Bridge of the Americas at dawn
I’ve meant to write about the Panama Canal for a while now. Just needed a little nudge – and received it with this week’s #frifotos* theme: bridges. So here, finally, are a few images of a day spent crossing from one world ocean to another, from the Pacific to the Atlantic.
Bridge of the Americas crosses the entrance to the Panama Canal on the Pacific side and was once the only bridge connecting the lands of North and South America. (Of course, there’s a Norwegian connection here as well. The bridge was designed by Leif Sverdrup, who emigrated from Norway).
I took these photos at about 5.30 am from the deck of the boat as it passed underneath.
Books as inspiration
Books often inspire me to visit new places. Not travel books, particularly, most often novels. They don’t even have to be great novels. Ever since reading The Tailor of Panama many years ago, I’ve been drawn to Panama and the Canal Zone. John Le Carré’s spy story paints a picture of a dark and shady, yet oddly attractive city.
This was my first impression of the country. Looks mysterious and cool in the early hours of the morning, doesn’t it? Just as I imagined it.
… and a little later, at sunrise
The long, leisurely sail through the Panama Canal took most of a surprisingly enjoyable day. I would have expected to be bored after a few hours, but I remained on deck all day. Didn’t even bother with meals, just hung about watching life along the canal, seeing the mechanics of the locks, nibbling on pineapple and melon, reading a bit about Ferdinand de Lesseps, French engineer of Suez Canal fame, who soon learnt the rainy, mosquito-infested, disease-ridden South American jungle was a much more hostile environment than the desert. More than 20 000 workers died. Long story short, the French effort went bankrupt and Teddy Roosevelt took over.
No complaints from the littlest one either
Scenes along the Panama Canal
Centennial Bridge is the other bridge spanning the Canal, forming part of the Pan-American highway.
Landscape of Gatun Lake
Gatun Lake in the Panama Canal was once the world’s largest artificial lake. (Of course, curious readers immediately ask: which is the largest at present? Can’t let you just hang there in suspense, now, can I? The answer is: it depends. By surface area, it’s Lake Volta in Ghana. By volume, it’s Lake Kariba, a bit further south in Africa, on the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe).
Yet another bridge, near Gatun Lock
All kinds of boats have passed through the Panama Canal, more than 800 000 since the opening 98 years ago. Think toll roads are pricey? They have nothing on the Panama Canal. Record toll was paid for the passage of the ship Norwegian Pearl, a whopping 375 600 USD.
I’m fascinated by canals: the original idea, the vision, the labour, how they work. How about you? Are you interested? Have you sailed through a canal?
* #frifotos is a weekly Twitter-chat initiaited by Epstein Travels
Brings back memories. I lived there for three years, years ago !
Mike, I would love to hear more about that sometime, somewhere. Something tells me it would be a very interesting story…
I was stationed there year’s ago in ft Clayton and colon
That sounds like an interesting experience 🙂
There’s something mesmerizing about big traffic hubs – especially on water.
These types of waterways especially, I think. Looks unreal seeing huge ships pass through the narrow canals.
I like that wee little island in the lake there. Is the water always that muddy?
Yes, I think so. During the construction works, mud slides would sometimes completely dam the Canal.
I don’t recall EVER seeing the canal THAT muddy. What day did you cross ? Rainy season, I’m guessing.
If anyone wants to learn about a TRULY AMAZING island WITHIN the Panama Canal, check out Barro Colorado,
and especially a recent photo essay in NatGeo, in affiliation with Smithsonian Tropical Studies.
Coconut Beach Community
Chiriqui Province, Panama
We crossed the canal in early January. I’m quite intrigued with the Panama canal – all of Panama, really – and would like to og back for a closer look, so thanks for the info on Barro Colorado.
Love your shot of Panama City at dawn. I’ve seen very little written on Panama and one of the countries that bloggers don’t seem to visit as much.
I’m drawn to the country, want to see more.
Great shots, I agree, canals are fascinating, I’ve never sailed through one but I’d like to one day.
It’s a very interesting experience.
My canal experience is limited to little British ones – hardly compare to this! What a fascinating journey! I’d love to travel through the Panama and/or Suez one day.
Interesting to see both, really. I’ve not sailed through Suez but have driven alongside it. So completely different landscapes, but equally odd to see huge ships in the middle of the landscape in both places.
Super. May be sometime I’ll come through it, at leas I plan. The colour of water the same as in Danube rive.
Yes, it is, isn’t it. Same as Rio de la Plata, as well, I remember.
No wonder you didn’t go below deck to eat. Great pics. I would have been in my element going along that canal. 🙂
It was a very interesting day.
We heard only good things about Panama when we were in SA – would love to go – and to learn more about the canal!
I haven’t heard very much about Panama from travellers – haven’t bumped into the ones that have been yet, I suppose.
Love the blue shot of the Panama canal at dawn, really nice stuff 🙂
It looked so cool and blue in the wee hours Panama did.
Beautiful photos. I’ve always wanted to visit the Panama Canal, and hopefully will make it one day.
Hope you will, too 🙂
Really nice photos. Makes me want to go on a little trip.
Thanks. A trip is always nice 🙂
I find that for me the canal to be a far greater attraction than the beaches when I think of travels to Panama. I would totally love to see how the Pacific blends with the Atlantic. And to think these bridges must be way more magnificent in person. One day, I’ll get there, too.
Abolutely agree. The workings of the canal is much more interesting than just another beach.
Fabulous photos Sophie, especially the one of Panama City at dawn. I’m glad you stayed on deck and gave us a glimpse of life along the canal. Fascinating!
This is really interesting and the photos are great. I’m going to be in Panama next year, can’t wait! Thanks for sharing.
Hope you’ll write about it. I’m curious to know more about Panama.
I went for the first time this year. I also thought it was fascinating!
Glad to hear it , Abby.
Great photos! And it’s funny how books can inspire you to travel. I found John Le Carre’s are great for that (although my favourite might be Graham Greene).
Our man in Havana 🙂
Always wanted to sail to Panama City from South Florida, the images are great love the one where you see the entire city in the clouds at Dawn all in great story love it 🙂
Thanks for your comment, Jessie. Such an intriguing sight, Panama City at dawn. I’d really like to og back and explore more of the country.
interesting how the book made you not resist or inspired you to travel to panama city, such amazing pics you made must have been fun and the food even better!
Thanks, spazy 🙂
Beautiful place i love these pictures
Stationed at Howard AFB Panama 1981 to 1983 only had the Bridge of the Americas then. It was closed almost daily by demonstrations.
The Panama Canal is so nice and such an interesting view. My grandpa and I visited it there a couple years ago, and I won’t ever forget the time we had!