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Panama Canal Lock Facts

Along the route of the canal there is a series of 3 sets of locks, the Gatun, the Pedro Miguel and the Miraflores locks.

At Gatun there are 2 parallel sets of locks each consisting of 3 flights. This set of locks lift ships a total of 26 meters. The locks are constructed from concrete mixed by using the rock excavated from Culebra. The excavated rock was crushed and then used as aggregate, and an excess of 1.53 million m3 of concrete was used in the construction of the Gatun locks alone.

Initially the locks at Gatun had been designed as 28.5 meters wide. In 1908 the United States Navy requested that the locks should be increased to have a width of at least 36 meters. This would allow for the passage of US naval ships. Eventually a compromise was made and the locks were to be constructed to a width of 33 meters. Each lock is 300 meters long with the walls ranging in thickness from 15 meters at the base to 3 meters at the top. The central wall between the parallel locks at Gatun has a thickness of 18 meters and stands in excess of 24 meters in height. The lock gates are made from steel and measures an average of 2 meters thick, 19.5 meters in length and stand 20 meters in height.

When Colonel Geothals the American designer of the Panama Canal visited the Kiel Canal in 1912 he was told the canal should have been built 36 metres in width, but by then it was too late. The locks can be seen during construction below. The smallest set of locks along the Panama Canal are at Pedro Miguel and have one flight which raise or lower ships 10 metres. The Miraflores locks have two flights with a combined lift or decent of 16.5 metres.

Both the single flight of locks at Pedro Miguel and the twin flights at Miraflores are constructed and operated in a similar method as the Gatun locks, but with differing dimensions.