Thursday, June 4, 2009

Panama Canal! A Fitting Farewell!

Today we transited the 42 nautical miles of the Isthmus of Panama through the Panama Canal. My first time through the ditch! I think the most striking thing is to recognize that this is nearly 100 year old technology, built in 1913, and it is an amazing blend of moving parts that quickly raises huge ships nearly 90 feet above sea level and then ushers them across the continent from the Atlantic to the Pacific Oceans.

The locks are 1,000 feet long, 110 feet wide, and raise the ship nearly 30 feet at a time. If my math is right, that means that over 3 Million cubic feet of water must flow into the lock to raise the ship. That happens in less than 10 minutes as the ship steadily rises in the lock.

The lock doors are huge and nestle into the lock walls when open. Operated by huge hydraulic cylinders, they quickly move into place to allow the lock to fill. These doors are nearly sixty feet wide and with the part of the doors below the water level, are about 80 feet tall. They are thick enough to have a wide catwalk along the tops of them to allow workers to pass from one side of the lock to the other across the closed doors.

At the top of the Gatun locks is Lake Gatun a picturesque quiet lake that spans the center of the isthmus. This is where we held a memorial service for our fallen shipmate, HMC Branum.

A number of people participated, sharing their experiences with the Chief, reading scripture, and singing songs. The service ended with the singing of the Navy Hymn, Eternal Father. It was a beautiful ceremony.

As the afternoon passed we traveled through the Mira Flores locks and out into the Pacific Ocean. Tonight we closed out our mission in Panama with our Panama Brief, and had our Colombia overview brief as we prepare for Tumaco, Colombia.

Tomorrow is our Strategic Pause: The chance for our crew to sleep in a little, recharge their batteries and get ready to do it all over again!


  1. All the emails I send via webmail are returned to me. So the important thing for you to know is I still miss you and I head off for MD on Sat. Please take care and stay safe.

  2. CAPT, it is a great honor to read your blog and accounts of your travels. I started out in the Navy in 1976 and ended thirteen years later as an HM1/8425 Independent Duty Corpsman.

    Thank you for your comments and willing to tell it like it is. Fair winds and following seas on the rest of your mission.

  3. Capt Jody! Nice pix. I've enjoyed sharing your blog with my friends. Stay safe and get back to us soon! Love ya, bro! Tam

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  5. Uncle Jody,

    I am so proud of you and the work that the US Navy is doing abroad. I love reading your blog're pretty high tech for a digital immigrant! Great pics and stay safe.