Friday, January 3, 2014

Miraflores Locks

Hola amigos!

Finally, on Day 3, we got our first look at the Panama Canal. Specifically, the bus brought us to the Miraflores Locks, the first lock system on the Pacific Ocean side of the canal. After sorting out getting student tickets (student IDs had to be shown), we started out at the Miraflores Visitor Center.

The main control tower for the Miraflores Locks
A short video about the canal led right into the museum where four floors guided us through the timeline of  the canal, including information about the present day expansion project. From there, we went onto the observation deck and watched ships go through the locks: 

A full panorama of the Miraflores Locks
Since it was the morning, the ships traveled from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic  Ocean, which corresponds with left to right in the above panorama. There are two “steps” in the Miraflores Locks, raising the ships a total distance of approximately fifty eight feet. The ship enters the lock, guided by locomotives to prevent the ship from hitting the lock’s sides, and the massive gates close. Filling the lock takes around ten minutes as the water moves from Lake Miraflores to the lock by gravity. Upon filling, the gates on the other side of the lock open and the boat moves on to the next lock or to Lake Miraflores. In the distance are the Pedro Miguel Lock and the Centennial Bridge. The construction behind the white main control building is the expansion project, but more about that will come on Monday. 

Group photo on the observation deck
Post-lunch activities included a discussion focusing on the Panama Revolution in 1903 and a group persuasive essay. Potentially our most controversial discussion so far, we debated over the ethics behind the major players in the revolution and whether the United States could have gained control of the canal zone without “stepping on a few toes” in the process. Our group essay had each team pose as editorial newspapers, each team from a different country, writing their reaction to the Revolution. The different countries were the United States, Panama, Great Britain, and Columbia.

All in all, it was a very gratifying day. The Panama Canal, which had been hyped up by the TAs and Professor Berger, met and even exceeded everyone’s expectations. The size of the locks caught many people off guard and proved what an engineering feat this really is. Upon seeing the actual entity that drives our course, we are extremely excited to see how future days can live up to today. It’s hard to imagine they will now, but I’m sure we will be pleasantly surprised!
Your Day Three Bloggers,

Kyle, William, and John

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