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'This Is Panama' Explores the History and Beauty of the World's Most Famous Canal

The cover image for the book taken from my first helicopter flight over the Canal Expansion Project. We had a nice fleet of container ships awaiting the transit for the Gatun Locks and clean morning skies.


Here we’re looking down the construction site for the Cocoli Locks on the Pacific side from el Tapòn (the earth plug temporarily holding out the Pacific Ocean from filling the locks in).


This is a portrait of one of the many workers from Atlantic side of the Expansion Project during his lunch break.


They may not have drank champagne last night, but these workers have reason to celebrate as they watch water begin to fill the nearly completed Agua Clara Locks on the Atlantic side.


All of the gravel used on the Atlantic side of the Expansion project came from the excavation on the Pacific side as the Atlantic material was not usable. Once transported across the Canal, it was all crushed to be made ready for use.


Post Panamax ship entering the Agua Clara Locks from the Caribbean and preparing for the roughly 10-hour transit through the Panama Canal to the Pacific side. At the Expansion, the larger Post Panamax ships are guided through the locks by tug boats as they are much too large for the traditional electric locomotives on the original Canal.

On the left, workers are preparing the culverts during the cement phase of the Expansion. The culverts are the channels for the 52 million gallons of water that are required for each vessel transit.

On the right, workers are laying cement into rebar lattices to reinforce the floor of the locks. Both photos are from the Agua Clara Locks on the Atlantic side.


This spread shows a half dozen scenes of workers during the Canal Expansion Project. All told there were over 11,000 workers, with a very large percentage of them being from



I went on several tug boat assignments during my time in Panama. Assisting elephantine cargo ships through the locks never ceased to impress. In this spread you can see one of the crew from the tug boat Vera Cruz giving direction to the captain up in the wheelhouse, while the vessel in front, which we are assisting through the locks, prepares to move forward to the next phase of the passage.


The Titan is one of the world’s largest floating cranes, and was indeed the largest, when it was built by the Nazi’s during WWII to tend to the U-Boat fleet in the Baltic Sea. With their defeat, the crane was taken by the U.S. as a part of the war reparations and worked in the Long Beach Naval Shipyard.

After the closure of the shipyard in 1995, the Titan was sold to Panama and traveled down to work on the very Canal it came through in 1946. Today it performs routine maintenance operations on the original Canal locks.


A portrait of Captain Gibson of the Dredger Quibián in his office as he relayed one of his many stories from working on the Panama Canal for 45 years. Captain Gibson started when dredgers were operated by coal power and worked through the Manuel Noriega regime until retiring last year in July.

The Dredger Quibián is heavily involved in the keeping the Culebra Cut clear of the constant landslides that threaten to block ships passage and was directly responsible for removing the earth plugs that kept all the water out of the Expansion during the construction project.


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