Mitscher Transits the Panama Canal

Tuesday, July 17, 2007
From USS Mitscher Public Affairs

USS Mitscher (DDG-57) successfully completed a northbound Panama Canal transit early morning on July 12, marking the first trip through the historic canal for the 13-year old warship. Mitscher entered the Miraflores Lock near midnight July 11, and then proceeded north through the Pedro, Miguel and Gatun Locks before emerging at 4 a.m. near Cristobal, Panama.

“The Panama Canal transit was a fitting end to the Central and South American phase of our Partnership of Americas deployment,” stated Cmdr. William McKinley, Mitscher’s commanding officer. “Most of the crew had never made the transit and will never forget this event. The canal is an engineering feat and a once in a lifetime experience.” Sailors were up through the night to assist in navigation and line-handling details, as Mitscher traveled the 44.5 miles of canal. While waiting in the locks, Mitscher was aided by mechanized “mules” that kept the ship centered while the locks were flooded and drained, allowing for 85 feet of elevation change during the transit.

“Being on watch for the transit was tough,” said Quartermaster 3rd Class Jason Williams, “especially because it was the middle of the night. It was pretty amazing to drive through and watch the locks work to raise and lower the ship; all the while we were only a few feet from the canal walls.” Mitscher’s trip through the Panama Canal was captured in photographs by many of the Sailors, but it was also captured “real-time” via webcam and broadcast over the internet. Friends and families watched Mitscher as she entered the Miraflores Lock, and were able to witness the lock fill at the southern beginning near Balboa, Panama.

This passage marks the completion of circumnavigation of the South American continent for Mitscher in support of Partnership of Americas 2007 deployment. Mitscher made her first port visit in Cristobal, Panama on the 7th of April, mooring just a few-thousand yards from the mouth of the Canal. Three months later, after port visits in Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina, Chile and Peru, Mitscher completed its remarkable journey where it first began.

Mitscher is a unit of Task Group 40.0, which also consists of dock landing ship USS Pearl Harbor (LSD 52), guided-missile frigate USS Samuel B. Roberts (FFG 58) and Chilean frigate CS Almirante Latorre (FFG 14) under the leadership of Capt. Randy Snyder, Commander Destroyer Squadron 40.

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