more efficient throughout their voyage lowering costs and the carbon footprint of the goods they carry. That evening a black tie gala brought out everyone from the President, local TV personalities and Canal big shots to hear an original musical score depicting the history of the canal and performed by famous local artists. Mike, Robin & Tito Touring the Construction Site of the New Locks Bird Fishing in the Locks Gates Line Handler Guards at the Gala Celebrate! Dancers Huge Cake! Robin Asking Questions of #2 Submarine in the Canal Exiting Miraflores Locks Marching Band Dancers at the Celebration Drone Camera Tugs Entering Crew on a Ship in the Locks Really?! Crews Celebrating During Transit New Locks New Locks Construction New Locks From a Distance New Locks Being Built

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