Happy New Year to everyone! Here’s to a new year of traveling and learning! As we cruised all night and part of the first day of this year, we learned about the history of the Canal and about current life in Panama. National Geographic Quest entered the Bay of Panama and made it on time to our afternoon appointment at the Canal’s anchoring buoy. From this moment on, our vessel is in the hands of the PCA or the Panama Canal Authorities, and a Panama Canal Pilot takes over the command of each ship or boat that wants to cross this New Wonder of the World.
Built in 1914, the Panama Canal has a deep and long history of triumph and tragedy, of power and loss built by the efforts of three countries: France, USA and Panama, and by the work labor of thousands of workers.
Searching to fulfill the centuries-old dream to connect both oceans, the builders of the Panama Canal quickly learned that the construction of a waterway across this narrow ribbon of land looked easier on a map than it really was. The Panamanian isthmus proved to be one of the most difficult—and deadly—spots in the world in which to construct a much-wanted channel. The builders of the passage attempted to re-engineer the natural landscape, but nature did not give up without a fight.
We watched the landscape of Panama City’s silhouette from our ship as we went under the Bridge of the Americas, and through the two sets of locks of the Pacific side: Miraflores and Pedro Miguel locks. As we traveled, we could not help but think of all those who gave their lives and effort so that 108 years later people like us could cross the isthmus. Good night in the Gatun Locks.