- *Panama Canal History

At the Miraflores Locks of the Panama Canal, about a hundred tourists watch as a gigantic cruise ship is towed into position for its descent to the Pacific Ocean. They are seated on an open-air balcony that provides a bird's-eye view of the action. Guides explain the working of the locks over a microphone, as the tourists excitedly snap photos and wave to passengers on the cruise ship. The ship begins to descend as water is drained from the lock in front to the one below. In a surprisingly short time, the water levels of the two locks are balanced and the massive lock gates begin to swing open. The tractors, or mules, that tow the ship draw their chains taunt, creep for- ward, and the cruise ship slides into the next lock, like a gigantic actor stepping off the stage.
Watch this videos of how the new Panama Canal will work after its enlargement.
It is a scene that is repeated over and over, as 14,000 ships traverse the Panama Canal each year. Yet it is somehow always fascinating to see the working of one of mankind's greatest engineering feats: the Eighth Wonder of the World, the Panama Canal. Tourists will find excellent facilities in Panama for observing and learning about the Canal. At the Miraflores Locks on the Pacific side and the Gatun Locks on the Atlantic, you can observe the working of the Canal from well-placed balconies. The Panama Interoceanic Canal Museum, in the Casco Viejo of Panama City, details Panama's history as a transoceanic route. In this excellent museum are found memorabilia from colonial Spanish times, such as muskets, sabers, cannonballs and coins, an exhibit dedicated to the Gold Rush and the building of the Panama Rail- road, charts, maps, photos of the Canal excavation, stock certificates from the bankrupted French Canal Company and copies of the Hay-Bunau Varrilla and Torrijos-Carter treaties. There is even a photo of Richard Halliburton, an adventurer who swam the canal in the 1920s and paid the lowest toll ever: 36 cents, based on his weight of 140 pounds.

Panama Canal expansion project

The Third Set of Locks Project is a megaproject that will expand the Panama Canal. The expansion will be greater than at any time since the canal's construction. The Panama Canal Authority proposed the project after years of study. Panamanian President Martín Torrijos presented the plan on April 24, 2006 and Panamanian citizens approved it in a national referendum by 76.8% of votes on October 22, 2006. The project will double the canal's capacity and allow more traffic.

The project will create a new lane of traffic along the Canal by constructing a new set of locks. Details of the project include the following integrated components:

Construction of two lock complexes — one on the Atlantic side and another on the Pacific side — each with three chambers, which include three water-saving basins;
Excavation of new access channels to the new locks and the widening of existing navigational channels; and,
Deepening of the navigation channels and the elevation of Gatun Lake’s maximum operating level.
As stipulated by the Panamanian Constitution, any project to expand the Canal had to be approved by the Cabinet, the National Assembly and by a referendum. On Friday July 14, the National Assembly unanimously approved the proposal. In addition, the Assembly passed a law mandating a national referendum on the proposal. The referendum was held on October 22, 2006, the first Sunday more than 90 days after National Assembly approval.

The Project

The Canal today has two lanes each with its own set of locks. The proposal consists of adding a third lane through the construction of lock complexes at each end of the Canal. One lock complex will be located on the Pacific side to the southwest of the existing Miraflores Locks. The other complex will be located to the east of the existing Gatun Locks. Each of these new lock complexes will have three consecutive chambers designed to move vessels from sea level to the level of Gatun Lake and back down again. Each chamber will have three lateral water-saving basins, for a total of nine basins per lock and 18 basins total. Just like the existing locks, the new locks and their basins will be filled and emptied by gravity, without the use of pumps. The location of the new locks uses a significant portion of the area excavated by the United States in 1939 and suspended in 1942 because of the start of World War II. The new locks will be connected to the existing channel system through new navigational.

 Panama Canal Gatun Locks   hf1
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