How a ship goes through the Panama Canal

How a ship goes through the Panama Canal


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The French tried it that way and failed. About 1/4 of the canal is ditch and the rest is locks


Actually, a lot more is ditch. But for me, the really clever part was figuring out that building some strategically positioned dams would start to contain rain/river water, high up in the middle of the central cordillera, to allow the creation of the largest artificial lake at the time, and eventually having ships sail through the once dry and irregular mountain system. Mind blown.


It seems like the kind of fever dream idea you have that you work on for fun for a while until it starts to seem almost realistic and then you present it to management starting with "now hear me out..." And ending with "you're fucking fired."






And you never told them of the one slight issue, which results in a catastrophic failure, which you yourself post the video or to r/catastrophicfailure


*Galen Erso has left the chat.*


[Artist's rendition](https://imgur.com/gallery/4DxgkhD)


John Houbolt at NASA comes to mind. Suggested rendezvous in lunar orbit to solve the rocket mass problem when nobody knew how to make two spacecraft meet in orbit, even around Earth. https://www.npr.org/2019/07/18/739934923/meet-john-houbolt-he-figured-out-how-to-go-to-the-moon-but-few-were-listening


Best thing they ever did was Gemini so they could figure all this crap out beforehand. And it was on the cheap.


Yup That was the whole point of the Gemini missions. Take twin ships and put them together just to see if we could. The first attempt actually failed because they didn't understand orbital mechanics well enough. They kept burning towards the target, but the target just kept getting farther away. They didn't realize that to speed up they actually had to slow down to lower the altitude to increase speed.


I learned this playing Kerbal Space Program :)


Fly Safe!


Thank you Scott Manley!


You only got fired because you didn't mention the part about everyone catching malaria.


engineering can get rather silly when you have carte blanche to destroy whatever nature is inbetween


If that were the case I think the engineering would be way simpler to just blow up the whole landmass and let it fill with water so ships can sail right through. Would be a much simpler solution than multiple locks and pumps that need to be constantly maintained and operated.


They thought of it. Came to the conclusion any sane person would come to: it's a fucking stupid idea


More info on FUCK DIGGING LETS JUST USE NUKES [here.](https://www.forbes.com/sites/robinandrews/2018/08/23/this-is-how-america-nearly-nuked-a-canal-through-central-america/?sh=77523cf3d74b) highlight: > A 1970 report, spearheaded by the respected Corps of Engineers brigadier general Charles Noble, advised against the plan, noting that it was not economically viable, and would endanger both the environment and various indigenous populations. notice that economic viability came first, then they mentioned the murder and radiation. god bless the 1960's


What a time to be alive


Not really. They do the opposite all the time. Land reclamation from the sea. And that's harder to do since the tides will drag material out, the risk of sinking etc. So please elaborate what makes digging/blowing up such a terribly stupid idea?


Mate i'm pretty sure that if you think a bit longer about why it might be a bad idea to try to blow up an like 90 km long stretch of land mass - with a max elevation of i think 30 m - to goddamn sea level (or as you put it so nicely "the whole landmass and let it fill with water") with conventional explosives. If you're thinking nukes, thats even worse. SO much worse. Also you didnt say anything about digging, but on that point we dont even have to argue: they tried it in panama. They failed horribly. They never tried again


Hint: during ww2 (when you think explosives production would peak) an estimated 3 Mt of bombs were used in the european theatre. Thats bomb weight, not explosives weight. For the construction of the panama canal as it was back then they used 30 Mt.


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Qattara_Depression_Project Maybe you'd be interested in this thing. The Qattara depression is area in the sahara below sea level and relatively close to the mediterreanan sea. Since the early 20th century there has been the idea of blasting a canal between the sea and the depression creating a massive artificial lake that could generate hydroelectricty. Digging the canal normally would have been too expensive though. So instead the proposal was to use a lot of nuclear explosions to blast a way through the rock. Just such a proposal like you're thinking off in your comment. Nuclear explosions was too concerning a solution though. The article mentions 25,000 evacuees, dangerously effecting the nearby tectonically unstable red sea rift, and increased sea erosion due to changing sea currents. I'm assuming there's more drawbacks though because these 3 seem relatively mild for a plan that involves detonating more than 200 nuclear explosions.


