January 25, 2010
We Are Cunard
Posted in: Queen Victoria
Countdown to Queen Elizabeth – 259 days
As Queen Mary 2 continues her World Voyage with her maiden call to Muscat in Oman, Queen Victoria is coming to the end of her second leg of her World Voyage, arriving for the first time in San Francisco on Wednesday 27 January. If you want to watch her arrival on the bridge cam you can click on this link:
We are not sure of the exact time that we will be passing under the Golden Gate Bridge but it will probably be between 6am and 7am local time (2pm to 3pm GMT).
A week earlier Queen Victoria was making her third transit of the Panama Canal. You can find out more about the Panama Canal and last year’s transit along with some great photos, facts and figures by clicking on this link:
Making the transit through one of the engineering marvels of the world is a real highlight of this voyage, and our guests were up very early to catch our approach to the first and probably most impressive of the three sets of locks. As I mentioned in the Blog last year; a good quiz question is “In which direction does the Panama Canal flow?” This map will give you the answer and also shows the location of the different locks.
We entered the Gatun Locks at about 8.30am on a beautiful day which although hot, was just right. As I went out on deck it was very busy with guests taking lots of photographs, and this year, as we progressed from the Caribbean Sea to the Pacific, there were ships passing us in the locks going in the opposite direction, which is possible as the locks work independently of one another.
Meanwhile our on board photographers had been granted permission to go ashore and took some fantastic pictures of Queen Victoria in the locks, it’s great to have the professionals aboard to get shots like this which shows what a tight squeeze it is.
As many of you will know Queen Victoria is a Panamax ship, which means she is the maximum size of ship that can pass through the canal locks, which also means that the chamber walls are literally inches away from the ship’s hull. As I passed Café Carinthia, which is located on deck 2, the ship was just entering one of the locks and I managed to get this intriguing picture through the window. You can see the lock wall with a marker that indicates how far in to the chamber the ship was at the time.
Just over an hour and a quarter later and with the help of three lock chambers, Queen Victoria had been lifted 85 feet, and was now sailing through the beautiful Gatun Lake which is a protected area, so everyone was able to enjoy some stunning scenery.
During our transit of the lake, Ed Paulk, who had been giving us an excellent commentary from the bridge, gave guests a fascinating lecture in the Royal Court Theatre. He told us about the day’s transit as well as some details about the history of the Canal.
He also told us about the current construction works that were taking place along the Canal. In 2007 work began on widening the canal and installing new locks that would be able to accommodate much larger ships. The $5.5billion US dollar project will be completed by 2014, marking the Canal’s 100 year anniversary. The new chambers will be 1,600 feet long, 60 feet deep and 180 feet wide which means ships like Queen Mary 2 will be able to go through the canal from 2014. In fact the largest cargo ship that will be able to go through could carry a staggering 13,000 containers. The authorities are using the latest in technology in this massive project, which will see 60% of the water in the new locks being recycled in to holding basins. Although we could see the widening works from the ship, the new locks weren’t visible, but will eventually look like this:
After his lecture Ed then continued with his commentary from the Bridge, as we passed under the magnificent Century Road Bridge which was designed and built by a German team of architects and engineers about 5 years ago.
By 3.00pm we were approaching the second set of locks, Pedro Miguel, where the lowering process would begin. Here is another great shot from our on board photographers from the lock gate as Queen Victoria approached.
By about 5.30pm we had been through all the sets of locks and sailed under the Bridge of the Americas, which is seen by many as a formal welcome to the Pacific Ocean. As we turned north to Acapulco we reflected on what an amazing day it had been. No matter how many times you go through the Panama Canal, it never fails to impress.
Now we have something very different which I hope you enjoy. Our on board Videographer, Suzie Long, made this remarkable video taken from Queen Victoria’s bridge. The video is a clip from the Souvenir Voyage DVD, which is available for our guests at the end of each voyage, and shows us going through the locks – though somewhat speeded up!
I’d like to thank the on board photographers for all their help with these pictures and video and hope to bring you more in the future.
I’ll be back on Thursday with another regular post which will also celebrate Queen Mary 2’s latest star of the month. We’ll post some exclusive pictures of Queen Victoria’s maiden call to San Francisco as soon as we can, along with more news about Queen Elizabeth’s progress in Italy. Cheers for now, Alastair