A New DER!

Here’s my Daily Expedition Report for the week. Passing through the Panama Canal. Again!

2 February, 2012
Gulf Islands and the Panama Canal

We left the tiny paradisaical islet of Granito de Oro in Panama’s Coiba National Park late yesterday afternoon and sailed a total of 190 nautical miles along the rugged Pacific coastline to reach the Gulf of Panama. We woke to a very windy morning as the National Geographic Sea Lion continued on her way toward our morning destination – the remote islands of Otoque and Bona. Due to a number of breaks in the mountain chains that parallel the Pacific coastline, trade winds are able to blow over the Gulf of Panama and as a result, they push away the surface waters. This allows nutrient-rich waters from below to up-well, bringing with them a high volume of essential food sources for marine birds and other wildlife. To the delight of many of our birders onboard, we had the opportunity to explore these islands by Zodiac, catching sight of a variety of species including magnificent frigate birds, brown pelicans, blue-footed boobies, brown-footed boobies, and even a predatory peregrine falcon, arguably the fastest animal on earth.

Once back onboard, we picked up anchor and headed deeper into the Gulf toward the colonial town of Panama City. Miles before we could see the cityscape, however, we passed by quite a few large ships carrying heavy cargo. They were either heading toward the Pacific entrance of the canal, like us, or had just finished their transit and were on their way to other destinations. As we waited for word from the Canal Authorities as to when our transit time would be, we enjoyed cocktails and ceviche on the aft bridge deck. Panama City was visible on the horizon and shipping vessels and passenger ships alike flanked us on all sides.

At last it was our turn to enter the Panama Canal. The pilot, mandatory for all vessels crossing the Canal, came onboard as did a dozen or so line handlers who would help ensure our safe passage through the Miraflores and Pedro Miguel locks. Despite it being a night crossing, the locks were well lit and the lights cast an almost supernatural aura over our proceeding. Dinner was a Central American buffet feast and many of us decided to enjoy it out on decks as we continued to make our way through the first two sets of locks in the Panama Canal.

Becky Timbers
Wellness Specialist


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