The Canal de Panama is not exactly the transition point between Central- and South America, but to me, it was quite symbolic when I crossed it.

The construction, one century ago, of the 77 km long canal cost ten thousands of lives. Linking the Pacific to the Atlantic Ocean, it is a shortcut of some 13000 km for the ships, who previously had to circumnavigate the dangerous Cape Horn. Nowadays some 14000 vessels pass the canal every year, thus contributing for a major part to the prosperity of Panama. The biggest ships that can cross the canal, also known as Panamax pay some 400.000$ to pass.

With some 20 cm, the sea level of the Pacific is only slightly higher than the one of the Atlantic, but still there are still some locks to pass. This is because the ships have to cross several lakes located at higher altitudes. The Miraflores lake is 16 meters above sea level. When the ships enter the canal, they first ascend to these lakes, before they descend to the other ocean again.

Each time, a ship passes the canal, some 200 millions of freshwater from these lakes flow into the ocean, causing a major problem, regarding the management of the levels of the lakes. Until now, they get filled up during the rain season, (and I can tell you, it rains a lot here), but still, because of this issue the canal is close to its maximum capacity.

But nevertheless, big enlargement works have been started a few years ago, allowing in a near future the crossing of even bigger vessels, the Post-Panamax.

A Panamax, the biggest ships that can pass the canal