From the Sea Voyager, January 4, 2009
Panama Canal & Barro Colorado Island
Last night we accomplished the first section of our crossing through the Panama Canal. The Sea Voyager, in less than two hours, reached from the Caribbean to Gatun Lake. Passing through three chambers of the Gatun Locks was fascinating. As we were rising 85 feet above sea level, we witnessed the precise coordination between the pilot and our captain at the bridge, the control tower of the Gatun Locks, the locomotives that keep the ship aligned, and the line-handlers onboard the ship.
Today, a placid morning welcomed us to the largest island in Gatun Lake: Barro Colorado Island (BCI). Gatun Lake was formed between 1911 and 1914 by the damming of the Chagres River. Once the lake flooded the lowlands, several middle elevation terrains became islands. In order to protect the precious water, most islands were converted into biological reserves. Therefore, in 1923 BCI was established and, since then, administrated by the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. Within this six square-mile island, knowledge and science from the tropical forest have projected to the world.
The scattered rain in the beginning of our outings did not stop any of our guests from discovering the secrets of the rainforest. As we were hiking or taking Zodiac cruises we were able to find special moments with observations of: Mantled howler monkeys, American crocodiles, long nosed bats, snail kites, and keel-billed toucans.
By mid afternoon, we reached the infamous Gaillard or Culebra Cut. This time we witness the project of the expansion of the Canal that would permit larger Post-panamax vessels to cross this 50-mile passage.
Finally, transiting the continental divide in addition to the Pedro Miguel and Miraflores Locks ended our memorable day in the isthmus of Central America.