I was on a cargo ship going through the canal and chatting with the pilot - and I was astounded to hear that there are effectively NO pumps to the canal. The rainfall is SO heavy that it's really all just water flowing downhill, with raceways to the side to let the extra water go if needed. That really blew my mind.


Is that lake gatun? I went fishing there a few years ago and it’s quite impressive.


Lake gatun stretches all the way through there. Fun fact, we had an infestation of fish in lake gatun (some type of fish dont remember which one) and they brought over some version of crows that ate them, now that wasnt controlled so we have an infestation of weak ass crows we call "talingo".


Haha always so interesting to see the downstream effects when we introduce a new predator to get rid of an existing pest.


It's amazing what slave and semi-slave labor can accomplish


Give those ditches locks. Ditches love locks.


Why isn't it a canal?


Too much earth to move. Easier to go over than through.


That's the Suez. The elevation between the Mediterranean and Red sea, and the Sinai desert doesn't change much.


Yea me too, now it's even more interesting


Been through it, can confirm - one big ass ditch. What’s really amazing is that some of the lock doors are original, over 100 years old! Still working as designed even though in contact with air and water every single day.


I wonder how that would work with the curvature of the earth?


The same way the ocean does


Wow I didn’t think a question would invoke so many downvotes.


They probably thought you were a flat earther or something lol


I think people thought you were starting a flat earth argument


Nah because in another comment about the exact same situation someone said it would cause ecological issue with the oceans colliding and competing, I said why not use the electrical barrier such as the one in Chicago and that got even more downvotes and it was all hypothetical. I think maybe the topic of canals, oceans, and earth may be more sensitive than expected.


Honestly, it a really weird Reddit thing to get downvoted for asking *any* question. *Thou shalt not seek further information to progress the conversation.* Quite often see people apologising and / or explaining why they're asking a question before asking it, presumably to avoid that. So weird.


Well I’m not apologizing for asking a question!


I'm with you, brother (or sister or sibling). More level heads usually prevail and the votes start going the other way. Can't say I'm too bothered about the karma, but it's a strange reflection on how people think.


My issue is I’m on one forum where people are mentally designing and tweaking a design for a homemade railroad cart to simplify the forward and reverse system and we have a whole entire thread doing it. This one the questions are buried lol


Yeah idk why either, you were just asking a genuine question. Reddit has been super hivemind-y about downvoting comments like yours into oblivion lately. I gave you an upvote to counteract it.


So do you think one ocean is higher then the other? My main question is that do you do a specific depth from one ocean to another or is there a major elevation difference?


All oceans are connected so if one was higher in one it would drain into the others to balance out. That is of course not taking the moon into account which causes the ocean to swell towards itself, same for the sun though less so. TLDR: whichever ocean the moon is current over is higher than the others, otherwise they’re more or less level.


The pacific ocean is always higher than the Atlantic at the Panama canal, by 26 meters. https://www.marineinsight.com/guidelines/how-the-water-locks-of-panama-canal-work/


I read your article (which was really cool by the way), but I didn’t see where anything said the Pacific is higher than the Atlantic. Ships are raised 26 meters at the first locks on the Atlantic side, but they’re lowered when the reach the Pacific side. Still, it was fun to read about the Panama canal so thanks for the link!




That article says the ships have to be raised 26m to get over the Panama terrain, not because one ocean is significantly lower than the other. I totally get the confusion but careful spreading misinformation, that’s how we get flat-earthers. 😜


Wow that is significant!




LOL no, sir. The depth of any body of water on Earth is negligible compared to the radius of the planet. Sea level is about 20 cm higher on average on the Pacific side than the Atlantic due to the water being less dense on the Pacific side, on average, and due to the prevailing weather and ocean conditions. Such sea level differences are common across many short sections of land dividing ocean basins.


So in this instant would a ditch from one ocean to the other mean the passage would have tides.


Tide occurs in almost all places. As tide increases in one area, its decreasing in another, and water would need to travel through any available passage that gravity allowed for. If the ditch allowed for the difference in water pressure to pass all the way through, then tides would force water in or out during the change. The problem with the curvature of the earth and digging a ditch is simply that you have to dig deeper at the highest elevation points, in order to keep your water level. At some points in Panama, this could be several hundred meters.


