Southern Caribbean Cruising — Panama Canal; Agua Clara Locks

Agua Clara locks of the new Panama Canal extension

The sight you see above is of the third set of locks installed at the Panama Canal. This new series of locks were completed in 2016, supplementing the older lock system completed in 1914. Specifically, these are the Agua Clara locks, and they handle entrance from the Atlantic side of the canal. The impressive bridge in the background is the Puente Atlántico, or Atlantic Bridge. Below is a view from the Atlantic Bridge of the original Gatún locks, which lie west of the expansion locks.

Two-way traffic through the Gatún locks

For comparison, here are the single-lane Agua Clara locks.

Agua Clara lock system

Whereas the older locks pivot to open and shut, forming a V shape when closed, the new locks operate in an entirely different manner as you can see in these three photos:

Agua Clara locks fully retracted
Agua Clara locks starting to close
Agua Clara locks nearly closed

Here you see a freighter that has been lifted in the first lock and awaits entry into the next lock as the locks retract:

Waiting entry into the next lock

And here is the same ship now entering the next lock, which will raise it up to the level of Gatún Lake and allow the ship to transit the Isthmus of Panama:

Next Agua Clara lock on the journey across the isthmus of Panama

Want to see how the whole operation appears? Here’s a short YouTube video I put together, then sped up to twice normal speed:

Panama Canal Agua Clara locks in operation (2x speed)

More to come on Wednesday. Until then…

Слава Україні! (Slava Ukraini!)


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