The Canal

Published: January 13th 2016
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Jan 10, 2016 The Canal

This morning at 7 AM we arrived at the entrance to the Panama Canal. I did not see it or hear it, but when we went up to breakfast, there it was. We were already in the third Gatun Lock. (See photo 1). It was all very slow and majestic- no scraping or bumping. When the lock filled, we were drawn by “mules” that run alongside- very small powerful tractors. You may remember when Jimmy Carter turned the Canal over to the Panamanians, many people said that such backwards people could not possibly run this complex enterprise. Actually, of course, it was like the great non-disaster of the calendar in 2K. Pro forma, we were boarded by a Panamanian official who acts as temporary Captain while passing through Panamanian waters. We are now out on Lake Gatun, 26 meters above sea level, one of a line of ships heading for the locks at the Pacific side. So we barely move, like a freeway jam. Next sight: the Culebra cut, the most daunting part of building the canal. This was where a whole mountain had to be removed, with massive landslides that several times buried the work already done.

It is appalling to hear again that 30,000 people died on this project, mostly from disease. The French, who killed 20,000, never figured out the relation between mosquitos and yellow fever. Eventually they cut their losses by selling it to Teddy Roosevelt who tookit on as the first great American Government project- bigger and riskier, I would say, than the moon shot. Teddy bullied it through by changing the design from the Fench sea-level canal to an elevated canal with locks and an elevated lake. But the biggest deal was the extermination of all the mosquitos in the Canal Zone. At the time, many people doubted that the moquitos were the cause of yellow fever and malaria. But by the end, when the deadly epidemic was completeluy squelched, nobody could contradict the mosquito theory.

I attach a feww photos showing our progress through the canal. We were anchored in the Pacific just off Panama City by about 4PM, and the next day many people went into the city for a few hours. Carol did;I didn’t. Panama City was a big surprise to me. It is a white city of many high0rise apartment towers and office towers, very pretty to look at from the sea. For some reason, I did not photograph it, so you will have to imagine.

That night we hauled anchor and set out into the Pacific for eight days at sea. First port: the French Polynesian island of Nuku Hiva. It is not one of the more famous islands, but a very undeveloped one of about 7000 people. It has a beautiful harbor in the caldera of an ancient volcano, and large stone statues a bit similar (but smaller, and better carved) than the ones on Easter Island.

Additional photos below
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14th January 2016

We were fascinated by the Locks when were there in 2008 and stayed on that viewing deck in your photo much longer than we had planned! Panama City is big and tall, with a charming old town that is being renovated...and there is a park near the city where I hiked on the last day of our 4 month trip, and saw monkeys for one last time....
16th January 2016

Several people you have met at the New Year's Day party have expressed interest in your blog and I have been telling them about your entries. So, hopefully you don't mind that I have sent the entries on to: George & Sandy Kunkle, Tom Longworth & Carol Cramer and Len & Loni Lutter (the ones who love the opera). Keep those stories and pics coming, we are all enjoying them. Jo Anne
19th January 2016

Hey, add me to your address book. You one and only sister.
So glad I called Uta M. today and found out that you're sending your blog. Just not to me, the one who has been worrying about how you're doing. She fwd this to me. Wonder what happened and how come you wouldn't have noticed. Oh well, Correct all that. Love, Meredith

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