Tomorrow morning we board the JOIDES Resolution, JR for short, for passage through the Panama Canal then onto Curacao a few days later. I had never really thought about how locks worked before....they are all gravity-fed. The French built the Suez Canal (1869) by cutting a passage at sea level between the Red Sea and the Mediterranean Sea. They later tried same technique in Panama and failed at that Sisyphean task. It was the ingeneous use of locks that allowed the Americans to succeed, at a now Herculean task, where the French had earlier failed (with an estimated 22,000 deaths and a near ruined national economy).
(click to enlarge)
By damming the Chagras River a huge lake, Gatun Lake, was formed that provides a continuous source of water (thanks to the surrounding rain forest) to first raise massive ships to 85 feet above sea level and half a day later drop them back down to sea level. Tomorrow I'll post pictures of JR going through the locks, lakes, and the infamous Galliard Cut (also known as the Culebra Cut). You can also follow the progress of ships through the locks live on the Pancanal.com webcam.
Friday morning update: The JR will actually go through the locks tomorrow, not today. Today will be spent taking on fuel for ballast that will allow the boat, at low tide tomorrow morning, to fit under the Bridge of the Americas.