Large ship on the Panama Canal, MG_5801

Ship in transit guided by tugboats for safer passage to the narrow canal.

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The Panama Canal locks are a lock system that lifts a ship up 90 feet (27 metres) to the main elevation of the Panama Canal and down again. The original canal had a total of six steps (three up, three down) for a ship’s passage. The total length of the lock structures, including the approach nigers, is over 1.9 miles (3 km). The locks were one of the greatest engineering works ever to be undertaken when they opened in 1914. No other concrete construction of comparable size was undertaken until the Hoover Dam, in the 1930s.

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