One of the world’s greatest marvels, the Panama Canal stretches 50mi (80km) from Panama City on the Pacific side to Colón on the Atlantic side. Around 14,500 vessels pass through each year, and ships worldwide have traditionally been built with the dimensions of the canal’s original locks (1083ft long and 110ft wide/ 330m long and 33.5m wide) in mind.
The canal has three sets of double locks: Miraflores and Pedro Miguel on the Pacific side and Gatún on the Atlantic. A 10-year expansion completed in 2016 added two three-chambered locks, allowing the passage of super-sized “neoPanamax” ships: Cocoli on the Pacific and Agua Clara on the Atlantic. Between the locks, ships pass through a huge artificial lake, Lago Gatún, created by the Gatún Dam across the Río Chagres, and the Culebra Cut, a 7.9mi (12.7km) trough through the mountains. With each ship's passage, a staggering 52 million gallons (197 million liters) of fresh water is released into the ocean.