Everyone has to admit that August is always a great month. The sun is still high in the sky long after supper. The weather is usually pretty good. And a lot of great people were born in August! If you were lucky enough to be born on the 15th, you share your birthday with Napoleon Bonaparte, Jackie Onassis, and Princess Anne to name a few. You also share your birthday with the Panama Canal. Just like me. So as we leave summer, and move toward fall, I wanted to reflect back on a trip I did one summer a few years back.

I’ve always found the Panama Canal interesting. The fact that it was built before the heavy duty equipment we have today was available is pretty amazing Two continents that were joined at the time the idea of the Panama Canal was conceived were going to be separated and water was to flow between them. And not just a little bit of water. A canal was to be built so that large ships could travel between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans without taking the arduous journey around Cape Horn.

It was started in 1881 by France. There were many difficulties with the engineering. Malaria was a major problem and caused many deaths. Around 5500 died (about 4500 from the West Indies). The Americans took over in 1904. The canal opened ten years later on August 15, 1914.

On a Caribbean cruise my Mam, my sister and I and some friends went through part of the canal. Our ship docked in Colon on the east side of Panama. We took a bus to the west side to take our journey along the canal. As we approached the port of Balboa, where the ferry was, we started to pass fields of white crosses that kind of glowed in the sun light. These were the burial places of many who had perished in order for the canal to be built. What a sad thing to think about on a beautiful day.

We boarded the ferry with anticipation of what we were about to see. When you first set off, it looks like you are sailing along a river, with no hint of what you will see soon. The canal goes more from north to south rather than the east to west which is what I had assumed it did. We travelled in a north-westerly direction until we reached a two-step flight lock at Miraflores. We were in the lock with just two or three other boats. The locks fill quite quickly and it only took about 8-10 minutes for it to be full.

Once it reached the correct level, the gates were opened and we were in Lake Miraflores, a small narrow lake. The next lock was Pedro Miguel which took us to Gatun Lake which is 85 feet above sea level. Gatun Lake is an artificial lake. From there it is ‘downhill’ to the Atlantic. The locks are huge and it was great to get a chance to see them. We left the ferry and headed back to the ship by bus.

Back to school soon for teachers and students. Everyone is wondering, as usual, where the summer has gone. Hope yours was great and that you are ready for the changing colour that will surround us before we know it.

About the Author

Linda Calder is a retired teacher. She likes to write and enjoys spending time with her family. She also enjoys going on cruises, taking pictures and scrapbooking.