Thursday, January 19, 2012

FTV 1/19/2012 From Atlantic to Pacific

Today we travelled through the Panama Canal, which consists of 3 locks. The Gatun Lock allowed us to be lifted up from the Atlantic Ocean into the Gatun Lake. The next lock was the Pedro Miguel Lock which took us to the Miraflores Lock that lowered us into the Pacific Ocean. Once inside the lock the gates were closed, and the lock was filled with enough water to get us to float up to the next level.

Small pilot boats guided us into the lock, were we were hooked onto tiny engines called locomotives, on each side of the ship. As we moved through the lock these locomotives communicated with each other with bells and buzzers at each stop to make for a very smooth ride. The Panama Canal is currently adding a third set of locks that will not only accommodate more ships, but also wider and larger ones, that cannot currently fit through.

The project which began in 2007, is currently still in the design and engineering stages. Some Interesting Facts:
  • During Canal Construction Days, over 200 million cubic meters of material were removed. If this material was placed on railroad flat cars, it would circle the globe four times. 
  • On August 15, 1914, the first ship sailed through the Panama Canal In May of 1963, florescent lights were installed in the three locks, allowing the canal to operate around the clock. 
  • The New Panama Canal locks will be 427 meters long 55 meters wide, the size of about 4 football fields. 

Canal Engineering: In order for the canal to work it must be built on an even level. To cope with uneven land engineers had to design a way to pass boats up or down a small hill. In order to do this they had to build a lock, which was a set of large gates to hold back the water in a space big enough to fit a canal boat. These locks were built so that a canal boat could be raised to a higher level of water. In some parts of a canal the uneven shape of the land meant that many locks were needed. If a canal had to go up a steep hill several locks were joined together to form a staircase.

Today's canal passage took us from the Atlantic ocean to the Pacific Ocean, one difference between the Atlantic and Pacific is their salinity, to learn more about watch this video, then try this activity.

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