Nothing a little terraforming can’t handle, I appreciate the input thank you!


Bruh why did you downvote me lmfao I legit just upvoted you because you were asking a question. Idk why you're coming at me


I didn’t downvote you


Weird. Idk what's going on with reddit lately.


It's just votes. Sometimes they go up sometimes they go down. That's the way things are, and I wouldn't interpret it as a personal attack on your comment. Since it's never nice to see yourself being personally attacked.


I got u guys back


Next time, build the tunnel


Or build [the wheel](https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Falkirk_Wheel) Mon, Scotland!


Human ingenuity never ceases to amaze me.


I grew up near Falkirk; my fav fact about the wheel: this one-of-a-kind giant takes only the power of boiling 8 kettles in order to move 100s of tonnes of boat and water, thanks to the Archimedes principle. Perfectly balanced - as all boats should be.


This is some Star Trek shit


Let Norway figure out what needs to be done for a large ship tunnel first. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stad_Ship_Tunnel TL;DR; - Norway is building a tunnel between 2 fjords big enough for a large cruise ship to pass through.


I thought that said "sad ship tunnel" wahh-wahh


Haha nice only took them 147 years (since the first proposal) to settle on a plan. One included putting the boats on carriages and just wheeling them overland. Giant hole seems better and is going to be an amazing feat of engineering.


*Let It Flow...*


That seems crazy just for 35 miles. Do they have like daily hurricanes? Why is the weather that bad?


Ok Captain Nemo


The Punnel


The chunnel


I believe the UK press started calling the Channel Tunnel exactly this while it was news.


I really wonder what would happen if they were able to dig straight through. Would it just be a rushing torrent of water/river? Edit: I know there is an elevation difference (which is a little perplexing) but that is the point. Hypothetically, if you could dig a trench, would it be just a constant waterfall/river.


The initially wanted to build it as a sea-level canal, like the Suez, but the elevation differences were too much.


Just cut it through with no locks and let the higher side drain into the lower side until they’re equal. Duh. /s


Right. Which is why I was wondering, hypothetically, if it would just be a torrent flow of water






Well, you see, the elevation differences were too much but they initially wanted to build it as a sea-level canal, like the Suez.


Understood, understood. But like, hear me out, *hypothetically* would it be just a torrent flow of water or what?


I dno, ask the rock of gibraltar


The tides of both oceans are not synced so you would have directional flow yes. Mean sea level on both sides is \~equal though. Caribbean tide is tiny, Pacific side is big - so the Pacific is either going to suck or spit water into the canal. A good example is the Suez Canal which is just a big flat passage through -and it's mostly not an issue until the current, the cross-breeze, and the boredom of it conspire to make a tanker wedge itself into both walls.


well, ecologically it’d be a disaster. Not only the ecossystems of both oceans would start competing, but it could ruin the forest adjacent to the canal.


It would balance out that and if not there could be an electrical grid installed in one section to prevent the two ecosystems colliding.


Bro. Ain’t it crazy how all you did was throw out a hypothesis to the presented problem, and for no other reason than that have been downvoted 13 times lol. Reddit is so fickle.


This thread alone has cost me about 300 downvotes, but interestingly enough the electric barrier idea came from a Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal located in Romeoville Chicago. It has prevented an invasive species from wiping out a local fish population and is actually pretty successful!


They can vary by 20' in height so that would never work


Well, I know, but hypothetically. And the height difference would create the rush of water


Water from underground would keep it flooded at all times


How a ship goes through the Suez canal: |/|


Keyboard creativity, like it


It doesn't


Is this loss?




So they are Loch Locks?


I’ve always said the Great Lake Loch Locks are Great.


Actually most canals


Pretty much every canal on earth lol


Check out a real life timelapse: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m8TkcWhmByg


that was fantastic thank you!


Makes a lot more sense that it takes 8-10 hours to get through. Thanks!


Boat should floor it at the top and do a sick fly over the lower channels


Them Duke boys are at it again!


I read this in Waylon’s voice. Thank you for that.


Just the good ole boys, never meaning no harm


Can someone explain why can't it just have 1 water elevators on each side?


