Object of the Day

U. S. N. Floating Dry Dock AFDM-1, Miraflores Locks

What is the purpose of a floating dry dock in the canal?

USN Floating Dry Dock
USN Floating Dry Dock

Did you or someone you know work on this (or another) floating dry dock?  What type of work did it entail?

We have no other information about this postcard than the text at the top and bottom of the image. ¬†Please share something with us about this floating dry dock– it looks like a fascinating component of the Panama Canal’s operations.


  • Richard S. Lowry Jr

    In late 1944 or early 1945 the US Navy shipped a huge floating dry dock from the Atlantic to the Pacific through the Panama Canal. Because the dry dock was much wider then the lock width (110-feet) the dock was turned on its side. In the photo look for the steel brace to keep the side from folding in. Three tugs moved the dock through the canal. In the photo is a commercial tug owned by Moran. Not in the photo was the ATA-183 an ocean going navy tug commanded by Lt. Richard S. Lowry USNR.

    This trick avoided having to tow the floating dry dock around Cape Horn.

    The engineer who floated the wrecks of the USS Oklahoma in Pearl Harbor designed the method to tip a dry dock on its side. It had never been done before, or maybe since.

    • Lee Paris CS2

      I have seen this pic before with a date of August,1950. I cooked on a sea going tug that towed the first unit to Panama from San Diego I think there were 12 units and they came from the Pacific, perhaps Guam. They were all tied together and sunk, lifted and could fit a battleship. The first one was dropped at Balboa, and used as base quarters for the work crew. The wings had machine shops, quarters, a galley, etc.. The second unit was placed on it’s side, pulled through the canal and stationed at Coco Solo as base for the second crew. The third and others were tilted by Balboa and then laid down by Coco Solo and then pulled to Green Cove Springs for Moth Balling. It took about 2 months for each one.

      I spent 2 years at the 15th Naval District and then cooked on the last unit pulled to Green Cove, which was the second unit down, the Coco Solo base. Based on dates and time, the unit pictured has to be the first one that we towed.

  • Hatchett

    I have 5 different excellent 7×9 photos of this drydock at various points in the Miraflores locks that my granddad had (he worked at the locks in that area at that time). I would think the photos might also be in the National Archives too, where many Panama Canal Company photos are.

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