Photo of the Week
May 4, 2008 

As a follow up to last week's photo (April 27), I am posting two interesting photos showing the problems that the big aircraft carriers had when transiting the Panama Canal.  Although the aircraft carriers were fine in hull size, it was the wide deck and trimmings that posed the problems when locking up or down in the locks.  From what I read in several personal accounts of witnesses aboard these ships, wind was the worst enemy.  Although preparations were made prior to a transit by removing certain trimming on these ships, once the wind got in control, all hell broke loose.  Once the problem areas were identified with the first carrier transits, modifications were made to the Lock's Control Houses and the original concrete lamp poles were removed and exchanged with smaller metal pipe poles.

The photo above is a scan from the book Panama's Canal by Carl R. Oliver.  Mr. Oliver writes in the book, "Although their hulls fit into the locks, their flight decks were too wide and overlapped chamber walls.  In March 1928, the U.S.S. Lexington was squeezing through when it slipped out of control and demolished six concrete lampposts and a handrail."  This was the beginning of many years of problems with these big naval vessels.  The problems prompted Congress in 1939 to authorize construction of a Third Locks, but that is another story  The caption in the book for this photo is "The Lexington out of control in Pedro Miguel Locks, just after knocking over the first concrete lamppost.

The magnificent photo below below was sent to me by CZ Images visitor and contributor Philip Hadarits.  Philip told me that this photo was taken by his father during one of the first Miraflores Locks chamber overhauls just after World War II.  It is a classic photo and may be one of a kind.  The image (scanned from a 35mm slide) shows some of the old concrete lampposts removed because of the big carriers and other war ships.  There is a small pipe and lamp shade fixture coming our to the middle of the old concrete post.  

Eventually all these grand old concrete lampposts were removed on all the locks.  I have to imagine the amount of work it took those that constructed the Panama Canal Locks in the beginning to manufacture these grand old poles.  Most Zonians remember seeing the ball fixture from the tops of these poles throughout the Canal Zone. When PCC removed these lampposts, the ball figures were spread out all over the Canal Zone as decorative fixtures in front of buildings and along roads.  These fixtures alone weighed close to 400 pounds.  You can imagine what the entire lamppost weighed!!

This whole subject has fascinated me for years and I am finally happy to share what I have found out about these old lamppost problems.  I am sure there is much more out there about this, but as everything, this is just the beginning.


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