The panama canal is 40 miles long and the elevation change is 85 feet. [Link](https://www.google.com/search?q=panama+canal+length&client=ms-android-verizon&prmd=imnv&sxsrf=ALeKk0378DUceV-_R7VfkGf1kQ9ZSPC-hQ:1622726645825&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwi3w6rqx_vwAhUWWs0KHUVECFgQ_AUoAXoECAIQAQ&biw=360&bih=651&dpr=3#imgrc=F8dwRH64yETQfM) A 20 mile long, 85 foot deep water elevator would contain 3.65 kilo-fucktons of water. That water elevator would take forever to fill and drain. The doors required to hold that much water from flooding into the ocean would resemble the Hoover Dam. Excuse me, the Hoover dam on giant ass hinges.


so it's like looking at stairs and asking "Why have many stairs when you could just take one really big step?"


The middle lake (Gatun) is too high to be able to build a single lock between sea level and lake surface. Lock doors would've had to be 150ft-200ft tall or something absurdly big. It would take ages to fill one single chamber whilst only rising one ship at a time, and the water wasted would drain the lake faster than yearly rain/storms are able to refill it. Having a stepped design allows a constant pipeline of ships going up or down quickly, in sequence, while saving water from the lake.


Alot of digging. Probably some Ecological concerns, etc.


How long does this take to get through?


I was wondering the same and looked it up ... [pancanal.com FAQ](https://www.pancanal.com/eng/general/canal-faqs/) says: "The length of the Panama Canal is 80 kilometers (50 miles) from the deep waters of the Atlantic to the deep waters of the Pacific. A ship takes an average of 8 to 10 hours to transit the Panama Canal."


I would have guessed more! Ty for the info


That sounds like a pain in the ass


Better than going all the way down and around.




yea lets just go around cape horn instead. saves us the trouble


a lot of huge ships actually do that, since they're too big to fit through the locks — including cruise ships.


See this is why redditors are the smartest people on the planet /s


I thought the ships are pulled up by big fish, One Piece style you know.


For those asking why didn't they just dig a ditch. Have you tried blowing up a mountainous terrain down to sea level? Yeah, locks are easier


Wait are the seas the same level. Wait, is there only one sea level. Omg wtf I going on...


There isn't only one sea level. There are many things to consider here: - The Earth is spinning, so centrifugal force will cause more water around the equator compared to poles - There are ocean currents forcing water into certain areas - The water will be affected by weather, winds, precipitation, evaporation - Water has different density based on its temperature There's probably more, I am no expert. But yeah, if you cut through the canal and didn't have locks, the water would come rushing from one side to the other, even though it's technically the same body of water. It's weird to imagine on our everyday scale.


Hmm for some reason people make it sound like there is only one sea level. Like when we reference the hight of a mountain or altitude. Maybe it's just an average?


Correct. MSL = mean sea level. Altitudes are measured in MSL i.e. height above average sea level.


Pretty sure it’s just average. If you’ve ever lived near the ocean, you sort of instinctively know the there’s no “sea level” considering the tides move up and down (in some extreme cases up to 50 feet).


So saying "sea level" isn't a constant, it just means "whatever the sea level is closest to here right now" Kinda like how people say "The speed of sound" when what they mean is "the speed of sound in earth's atmosphere at this level of humidity and temperature"


Whenever you hear the term sea level, you’re really hearing a truncated term that is actually mean sea level. You’ll even see elevations expressed in “MSL” which factors in changes in tide, etc. in that respect it is a constant.


But then wouldn't all the water in the ocean end up on the right side? Checkmate, science. /s


The system relies on rainfall to continuously refill the lake at the top. There are concerns that climate change might break this.


As soon as I saw "relies" and "rainfall" in the same sentence my brain immediately went "this thing is fucked"


Then we just wait for the rising sea levels to cover Panama. Problem solved /s


Actually, all the water comes from the lake in the middle. When going towards the lake, water from the lake is used to pour into the lock you're currently in, to raise it up. And when going away from the lake, water in the lock is dumped into the ocean you're headed to, to lower the lock. This is clever in two ways. First of all, there are no pumps carrying water uphill: water only ever flows down, from the lake. Secondly, this significantly reduces mixing of water from the oceans,


For anyone wanting more information about how the locks ("water elevators") work, Practical Engineering has a good video: [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SBvclVcesEE](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SBvclVcesEE) (If you do not want the history and other information, skip forward to about 2:40 for a demo of the locks.)


