Walking In History

I’m very excited to be posting this. My beautiful wife and I got the opportunity to walk where nobody will ever set foot again. About 8am on a Saturday morning, we got a call from our friends Chris and Dick. They invited us to attend the Family and Friends Tour of the Panama Canal Expansion Project. An hour later we were seated in the back seat of their SUV with 3 other couples in two other vehicles following us toward Panama City and the canal expansion project. As we drove, Chris explained how they had a name of a person who was a worker on the project and that we were “on the list”. In my mind, a VERY important fact. When we got closer to Cocoli, the traffic started to get heavier. We made the turn onto the exit and came to a complete stop. We were still a couple miles away from the expansion. Behind us, a motorcycle officer pulled in front of the second car behind us and started hollering in Spanish and pointing back to the highway. As I watched, people behind us started to turn their cars around and drive back down to the highway, including one of the couples who were with us.

Walking toward the expansion...
Walking toward the expansion…

As we sat and waited, we saw people parking on the shoulder of the highway and walking toward the expansion. Finally, we started to move again toward Cocoli.

Moving again...
Moving again…

Cars were parked in ever tiny hole that they would fit into.

Park ANYWHERE...
Park ANYWHERE…

We found a side road and Dick drove up the road, turned around and parked behind the last car in line. We walked down to the main street and flagged down a coaster bust that was headed toward the project.

Coasters to the expansion...
Coasters to the expansion…
Suzi and Chris on the coaster...
Suzi and Chris on the coaster…

If you’ve ever been to Disneyland, you know how they make you snake your way around the stanchions to get to the ride.

Waiting in line...
Waiting in line…

The Panama Canal Expansion project was no different, except we were snaking around bus stops built into the staging area.

Hundreds of people...
Hundreds of people…

This is the area where the workers are picked up by buses to be taken to the job site. Due to the size of the project and the workforce needed, this helps reduce the amount of vehicles at the actual expansion.

A festive atmosphere...
A festive atmosphere…”100 Years Later! Our History…”

As we slowly moved toward the front of the line, the heat started to take its toll, my wife being one of the people succumbing to the heat.

Suzi's tour...
Suzi’s tour…

I left my wife in the care of the paramedics and continued toward the front of the line.

Through the security gates...
Through the security gates…

Once there, I boarded a bus that would take me to the Expansion.

We drove past the buildings that will house the controls for the new gates

Gate control buildings...
Gate control buildings…

and down to the south end of the Pacific side locks. We got out of the bus here and saw

Displays, facts and figures...
Displays, facts and figures…

displays about the expansion project, stats, facts and figures. Since we were at the end of the locks, we could see down into the canal expansion itself.

Looking into the canal...
Looking into the canal…
3 of the 4 step-downs...
3 of the 4 step-downs…
This piece of ground will go away...
This piece of ground will go away…

After snapping a few pictures,

Waiting for the buses...
Waiting for the buses…

I boarded a bus and we headed back along the locks and this time, it turned right and we headed down into the canal itself.

Down into the project...
Down into the project…

As we drove, the walls got higher and higher and when the bus stopped, we were in the 3rd level of the canal expansion project!!!

Wall with water ports...
Wall with water ports…

We walked along the 98 foot high concrete wall past the water ports that are large enough to drive a car into.

One of the water ports...
One of the water ports…

These ports will be used to let water in and out of the canal. We walked over the trenches where the new gates will roll to open and close

Gate rail...
Gate rail…

and then around and up close to the new gates themselves.

These are huge...
These are huge…

Just to give you a sense of how big this job is, the new expansion is 60% larger than the current Panama Canal. The channel itself has 98 foot high concrete walls and is 180 feet wide. There are a total of 16 gates, 188 feet long and 30 feet wide. They range in height from 73 feet to 109 feet tall. A lock in the current canal is 998 feet long. A lock in the expansion is 2,057 feet long.

I made my way back toward where the buses were picking people up

Looking back at our first stop...
Looking back at our first stop…

and stopped to look back to the tents at our first stop of the day. People were taking pictures every where they could for this historic event.

Smile for mom ninö...
Smile for mom ninö…
Awaiting our bus...
Awaiting our bus…

Those are full size buses parked against the wall of the canal. I boarded a bus and it took me out of the project and back to the parking lot to my waiting wife.

Suzi waiting to leave...
Suzi waiting to leave…

I believe on this day, there were some 30,000 people who came to see the new expansion project. The weekend after the expansion would host the general public and even larger crowds.

Below I have added a link to the first water going into the Atlantic side of the Expansion Project.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_L24__A7XAw

 

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3 thoughts on “Walking In History”

  1. It has been an amazing project and a great source of pride for the Panamanian people. Nita, I look foward to seeing ships go thru e new locks 🙂
    Suzi

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