If the Panama Canal had no locks?

If the Panama Canal had no locks and water could flow freely from Atlantic Ocean to Pacific Ocean or the other way, what would be the result?

12 Answers

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  • Anonymous
    3 weeks ago
    Favorite Answer

    If you  just opened the lock gates, Lake Gatun which is about 85' above sea level would just drain into the two oceans and you'd have a high and dry spot with rivers flowing each way.

    Assuming the canal was deep enough that the two oceans would be directly connected (as I think you mean), I would doubt there would be much movement.  The two oceans are already connected around the top and bottom of North and South America.  Water levels should be the same.

    • Fried Kitten
      Lv 6
      3 weeks agoReport

      Yes this is what I meant. I didn't know that the lake was at a higher elvation.

  • 3 weeks ago

    Take a look at the globe and notice that both oceans are connected by water both the extreme north and extreme south. So I would suggest that if the isthmus of Panama was removed there would be no major threat to the world as we know it.

  • Anonymous
    3 weeks ago

    The locks are used to raise ships from a lower elevation to a lake found in a higher elevation and vice versa. If there are no locks, the water from the lake will drain away and there would be no canal, because there will be a dry lake in the middle of the canal.

  • 3 weeks ago

    no locks and the lake and sections that are way above sea level would drain to either side, to both oceans. There is no possibility of water flowing directly from one ocean to the other, that is not the way the canal is constructed. 

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  • Anonymous
    3 weeks ago

    This question is intentionally misleading.  The phrase "and water could flow freely from Atlantic Ocean to Pacific Ocean or the other way" serves to imply that without locks, there will be a large scale flow from one point to the other.

    The perspective to consider this question is on the scale of the ships in the canal.  For small ships, the canal appears wide, so intermediate scale turbulent flow would just have the small ships going with the flow and using their power systems to avoid the sidewalls of the canal.  However, there are large ships that traverse the canal and their clearance can be mere inches from the sides at points.  Under those conditions, you want the water to be as quiescent as possible - you want full control over the flow conditions; that will maximize your utility of the canal, giving you the ability to pass even the widest of ships.  The large ship has much finer control over their motions within the canal when the water is quiescent rather than turbulent.

    That's what the locks allow you to do - by allowing a step gradient in the pressure head to exist, the head on each side of the lock can be made as constant and flow on the larger scale within the canal between locks can be made as small as possible.  That gives the ships in the canal the most control over their own motions.

    From there, you can back out the ramifications of not having locks: basically the flow size and direction within each segment within the canal will be random, and possibly turbulent.  That would make the canal unusable under say, flash flooding conditions - where rain far away dumps a huge amount of water into the canal, causing water waves and high speed, possibly turbulent flows to appear within the canal.  That could cause small ships to capsize and large ships to crash against the sides of the canal you spent so much money to build.

    Consequently, the locks are just a cheap way to gain positive control over flow conditions within segments of the canal; by allowing discontinuities in an otherwise level pressure head to exist; effectively mitigating random (potentially large) flow speeds and (unpredictable and changing) flow directions.  The fact that the net flow draws water from or dumps water into the ocean on either side is not really of consequence.

    Oh, and more ships passing = more $$$.  So deploying a cheap way to control the flow within the canal maximizes profit.  If the number of ships that pass through would remain the same without the locks, you can bet that there would be no locks - the locks carry recurring maintenance costs after the fact, which is a bleed on profit compared to no locks and having the same entry/exit fees.

  • Bill-M
    Lv 7
    3 weeks ago

    A tidal Flow (Current) would be to strong for ships to navigate through.

    AND the Strong current flow would create Erosion on its banks.

  • poldi2
    Lv 7
    3 weeks ago

    The result would be a significant loss of revenue for the country of Panama (which charges a fee for every vessel that uses the locks) and in lost jobs for about 9,000 employees of the Panama Canal Authority.

    • poldi2
      Lv 7
      3 weeks agoReport

      Possibly, but without locks the fees would be much smaller and there would be no need for all the employees.

  • Henry
    Lv 5
    3 weeks ago

    Then anyone could just pull on the handle and walk through the door.

  • oikoσ
    Lv 7
    3 weeks ago

    It wouldn't. Water doesn't flow uphill. However, there have been portals in the geologic past, in Central and South America.

  • 3 weeks ago

    You'll likely expect flooding.

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