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Queen Elizabeth

Queen Elizabeth’s Maiden Panama Canal Transit – Part 2

February 3, 2011

We Are Cunard

Posted in: Queen Elizabeth, Updates

Thank you again for all your recent comments; January was certainly a busy month of Blogging with some historic moments for Cunard, starting with the magnificent Float at the 122nd Pasadena Tournament of Roses Parade, which earned Cunard the Queen’s Trophy. Then of course there was the unforgettable Royal Rendezvous in New York and the fabulous welcome and sailaway of Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth in Fort Lauderdale. I know one or two of you were wondering when and where the next meeting of the three Queens would take place; well we’ll have to wait and see, but you can rest assured we’ll keep you updated on this Blog.

Thank you as well for the messages for guests who are travelling on board; we’ll certainly pass them on using the Morning TV show and  I know a few guests have already been pleasantly surprised by them so far, so feel free to keep them coming!

For this week’s Blog we are going back to another very special event in January; Queen Elizabeth’s Maiden transit of the Panama Canal, but that after this week in Cunard’s history for the week of 3 – 9 February:

4 February 1945 The Yalta Conference began, where Churchill used the Franconia as his base. The conference, which lasted one week, was held with Roosevelt and Stalin who looked at the post second World War
4 February 2007 Queen Mary 2 makes her maiden call to San Francisco
5 February 1840 The 1,154-ton paddle steamer Britannia is launched at Robert Duncan’s ship yard, and along with her three near sister ships, Acadia, Caledonia and Columbia, went on to make the Atlantic voyage in 14 days at 8.5 knots and maintain weekly departures from Liverpool.
6 February 1924 Aurania is launched in Newcastle and enters service as the second set of triplets of the A Class liner
7 February 1925 Alaunia at 14,040 tons, is launched at John Brown’s, Clydebank and enters service on the Canada route
9 February 1856 The Persia arrives in New York from Liverpool on her maiden voyage as Cunard’s last but one paddle steamer.
9 February 1951 Caronia makes her maiden call to Wellington, New Zealand
9 February 1983 QE2 makes her maiden call to Moorea, Tahiti


In last week’s Panama Canal Blog, I posted some pictures from the ship’s perspective, so now it’s time for Queen Elizabeth to be the star with pictures of her throughout the transit. As the pilot came on board the ship to guide her through the transit, the pilot boat was then allowed to take a team of our photographers with it to photograph the ship from the shore side. My thanks yet again to Chief Photographer Petar Petanac and his team for these fantastic pictures, starting with Queen Elizabeth entering the first Gatun Lock.

And in answer to Judith Sayers question; the “little grey machines at the side of the canal” are in fact called Mules. You can see one in the left of this picture. While the ship moves herself ahead, the Mules help to keep her from touching the sides of the lock, which is a huge job in itself. Here are four more guiding the ship in to the locks, where you suddenly realize the incredible size of our Queen.


In the next picture Queen Elizabeth is being raised using the natural flow of water from one chamber to another, while our guests line the open decks watching this wonder of engineering.

Having passed though the Gatun Lake and the Gaillard Cut, this next picture shows Queen Elizabeth being guided by tugs in to the Pedro Miguel Locks, which begin the process of lowering her back to sea level.

In the background of this tremendous photo you can see the huge amount of construction that is taking place to build the new wider locks that will be ready in 2014. This will enable ships as big as Queen Mary 2 to transit the Canal, so that’ll be another great moment in history to look forward to when she makes her first transit.

Some locks have double gates, and the reason we learned for this is that they are a safety measure so that should a lock gate fail then the backup gate would prevent millions of gallons escaping out of the vast lake. Here you can see both sets in front of her can open now that the set behind Queen Elizabeth are firmly shut.

The final set of locks to bring her back to sea level are called the Miraflores Locks, and this is one of my favourite pictures which shows exactly what a tight squeeze it is for Queen Elizabeth to pass through.

Once we were through the last lock it was time for our photographers to rejoin Queen Elizabeth on the same boat that would take the pilot off. As they approached, the ship was just about to go under the magnificent Bridge of the Americas, so time for one final and stunning photo.

With that we had reached the Pacific Ocean and turned north towards our next port of call, Acapulco in Mexico. Last year we made a time lapse video of Queen Victoria’s transit from on board, so this year as promised we have made a new video which, this time, features Queen Elizabeth’s Maiden Transit from the shore side perspective:

I’m sure you’ll agree that was a fantastic video, and my thanks go to our on board Videographer, Drew Pyper from Goole in East Yorkshire who did a great job.