Hey I'm subbed to that channel, it's a good one


This isn’t how just the Panama Canal locks work. Every canal lock works the same.


How a ship goes through the Suez canal - it doesn't


How long does it take a ship to pass through?


8 to 10 hours.


Thanks, how longs the alternative route?


Going around south america? A couple of weeks


That’s some fuel saving!what kind of toll charges apply?


Depends on the type of ship, the size, what is being carried, how much of it, and the country the ship is from. You could pay a couple hundred in a small boat but most containers (panamax) pay around a couple hundred thousand. The post panamax ships on the new set of locks pay almost a million per crossing. They still save a lot of money though, given they save on fuel, time, insurance, work force, etc. (I used to work at the canal as a tour guide, I used to explain this to tourists everyday lol) Edit: I am talking in USD.


Really appreciate your info, a million per trip jeez that’s shocked me, thank you 👍🏻


I'm sure whoever is in charge of pricing just calculates the risk of sailing around Cape Horn (long trip, very dangerous) and then subtracts a buck.


Around Cape Horn, a long way...


You going to sail around the horn like a man? Or take the canal like a democrat?




The fact that your upvotes have remained at 5 make me happy.




And here I was always thinking they just dug a big ass hole.


I grew up near a canal and learned about lock systems really young. I thought it was just common knowledge, is it not?


Nope. I don't live near one of these and I've never heard of it. I always assumed the Panama Canal was just a river they dug through.


The walls don’t move up and down, they are Gates. Animation incorrect.


Found the Schrute.


Beets Matter!


I would just strike the ground at full speed, and then ky ship would just jump over it.


Isn't this literally just any canal?


I believe Suez is sea level


When you through from the Atlantic to the Pacific, you come out further ease than when you went in


How long does this process actually take? Are we talking hours, days, weeks?


Passed through the Panama Canal in 2008 on a container ship. Took about 12 hours to navigate and about another 20 hours in the queue.


8-10 hours as somebody said


I never realised it was actually a canal, ie with actual locks.


u/RepostSleuthBot Edit: Found 5 times.


I always thought it only went up one way and down the other. I was so confused why the two oceans were not on the same level.


i live beside the Welland canal i see this all the time. It's cool to see big ships going up and down


How long does that whole thing take?


Depends on the canal pilots. You can also pay more to be prioritized. First time it took us about 36 hours. Second time it was 72, but that’s because of other reasons.


Why does the water level in the higher levels drop when you are on the right side of the canal, but not when they're filling in the left sides?




With slave labor, anything is possible.


Man is pretty clever 😄


Why couldn't they "cut" panama like suez without all these steps?


Local altitude. There’s a lot more land mass and altitude in Panama. Egypt is relatively flat and close to sea level around the Suez.


This is not entirely right. The water levels on the left side should be showing equalization between each lock at the lock above it, as it being shown on the right side. This illustration is correctly showing that water always flows from a higher lock to a lower lock, also from the lowest lock to the ocean, and from the lake to the highest lock. It also correctly shows the water finding its own level on the right, but it fails to show this on the left.


My husband operates a local lock. Its really amazing watching. They're digging a newer bigger one at his lock and thats also cool to see the progress and how its done


Why not just build a ramp of water like a waterslide they can go up and down


How hard would it be just to make it a canal?


No, thats how *pussys* go through the Panama canal.


I don’t believe you


Fucking democrats


In this world, you can either do things the easy way or the right way. You take a boat from here to New York, you gonna go around the horn like a gentleman or cut through the Panama Canal like some kind of democrat?


The canal?


No! You go around the horn the way God intended!


Seems less trouble going "Round The Horn". :)


But the fuel costs are higher than the canal fees. Or the added time around the horn makes the canal viable.


To be fair going around the horn, it's a few thousand extra kilometers, a few extra weeks a lot of extra fuel and going through one of the most dangerous waterways in the world


That middle part makes no sense… it’s superfluous in this animation