After making it up into the Gatun locks, the ship entered the lake of the same name. Gatun lake is actually a large reservoir, formed in the watershed by a huge dam across the Chagres river, which was visible from the starboard side.
The Gatun Lake happens to supply the canal with water. Such canals, which have a reservoir supplying them with water in the watershed area from which water is distributed by gravity on both slopes, are known as canals with natural supply (self-flowing). Gatun Lake has another road of ships waiting for their turn to go into the locks, and waiting for the end of the locking of those who goes forward.
The path along the Gatun reservoir is about half of the entire length of the Panama Canal. We were admiring the surrounding landscapes of the Equatorial belt from the deck.
The fairway is narrow and winding. The water road is marked using special buoys.
On the Gatun reservoir there is a forking of the vessels sailing in opposite directions. From the opposite direction is a convoy, that in the morning passes the gateways of the Pacific slope and heads toward the Atlantic slope of the canal. Nearby, there were large oil tankers, bulk carriers, container ships, etc.
People from the bridges of oncoming cargo ships also looked at 'Zaandam' with interest. The passage of cruise ships through the Panama Canal is a rare event.
From the left you can see the influx of the Chagres river, which is crossed by the bridge. Gatun reservoir ends here. Then the canal track goes through the artificially dug Culebra cut.
Along the route of the Panama Сanal there is a railroad, by which containers from the Atlantic port to the Pacific, and vice versa, are transported. Sometimes, even tourist trains can pass through it.
Some sections of the canal that vessels pass were accompanied by tugs. Panama Canal has a whole fleet of them.
In the place where Culebra cut crosses the high mountain range, the bank rises steeply up like steps, and in the distance, we could already see the Centennial Bridge. It was built in 2004 and became the second permanent bridge over the canal. By the way, bridges over the Panama Canal connect two continents. Let's not forget that the Panama Canal not only connects two oceans, but it also divides two Americas. The motto of Panama and the Panama Canal is 'A Land Divided - A World United', I think, it is clear. Now, on the starboard side, we had North America, and on the left, South America.
Towering with stone cliffs and fortified by strong anchors, the slopes cut into the hills resembles the fantastic Mayan pyramids. In principle, Panama Canal is comparable to their construction, in terms of its grandeur. The volume of the rock, worked during the establishment of the Culebra cut, is equal to the volume of 63 pyramids from Cheops in Egypt.
The bridge was left behind.
Soon after the bridge, the watershed area of the channel ended and the descent to the Pacific Ocean began, which is also passed by the vessel with three 29 foot steps (9 meters). But the Pacific slope is a little less steep - if the Atlantic slope has all three steps one after another in the Gatun locks, then here are two groups of locks - Pedro Miguel (1 step) and Miraflores (2 steps), separated by a small intermediate pool. So, we went into the Pedro Miguel locks.
The view was practically the same from the captain's bridge. From this angle, you can clearly see how narrow the lock is compared to the enormity of the ocean-going vessels. Even when the ships are accompanied by the locomotives, a pinpoint accuracy is required from the skippers. All vessels go through the canal with a group of local pilots.
In the parallel chamber, locomotives were leading the 'Emerald Express' tanker.
Workers watched from one of the decks.
After locking in the Pedro Miguel locks, 'Zaandam' made its way into the small Miraflores lake, created by the dam, just like Gatun lake. Here we had to wait a bit - through a parallel string of locks facing us, a huge floating crane was being dragged, and for some time, vessels could only pass through one line.
We made it out into the water and stopped. We had to wait half an hour while the ship in front of us was locked in two chambers, then it would be our turn.
Coming up behind us, more vessels were also waiting - it was a small traffic jam!