Tag Archives: Panama Canal

Fun Photo Friday — Southern Caribbean; Panama Canal Favorites


Agua Clara Visitors Center
Gatún Lake
Looking south: New Agua Clara locks (left); old Gatún Locks (right)
Getting a Raise
Rusty Anchor Dripping Water

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Southern Caribbean Cruising — Panama Canal; Agua Clara Locks at Work


The new locks being moved into place during construction

Today we continue with our exploration of the Agua Clara locks at the Atlantic entrance to the Panama Canal expansion. I’ll be paying particular attention to the action of the locks themselves, as they are quite a departure from the pivoting locks used in the original system. In this first photo you can see the locks retracting into their side bays:

Agua Clara locks starting to open

It’s not a fast process. Here are the same locks just one minute, forty-five seconds later:

Agua Clara locks almost two minutes later

In the distance you can see ships transiting the original lock system to the west:

The original locks to the west

The goal in either system of locks is to either raise or lower a ship from sea level to the level of Gatún Lake, seen here:

Ships waiting canal transit in Gatún Lake

Here are some photos of the process. In the first photo the ship has entered a lock, and water is raising the ship to the next level:

Awaiting a lift

Same ship nearly four minutes later:

Nearly four minutes later

Once the ship is raised, a tugboat pulls the ship along to the next lock or out of the canal:

Tugs are used in the new canal; locomotive “mules” are used in the older locks

Here once again here is my YouTube video of the process:

Transiting the Agua Clara locks (at 2x speed)

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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…

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