Friday, August 29, 2014

Panama Canal: 100th Anniversary

A little tardy in observing the Panama Canal "Happy Birthday."  So many articles; so little time!

One of the iconic images of the Panama Canal Opening, is the familiar photograph of the SS Ancon in transit, south to north, 100 years ago on August 15th 1914.

The SS Ancon was an American steamship that began as the SS Shawmut, built for the Boston Steamship Line in 1902 at Sparrows Point, Maryland by the Maryland Steel Company.
Around 1910, the Shawmut was purchased by the Panama Railroad Company to provide shipping of the supplies required for the construction of the Panama Canal. The name Shawmut was changed to Ancon after Ancon Hill and Ancon township in Panama, home to the head of the Canal Commission. 

The SS Ancon and her sister ship SS Cristobal played a crucial role in building the canal, bringing workers and supplies, notably massive amounts of cement, from New York to Panama. 

On August 15, 1914 the SS Ancon made the first official transit of the canal as part the canal's opening ceremonies. Her sister ship SS Cristobal had made the first unofficial transit on August 3rd, delivering a load of cement. 

Five days after World War I ended November 11, 1918, the United States acquired the Ancon and she was outfitted as a troop transport to bring our soldiers home from Europe. 

The USS Ancon was commissioned March 28, 1919 with Lt. Comdr. Milan L. Pittman in command. The USS Ancon was assigned to the Atlantic Fleet's Cruiser and Transport Force where she made two round-trip voyages from the United States to France to bring American servicemen home. 

The USS Ancon's brief Navy career lasted only four months. Following her second voyage, she was decommissioned at New York City on July 25, 1919. Adapted from "Know We Know Em," by Carl Leonard. 

The Expansion Program registers an overall progress of 78 percent, while the new locks project is currently 73 percent complete. Original projections had the Expansion Program wrapped up by now, with operations beginning this year!

But construction, funding, and labor walkouts move the opening in late 2015.

There are numerous jaw-dropping photos taken during construction of the Third Locks. It is one frigging massive trench!

The existing Panama Canal Locks 1 and 2 - parallel lanes - use powerful electric locomotives, referred to as "mule's", made by Mitsubishi, to guide vessels through the locks.

Beside the jaw dropping immensity of the Expansion Project, two innovations are immense:

•  The use of tugs, instead of mules, and rolling gates, instead of miter gates, to processs vessels through the locks.

•  And the 3.7 mile long Pacific Access Channel, contained by the Borinquen Dams.

Of particular interest to me is the innovative design of the new lock systems, described by some as "one of the most complex and fascinating infrastructure from all times."rolling gates," as opposed to miter gates.

Moreover, water used to fill or empty the lock - raise or lower a vessel - will be recycled in a closed loop system known as Water Saving Basins.

This system is not the first of its kind. Water Saving Basin concept has been at work in Germany since 1976.  Uelzen I and Uelzen II Locks use this system on the Elbe Lateral Canal.

What is unique in Panama is the shear size - that each basin is the size of the Empire State Building! It is predicted that there will be as much as a 60% decrease in loss of water, using this closed loop system.

Tugs fore and aft will tow the vessel into the lock chamber, and continue towing the vessel through all three chambers.

In this animation, Jorge Quijano, CEO of the Panama Canal Authority, on the Panama Canal expansion, explains the nuisances of the Third Lock concept, at the University of Florida Center for Latin American Studies, in March 2014.

Gates Delivered

A major milestone was celebrated on July 21, 2014, when the first of 8 rolling gates for the Atlantic Third Lock was moved into the lock on its transporter vehicle.

The humongous Rolling Gates began arriving  from their erection site in Spain.  These rolling gates are massive structures, each weighing up to 4,143 tons!

Here we see the 3rd set of rolling gates departing Trieste on the heavy lift vessel STX Sun Rise en-route to Colón City Panama.

This computer animation details the entire process of moving the gates from Spain to the Atlantic and Pacific Third Locks. (And it's a great music video!)

As a reminder, to fully enjoy your YouTube experience, maximize the video by clicking on the enlarge icon.  Tapping the "Esc" key, returns you to normal aspect ratio.

•  The second remarkable feature of the Expansion Project is the Borinquen Dams and Pacific Access Channel.

To construct the 6.1 km (3.7 mile) Pacific Access Channel, required excavation of 50 million cu meters (65,397,531 cu yards) of material.

To contain the channel, Borinquen Dams were constructed, guiding the Access Channel past Lake Miraflores, directly into Lake Gatun. The higher lift eliminated another set of locks.

Borinquen Dams derive the name from a road they displaced, Borinquen Road.

[Ed Note:“Borinquen” means “land of the brave lord.” It was the name the Taino Indians gave the island of Puerto Rico long before the Spanish Explores came on the scene.]

A truly amazing engineering accomplishment, the Panama Canal Expansion began in September 2007, and has been largely ignored by main stream media.

An interesting residual from the Expansion Project, was tons of specimens and data relating to the paleontological finds, conducted at various sites.

This link takes you to an April 2014 presentation, richly illustrated, documenting Expansion progress.

In closing, despite the billions of dollars expended to create a state of the art Third Lock System, it remains to a two man crew - in a humble row boat - to pass lines from massive container ships to line handlers on the lock walls ...

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