Bridges of the Panama Canal

Bridge of the Americas, Panama
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.
Bridge of the Americas, Panama Bridge of the Americas, Panama

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 had imagined it.

Panama city at dawn
Panama City at dawn…

Panama City
… 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.

On deck through the Panama Canal
No complaints from the littlest one either

Scenes along the Panama Canal

Along the Panama Canal Panama flag

Panama Canal Panama Canal
Centennial Bridge is the other bridge spanning the Canal, forming part of the Pan-American highway.

Centennial Bridge, Panama Canal

Landscape of Gatun Lake

Panama Canal landscape Panama Canal landscape

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).

Panama Canal
Yet another bridge, near Gatun Lock

Boats waiting to enter Gatun locks, Panama Canal

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?

Center map

* #frifotos is a weekly Twitter-chat initiaited by Epstein Travels


41 Responses to “Bridges of the Panama Canal”

  1. RyukyuMike 8 September 2012 0720 #

    Brings back memories. I lived there for three years, years ago !

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 10 September 2012 2110 #

      Mike, I would love to hear more about that sometime, somewhere. Something tells me it would be a very interesting story…

  2. ItalianNotes 8 September 2012 0951 #

    There’s something mesmerizing about big traffic hubs – especially on water.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 10 September 2012 2249 #

      These types of waterways especially, I think. Looks unreal seeing huge ships pass through the narrow canals.

  3. Raymond @ Man On The Lam 8 September 2012 1046 #

    I like that wee little island in the lake there. Is the water always that muddy?

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 10 September 2012 2255 #

      Yes, I think so. During the construction works, mud slides would sometimes completely dam the Canal.

    • kevin 11 September 2013 0141 #

      From Panama…
      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

      • Anne-Sophie Redisch 11 September 2013 1126 #

        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.

  4. Leigh 8 September 2012 1819 #

    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.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 10 September 2012 2256 #

      I’m drawn to the country, want to see more.

  5. Angela 9 September 2012 0034 #

    Great shots, I agree, canals are fascinating, I’ve never sailed through one but I’d like to one day.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 10 September 2012 2257 #

      It’s a very interesting experience.

  6. Natasha von Geldern 9 September 2012 0102 #

    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.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 10 September 2012 2259 #

      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.

  7. Victor Tribunsky 9 September 2012 0538 #

    Super. May be sometime I’ll come through it, at leas I plan. The colour of water the same as in Danube rive.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 10 September 2012 2259 #

      Yes, it is, isn’t it. Same as Rio de la Plata, as well, I remember.

  8. Turkey's For Life 9 September 2012 1153 #

    No wonder you didn’t go below deck to eat. Great pics. I would have been in my element going along that canal. 🙂

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 10 September 2012 2300 #

      It was a very interesting day.

  9. Andrea 9 September 2012 1250 #

    We heard only good things about Panama when we were in SA – would love to go – and to learn more about the canal!

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 10 September 2012 2301 #

      I haven’t heard very much about Panama from travellers – haven’t bumped into the ones that have been yet, I suppose.

  10. Laurence 9 September 2012 1655 #

    Love the blue shot of the Panama canal at dawn, really nice stuff 🙂

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 10 September 2012 2302 #

      It looked so cool and blue in the wee hours Panama did.

  11. Beautiful photos. I’ve always wanted to visit the Panama Canal, and hopefully will make it one day.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 14 September 2012 1329 #

      Hope you will, too 🙂

  12. Philip 11 September 2012 0416 #

    Really nice photos. Makes me want to go on a little trip.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 14 September 2012 1334 #

      Thanks. A trip is always nice 🙂

  13. Sherry 11 September 2012 0936 #

    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.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 14 September 2012 1334 #

      Abolutely agree. The workings of the canal is much more interesting than just another beach.

  14. [email protected] 11 September 2012 1517 #

    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!

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 14 September 2012 1335 #

      Thanks, Jenny.

  15. [email protected] 13 September 2012 1607 #

    This is really interesting and the photos are great. I’m going to be in Panama next year, can’t wait! Thanks for sharing.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 14 September 2012 1335 #

      Hope you’ll write about it. I’m curious to know more about Panama.

  16. Abby 16 September 2012 0224 #

    I went for the first time this year. I also thought it was fascinating!

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 1 December 2012 2359 #

      Glad to hear it , Abby.

  17. Turtle 1 October 2012 2240 #

    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).

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 3 October 2012 1540 #

      Our man in Havana 🙂

  18. Jessie 10 November 2013 1611 #

    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 🙂

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 12 November 2013 1511 #

      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.

  19. spazy 10 November 2013 1614 #

    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!

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 12 November 2013 1511 #

      Thanks, spazy 🙂

  20. elliejohns 22 October 2015 1055 #

    Beautiful place i love these pictures

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