Experimental Tropical Marine Ecology

March 5: Day 2 – The Canal Zone
by -- March 5th, 2011

Massive tankers carrying hundreds of containers of cargo were guided through the canal by electric locomotives.

While moving from Gamboa to Galeta, we took a short detour to the Panama Canal…

Early in the morning we departed from Gamboa and returned to the rocky shore of Punta Culebra. We came to find the chitons we had identified before, to see if they had scars from predation, to see if they were still there. We were confronted with a challenge different from our first foray on the beach. Today the rocks were slippery, the markers were hard to find or swept away, and the sun beat down on our necks as we peered underneath rocks and into crevices.

After hunting down our wayward chitons and noting any changes in their appearance, we took a break and wandered over to the nearby aquarium. An exhibit on the various types of marine life in Panama formed the first part of the aquarium, closely followed by a children’s exhibit with a huge replica of sharks’ jaws and hands-on stations with coral and marine samples that the children (and a few child-at-heart DUMLers) could observe underneath dissecting scopes.

We then continued outdoors. Located along the path were several tanks containing organisms ranging from sea turtles to reef sharks. Opposite this was a series of tanks bursting with sea stars, urchins, and sea cucumbers that were a joy to pick up and hold.

After departing the aquarium, we made our way to the Miraflores Locks of the Panama Canal. The Miraflores Locks are located on the Pacific side of the canal and raise ships from sea level up into the interior waterways of Panama until they can descend and exit on the Atlantic side. As we were there, gazing from the observation balcony, we witnessed massive tankers carrying tens of thousands of railroad cars cross through the locks. Separated from scraping against the sides of the canal by a mere meter or so, they were guided through the locks by a series of locomotives.

After passing through the canal’s museum, we traveled to the STRI Station at Isla Galeta. As we crossed through the gate marking the Colon region of Panama, the roads became noticeably shorter, the forest noticeably thicker, and the air heavier with the hum of birdsong. After an hour of driving, we broke through the trees and found ourselves driving alongside a scenic coastline flanked by scattered palm trees and succulents. Soon enough we reached the station, a series of white structures made of corrugated steel with bright blue roofs that stood out against the lagoon. As we stepped out of the bus, each of us inhaled the tangy salty scent of the ocean, and listened with closed eyes to the distant pounding of the waves against the coral reef. We were content to know we would be spending the next five days in Galeta.

©2016 Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University | Box 90328 | Durham, NC 27708
how to contact us > | login to the site > | site disclaimers >

footer nav stuff