COLUMN: Panama Canal harnesses true power of water

Farm Forum

Mary Ann and I just returned from a glorious two weeks aboard the ship Island Princess, which took us on a 5,000-plus-mile trip from Florida to Los Angeles. We made this trip with our good friends, Jack and Connie Waltman.

The ship made a Panama Canal crossing, which was spectacular.

From our arrival outside the east side of the Panama Canal, we were in awe throughout the entire crossing. The first thing we noticed was the number of anchored ships waiting their turn to enter the canal. We entered the first lock, and the water took us up a few feet. Then the gates opened, and we went up some more. Finally we reached the third lock and ended up 87 feet higher than when we began. Then quite a voyage was involved as we traversed a giant manmade lake and entered a second set of locks. This began the transit back down to the level of the Pacific Ocean.

After that event, we sailed again through another manmade lake to the final Mira Flora locks, where we were let down to Pacific sea level. The entire procedure must have taken at least eight or nine hours.

The interesting and unique thing about the Panama Canal is there is no outside force of harnessed power to provide the emptying and the filling of these various locks. The entire process is accomplished by the natural power of water. Giant doors or gates are hydraulically opened and closed, and water is allowed in or out by nothing but gravity. Amazing to think that this tremendous transfer of water is done without the aid of anything but the forces of Mother Nature.

Our ship was a 1,000-foot-long behemoth and it fit into the locks of the canal quite snuggly. In fact, there could not have been but a few feet on each side of the ship.

Diesel train engines are hooked up to the ship by large cables, and they are not there to pull the ship along. The ships must use their own power to make it through the canal. These engines are there to keep the ship going straight and to not touch the sides of the canal. But the ship never varied in its movement and never touched the side of the canal.

After ending our voyage through the Panama Canal, we wanted to see what the local life was like, so we hired a cab driver to give us a tour of the old and the new.

There is extreme poverty in Panama as well as extreme affluence.

There are high rises where such poverty and crime exist. We witnessed an armed police officer at every intersection. A bit farther, we came into an asphalt jungle of skyscrapers and business buildings. There had to be hundreds and perhaps even thousands of skyscrapers in the main part of the city. It appeared to be complete separation between the rich and the poor. No in-between society appears to be present.

‘Nuff said.

Gerald “Jerry” Krueger is a retired educator, coach, commercial pilot and farmer. Write him at americannews@ His column publishes Mondays.