Here, as found by Google video, is a lovely time lapse movie of the Miraflores locks on the Panama Canal. Watch gigantic boats take the water elevator up and down, one after another. The canal actually defines an entire class of ship: Panamax vessels are limited 106 feet in width. In the movie it is indeed evident that these boats were designed with Panama in mind. Otherwise it would be too much of a coincidence that so many of them just squeeze through with only enough room for a deck of cards on either side. American aircraft carriers, on the other hand, are so big that effectively live in the nineteenth century. Headed to San Francisco from New York? You’ll be taking a long trip around Cape Horn in South America.
This movie also illustrates one of the happy facts about the isthmus of Panama: that it is situated in a rainy tropical part of the world. As you watch the movie, keep in mind that operating the water elevator all day long always involves draining water from the higher level to the lower level. That water isn’t pumped back up; God puts it up there (by means of intelligently designed clouds). One of the limits on traffic through the canal is actually how much fresh water is available to dump through these locks. As reported on here in the Economist, the need to better manage the freshwater resources required by the locks is having a positive effect on environmental research into the effects of deforestation. Globalization can be green once you see how things are hitched together.