That’s it for this week but I’ll be back with more pictures from Queen Elizabeth’s Maiden World Voyage as well as other news from around the Cunard Fleet. Thank you again for logging on and all your great comments. Cheers for now, Alastair

  1. Kim McCarthy says:


    I was told about the blog by my brother-in-law. Please would you say Hello to Nanna Sheila & Grandad Norman from their grandson Kieran, and to say that we are missing them but this is a brill way for us to watch what they are up to…lots of love Kim xxx

  2. Kenneth Eden says:


    The still shots are amazing, the video, incredible. It is nice to see the transit from shore, a view that obviously is not offered when one is the passenger! Drew Pyper did a magnificent job.

    Thanks to one and all for the transit of the Queen Elizabeth.

  3. Maddie says:

    Hey Cool Pics! And you can see me ;-) Was one great day out of an amazing 16!! Feel blessed to have been there x

  4. Tom Morgan and Ken Youngert says:

    What a wonderful experience. We look foward to a transit ourselves soon. Saw the Panama flag. We were particularly touched by the prior blog reporting about its having been on the QE2′s final passage and now it was on the QE. Please say Hi to Pam and Peggy Zircle, on their way to Singapore. “Hope you are having a wonderful voyage. Wish we were there.”

  5. Chris & Margaret Rose says:

    Hi Alistair,
    Well, now we are back on “terra firma” this vlog and the pictures brings back such fantastic memories,
    albeit it is only a few days ago!!
    As you know it was our first cruise (apart from transatlantic on QM2) and our expectations were “sky high”!
    We were certainly not dissapointed. The ship, the crew and all the facilities were quite wonderful.
    As many fellow passengers said to us..”your first cruise?..you have started at the top”!
    We can only say just how special Cunard, Queen Elizabeth and all it’s crew are.Walking through the ship to breakfast everybody says “Good Morning” regardless of their duties…so they should you would say, but how often does this tiny detail happen in real life?
    We are certainly looking forward to our next cruise, hopefully the next a leg of a “round the world” cruise.
    Once again many thanks to all on Queen Elizabeth from Captain Burgess to every member of the crew.
    As always, very best regards

  6. Carol kane says:

    Hi Alastair,
    Great footage as usual, Brought back memories of my first time going through the canal on the QE2, Its amazing the ship goes through without a scratch, love the vidio. Can,t wait to board in Sydney.
    Keep up the good work. Your a STAR

  7. Andy says:

    They are really fantastic pictures and video, thanks for keeping us all updated on all the Queens voyages and in particular Elizabeth’s Maiden World voyage.

  8. P C Capper says:

    WE spent 46 nights on QE from Dec 14th….my outstanding day was in Costa Rica visiting the SOS Childrens Village, a day never to be forgotten! And if that was not enough a visit to the animal rescue to see the sloth set free. In all my 17 years of cruising with Cunard that day was second to none….thank you tour dept and Matthew

  9. Judith Sayers says:

    Hi Alistair, thanks for answering my question. Fantastic video of the Queen Elizabeth completing the transfer. Did you ask all the guests to breathe in?!!! What a tight squeeze. Looking forward to our trip on her in July.

  10. Tracy Taylor says:

    Hi Alastair

    Found this amazing!!! The pics are amazing and the video is outstanding. My Mum and Dad are on the QE doing the world Cruise and it’s a great way to see what they have been up to. Mum said the Panama Canal was just stunning and I can now say that I know what she means.

    My Mum and Dad are George and Julie Montgomery – can you say hi to them and let them know we’re so jealous!!

    Keep up the blog – it’s great.

    Tracy Taylor

  11. Gavin Tippet- Port Douglas Qld Australia says:

    Hello Alastair
    Again great pics and video of the transit it brought back memories of my transit this time last year.
    Look forward to boarding on the 22nd February in Sydney for the next leg of Queen Elizabeth maiden world voyage.

  12. Paul & Di Wolf says:

    Hi Alister,

    Back on terra firma in Sydney after a fantastic trip on QE from New York to Los Angeles and still swaying!
    we will never forget the New York departure or Panama Canal transit! Awesome experience!
    I am the Aussie who made you and the Captain honorary Aussies for the 26th Jan and many crew!

    Wish we were still on board BUT we wait for next time!

    Best wishes to our Britania staff Marvin & Alexander-Superb professionals!

    Di and Paul Wolf

  13. jennie Garrett says:

    Hi Alastair,

    Please can you say hi to Brian and Gill Townsend they are having difficulties with emails and phones so it would be a lovely surprise for them to know we are hoping they are really enjoying their time on QE but not getting too fat!!

