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Gatun Locks, Panama Canal


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Gatun Locks, Panama Canal

This is the first set of locks situated on the Atlantic entrance of the Panama Canal. A series of three lock chambers raise ships to a height of 87 feet above sea level. Each lock is 100 feet wide and 1000 feet long and takes eight to 15 minutes to fill with water.

There are three sets of locks in the Panama Canal. On the Pacific entrance are Miraflores, with two chambers, and Pedro Miquel with one chamber. On the Atlantic is one set of locks with 3 chambers, the Gatun Locks. Ships are raised a total of 87 feet above sea level into Gatun Lake and then lowered at the end of their transit into the other ocean. A common misconception is that one ocean is higher that the other, but they are both at sea level.

Panama receives as much as 200 inches of rain per year. This was a determining factor in placing the canal there since 52 million gallons of fresh water is lost to the ocean on each transit.


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