Panama Canal

Panama Canal’s Gatun Locks gates opening.

Panama Canal – a 48-mile (77.1 km) ship canal in Panama that connects the Atlantic Ocean (via the Caribbean Sea) to the Pacific Ocean. The canal cuts across the Isthmus of Panama and is a key conduit for international maritime trade. There are locks at each end to lift ships up to Gatun Lake (85 feet (26 m) above sea-level). Gatun Lake was created to reduce the amount of work required for the canal. The current locks are 110 feet (33.5 m) wide. A third, wider lane of locks is being built.

What’s the problem?
Timelapse of Panama Canal Expansion – Third Set of Locks Project

  • Ask – By 2006, there were growing concerns about larger ships being able to make passage through the previous canal. How could larger ships be accommodated?
  • Imagine – Some options – deepening of the original canals. Double the capacity of the Panama Canal, Build new larger locks.
  • Plan, Create – Two new sets of locks were constructed, one on the Pacific side and one on the Atlantic, with new canals being dug to connect them. The new locks are each 427 meters long by 55 meters wide and 18.3 meters deep. Locks of this size allow for increased capacity of the canal, along with increased efficiency in the use of rolling locks.
  • Improve – This new passage is expected to grow transport rates through the Panama canal by 3% each year by 2025.

That’s engineering

  • [/locking%20system locking system] – extensive engineering studies favored a canal using a lock system to raise and lower ships from a large reservoir 85 ft (26 m) above sea level. The water to fill and empty the locks would be taken from Gatun Lake by opening and closing enormous gates and valves and letting gravity propel the water from the lake.

Engineering ideas

  • geology, hydrology, dredges, excavation, steam shovel, explosives, steam-powered crane, hydraulic rock crusher, cement mixers, pneumatic power drills, electrical valves, electric generator

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