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Panama an Amazing Experience According to H. Bonning .



SS. Orsova was a British ocean liner, built by Vickers Armstrong in Barrow-in-Furness, England for the Orient Steam Navigation Company (Orient Line) for their Great Britain-to-Australia services via the Suez Canal. In 1960, in conjunction with the introduction of the new larger and faster Oriana and Canberra, the fleets of Orient (which was majority-owned by P&O) and P&O were combined as P&O-Orient Lines, although the Orient ships retained their corn-colored hulls and sailed under their own house flag. In 1966, P&O acquired the balance of the Orient shares, and the Orient Line was discontinued, with Orsova and her fleet mates being transferred to the ownership of the Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Company (P&O), painted white and under the P&O house flag.


Harry Bonning was an assistant purser on SS. ORSOVA in the late 1960's.


According to Harry, Panama is an amazing experience for anyone. If you read the history of its construction you have to be in awe of the men who worked and died cutting it through the jungle.


The northern end of the canal is Colon on the Atlantic side and the canal stretches 82 km to Balboa on the Pacific. There are two sets of locks, the first the Gatun Locks which raise the ship some 26m to the Gatun Lake. The locks are 33.5m wide and the Orsova beam was 27.6 m which allowed just 3m clearance on either side. It was quite an experience to sit in the Dining Room and, through the scuttle, see the lock wall rising as the waters in the lock drained away. At the Pacific end, the Miraflores Locks drop the ship back down to the Pacific Ocean level.



Officer's white uniforms were full-length trousers and white single-breasted jackets, white shirt, and black tie. These were heavily starched and we had a new set every day with our cabin steward delivering and collecting from the laundry. A fresh set needed the trouser legs separating, the jacket arms too, as they were well starched together. They were therefore somewhat stiff to walk in for a couple of hours until they loosened up. I made the mistake one morning as we passed through the Panama Canal of going out on deck. The humidity was intense, so intense that after a couple of steps my whole uniform soaked up the water in the air and collapsed into a sodden mess which I had to live with for the rest of the day.

The navy and this is as true for the Merchant Navy as it is for Royal Navy, have certain pranks played on the junior and new members of the crew. Such things as sending a young deck boy to the Bosun’s Locker for a tin of striped paint, a pot of elbow grease or green oil for the Starboard lamp, and red oil for the Port lamp. The favourite on arriving at Panama was to send the lad to the Galley for bread for the mules as you enter the locks. The mules of course are mechanical tugs on the quayside which guided the ships you through the lock. If the Baker played along the young lad would arrive on the foredeck with his loaves of bread to much amusement of all concerned.


Through Panama and we were in a whole new world.


ORIANA AND ISLAND PRINCESS TRANSIT THE PANAMA CANAL



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John Martin
John Martin
29. 5. 2022

My first transit was in the first of the Panamax designed containerships of OCL (Overseas Containers Limited) in 1974. In his biography 'There Go The Ships', Marshall Meek, the naval architect who designed the first purpose built cellular containerships, describes his meeting with the Canal Authority, under American control who he describes as 'an intimidating lot, a group of close-cropped, bull-necked US Navy brass in charge'. All he wanted to know was what length he could design his ships to that they would allow passage through the locks. They did not like long ships that might damage their locks. They eventually agreed that as 'the locks are 1,050 feet long, and they felt they wanted 50 feet at each e…


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Tim Dick
Tim Dick
26. 5. 2021

Transited Panama aboard P&O-Orient Lines several times in the 1960s. Twice aboard Canberra (once in each direction) and once aboard Oriana & Orsova. Wonderful memories. Great days!

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Rob Klincke
Rob Klincke
25. 5. 2021

Served on Orsova in 1970 and Canberry 71-74

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