    We have enjoyed your bloggs …keep them up

    Jennie and John

  14. Sarah Morris says:

    This reminds me of a story that my parents tell when they were going through the Panama canal way back in the 1950s when they took a trip to New Zealand. They convinced a fellow passenger that there were real ‘mules’ that pulled the ship through the canal. They told these passengers that you were allowed to get off the ship and feed the mules. So these passengers then went to the ships cook to ask for some carrots….

  15. Malcolm & Mary Rees says:

    Greetings from a wet and windy Wales for Arthur Hancock and Mary Davies in Cabin 8014.
    We met them last year on the Oriana trip to New Orleans.
    We are watching their trip with envy but hope to get over to the US on QM2 later this year.
    We had hoped to write using \snailmail\ to a port in advance of the QE arriving there but can’t find out how to i.e using the port agents’ as the address.
    So this way we can still send our best wishes.

  16. Gary Tolley says:


  17. Beryl Moss says:

    The photographs of the Panama Canal transit are fantastic but the video of her from shoreside are truly amazing. It certainly is a tight squeeze! Well done to Drew Pyper for a great job.

  18. Beverley Cooper says:

    Hi Alistair,

    What a wonderful video and my, what a good lookin’ lady the QE is! I’ll be paying homage to her later in the year after a daliance with the QV (well, what else is annual leave for huh?). Last time I saw you was on my first Cunard voyage on the QM2 – I do hope you’re still literally giving out rounds of applause on the morning programme. Wishing you, the crew and passengers a truly wonderful time on your world cruise.

    Happy sailing ;-)


  19. Carol kane says:

    Is the QE still going to go through the Suez canel with all the trouble in Egypt ?

  20. Rachel Treadgold says:

    Hi, Alastair,
    Just discovered your blog – great photos of the transit; it was a very special day and I feel very privileged to have been a part of it. It was quite a surprise to see myself on the video of the transit, it brought back many memories now that we are back home.
    Can you, please, remember us to Mike, Anne, Gerald and Chris (table 565, Britannia), we shall be following their progress with you via the webcam.
    Happy sailing, Rachel

  21. Jenny says:

    Fantastic photos and you tube footage. I can just make out my mum and dads balcony with their england flag hanging. Thanks for wonderful blogs have a great week !!!!!!!!!!!

  22. Angela Morris says:

    Hi Alastair, Wonderful photos of the Panama Canal transit. Please say hello to Hazel and Mike Wildman who we met on the Queen Victoria’s Maiden World cruise 2008. They were our dinner companions and we really enjoyed their company and have kept in touch since.
    Hope to see you when we join the QE at Fremantle for a short cruise to Hong Kong.

    Angela and Roger Morris

  23. Ellen Pryor says:

    Hi Alistair,
    Please can you surprise and say hi to Fay and Ian Taylor from Rutland. They’ll be with you until Sydney enjoying the wonderful life on board the Queen Elizabeth.

    We love following the Blog as our grandson works on board as well, so we know every day where he is on the chart:)

    Keep up the wonderful work!
    best wishes from Ellen and Bernard Pryor

  24. Ernest Lampe says:

    Hi Alistair

    A great blog. QE was not only a destination but an adventure. We found in every moment on board the joy of living in the present and the simplest events seemed an adventure from which we can return to the serenity of our cabin or dinner table. We supervised every moment of QE’s transit thru the Canal from a variety of vantage points. Great fun at the time and great fun to relive with the video.

    Thanks Ernest and Susan Lampe Minneapolis, Minnesota U S A

  25. Hi Alistair,
    I only found your blog a few days ago, excellent. Will you say hello to my lovely sister and brother-in-law, Helen & Keith Humphreys, there in cabin 5709 on the Queen Elizabeth world cruise, send them all our love.

    Best Regards
    Jo and Barry

  26. Brenda Vessey says:

    Hi Alistair,
    have just watched part 2 of the panama canal with QE but do not appear to have received the part 1, but this was fantastic. We went through the panama canal on the NCL Norwegian Spirit approx. 4 years ago and it was a fantastic experience. We will be joining the QM2 on 25 March for the remainder of her world cruise and we are looking forward to it very much. Keep up the good work.

  27. Mark Rosenfeld says:

    My wife and sister in law are on QE world cruise and I think I see my wife in the movie of Gatun passage therefore quite impressed.

  28. Steve Hooton says:

    Just come across your video of transit through Panama Canal on Cunard.
    Absolutely brilliant .Has encouraged me to book cruise.

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