January 28, 2011
We Are Cunard
Well it’s certainly been another busy week Blogging, but when there’s so much going on, it’s great to be able to share the stories and pictures with you, especially on a Maiden World Voyage.
Last Saturday was another exciting first for Cunard’s latest Queen as she transited the Panama Canal for the first time. Every transit offers something special, but it certainly feels like being a part of history when it’s the first time for a ship to go through. This is the third transit I have written about on the We Are Cunard Blog so if you didn’t manage to catch the other two on Queen Victoria in 2009 and 2010 you can click on these links: -
Queen Elizabeth’s transit started early in the morning as the Pilot came on board along with officials and the Panama Canal Lecturer:
Queen Elizabeth was to be part of Convoy No. South S 12 Z, and the Transit would take the whole day, but what a stunning day it was as we approached the first of the Gatun Locks. This picture really illustrates the magnificence of engineering the locks are, with a local bus crossing the road bridge as we made preparations to enter the first chamber.
With just inches to spare Queen Elizabeth entered the first chamber and all the guest and crew decks were packed as the lock gates closed behind us.
Then as Queen Elizabeth was raised in the lock by the enormous power of the water from the Gatun Lake, our photographers gave everyone a great smile as they saw the Cunard House Flag straight ahead of them. They had joined the Pilot boat as the officials joined the ship, and they took lots of pictures of our first transit from the locks, and I’ll post those pictures along with a remarkable video next week.
Meanwhile everyone enjoyed a wonderful commentary from the bridge by Ed Paulk, the Panama Canal Commentator, who also gave a detailed lecture later in the Royal Court Theatre.
Queen Elizabeth is the largest Cunarder to transit the Canal, but Queen Mary 2 may be able to when the new wider locks open in 2014. Meanwhile Captain Julian Burgess and Deputy Captain Aseem Hashmi, were on the starboard bridge wing watching carefully as Queen Elizabeth moved in to the next chamber.
Chief Officer Patrick Maguire was on the port bridge wing with the Canal Pilot, again watching carefully as Queen Elizabeth gently moved forward. The whole process is aided by the glass floor panels on both bridge wings enabling the Officers to see the walls of the canal locks which you can see in this picture.
It really is a tight squeeze coming through the locks and to minimize the scratches to the ship’s hull, special rotating rubber wheels help guide the ship out of the locks in to the Gatun Lake.
The scenery through the Gatun Lake, the Gaillard Cut and on to the Pedro Miguel Locks is stunning and so much variety as well. There is constant work going on the entire length of the Canal, and you’ll get a better idea of that in next week’s blog with views looking towards the ship. There was a very special moment as we went through the final set of lock chambers in the Miraflores Locks, which mark the gateway to the Pacific.
There are viewing buildings on the side of the locks at Gatun and Miraflores, where tourists watch the ships go through the Canal. The reception at Miraflores was particularly impressive with huge cheers coming from the building. They were clearly impressed by Queen Elizabeth, but I realised the other reason when I looked down and saw the Panama flag being held over the ship’s side by some guests.
The Panama Flag belonged to Doug and Kay Sansom from Pensacola in Florida. I met up with them the following day and they told me the story of how they had a Panama Flag with them on this voyage. Doug told me they were on the final transit of the Panama Canal on QE2 and they bought the flag at the Charity Auction and had it signed by Captain Perkins, the Master at the time. They were thrilled to be able to proudly show it off on Queen Elizabeth’s maiden transit; what a great Cunard story.
Back to the day, and by late afternoon we were already approaching the final lock chamber before being lowered down to sea level once more. I managed this shot by hanging my camera over the ship’s side by the forward crew deck where crewmembers were waving at the onlookers on the shore side.
The final stage of the transit is really when the ship reaches the magnificent Bridge of the Americas and here Queen Elizabeth gets ready to sail under it and in to the Pacific Ocean. Insert
As the ship passed underneath, Panama City felt remarkably close on the port side with a myriad of interesting structures forming the dramatic skyline.
Queen Elizabeth is now on her way to Los Angeles having called at the Mexican ports of Acapulco and Cabo San Lucas. We’ll return to the Panama Canal next week with some unique pictures taken by our on board professional photographers along with a very special video. I’ll also have more news from around the fleet next week, but in the meantime thank you again for logging on and for all your comments. Cheers for now, Alastair