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» Wednesday, October 24, 2012Over Water, Under Water
The usual ablutions this morning along with breakfast, and just in case, I ate cheese. I hate cheese, but some things just have to be done.
Schuyler kept kissing as we left the room. I always feel guilty when she does that. Since the television in the "living room" shuts itself off once an hour for no reason (I checked it the first time it happened, since it acts like a sleep timer, but the sleep timer is off), I have been leaving her in our bedroom where the television stays on. I guess she is lonesome for Willow.
This morning we were off to Norfolk to visit Nauticus, which is where the USS Wisconsin, Iowa-class battleship, is berthed. (It is mostly an inside display, and this was supposed to be the warmest day this week, so we figured it would be a good day for it.) It is a neat combination of history museum (part of it is the Hampton Roads Military Museum) and display devoted to the history, commerce, and ecology of the area, three stories, with the downstairs devoted to a gift shop and a cafe. Parking, we learned only once we drove on the grounds, is across the street, but we soon had that sorted out and were back inside.
You take a moving ramp upward past newsreel footage of Norfolk to begin the tour on the third floor and work your way down through numerous displays. One is about the port of Norfolk itself and how much cargo goes through the area each year, another is a salute to the unsung hero of the port, the tugboat. Another exhibit showed you the daily life of a sailor over the years, and essential parts of a ship. My favorite part of the display was about the Jamestown Exposition in 1907, celebrating the 300th anniversary of the landing in Virginia. The display opens with a beautiful wooden figurehead that was eventually to be a ships' tradition no more with the arrival of "the Steel Navy." After some exhibits about sailing life in 1907, the displays segues into memorabilia from the exposition, a World's Fair type exhibition with fair rides, contributions from other countries, daredevil stunts and animal acts, and more. It was after this event that "the Great White Fleet" made its world tour, and memorabilia given to the fleet from Australia, Japan, and other countries is also shown, including a huge moose head resulting from one of Theodore Roosevelt's hunting expeditions. The animal weighed nearly a ton!
Other exhibits had to do with the Wisconsin and ships in general, with some nifty World War I and II posters, plus exhibits having to do with NOAA and undersea exploration.
There is also a small exhibit about the sea itself, with small aquarium tanks of fish. One holds a huge green moray eel. Another had mixed tropical fish, and we found Nemo several times. An attendant pointed out a tiny eel and also a puffer fish that didn't look well. A second puffer fish looked like a puffy pickle, up to the point of being pale green. They had horseshoe crabs in a shallow pool, and also some small sharks in a tank, not much bigger than catfish. We said no to petting them, though. :-)
By the time we finished the third floor, it was lunchtime, so we went down to the cafe and had a sandwich each. At that time I reminded James there was a boat tour here as well as the one we wanted to take out of Hampton. We had not bought our tickets earlier, so we went back to the lobby and did so, discovering we would have to go down to the boarding area almost immediately. This meant we would probably not be able to explore Wisconsin, but then we could only take a "topside" tour anyway, since the tour of the interior was additional. However, the second floor area was smaller and we could finish that after the tour.
The dock where the ship "Victory Rover" sits is of particular interest. It is a memorial for those who have served and died in the military, represented by letters written home by soldiers just before they were killed, starting with Revolutionary War correspondence all the way through Desert Storm. The words written have been engraved onto thin metal plates which have been then "scattered" over the dock as if they were blown by the wind and then fastened in place. We walked from letter to letter reading most of them, including one from a young woman during the Revolutionary War who was posing as a man.
Soon it was boarding time and we went to the upper deck, under the sailcloth to have a modicum of shade. There was an enclosed cabin down below, but on a beautiful day like today, who would want to be inside?
The tour at first makes a circle around the area near the ship's berth. There are several Navy ships in drydock nearby (waves at General Dynamics), and also a paddle-wheel boat which acts as a ferry between Norfolk and Portsmouth across the river. We are technically on the Elizabeth River, which is part of the Intracoastal Waterway which runs down the Atlantic coast all the way down to Florida and beyond. The guide pointed out notable buildings, including the original Norfolk Naval Hospital, the piers for cruise ships, and new construction.
Then we headed toward the Naval base. On the way we passed container ship loading areas, one the largest in the world. One container ship came downriver as we chugged up, filled with multicolor containers so that it looked like a giant storage box of Lego bricks! There is a coal stoking station with two big tipples of coal that can service one huge ship or one tipple for one ship. One of the ships being coaled was called "d'Amico" and I wondered if it is Italian. A flock of little sailboats proved to be the sailing club at Old Dominion University. Little tugboats and cabin cruisers skittered about. One cabin cruiser crew took photos of us, so I took a picture of them.
Finally we were at the Norfolk Naval Base, cruising past the warships in dock, including the huge Abraham Lincoln, in port to get her nuclear fuel renewed, and several ships of the "Arleigh Burke" class, trim new vessels with clean lines. Of note were the San Antonio-class LPDs, which can be recognized by the big six-sided "pyramid" structures on their decks. There were also civilian ships that are painted in red-white-and-blue markings on their stacks signifying that they are doing work for the government. There was one ship called the "Cape May" that I noticed because of Emma. This was a cargo carrier.
We cruised to the end of the Naval Base property then turned around and returned to port. The entire Navy pier complex was then on our left and I made a nice film of our cruise by it. And then, just as we passed the warships, some dark shapes began leaping out of the water at the port side of the boat. Dolphins! It was a pod of at least five dolphins! I never got any photos, but we did see them frolicking in front of the boat!
When we got back we had just enough time to circle the second floor quickly to see the history of the Hampton Roads area, from before the Revolutionary War—ah, there's Lord Dunmore again!—to modern day. There were more pieces of memorabilia from the Jamestown Exposition; wish there was a book about that!
We even had about eight minutes to go out to the deck of Wisconsin, just to say we'd been aboard. Peeked into the wardroom, and it looks a lot like USS Salem anyway. :-) A much larger ship, however, and this one, since it was used at the beginning of the Iraq War, has a cell phone tower at the top of its tallest mast! We chatted a bit with the docents, then walked through the Wisconsin exhibit. Finally took the elevator down to the gift shop, bought a few magnets for the fridge and a T-shirt for James and two postcards (only of the Wisconsin, none of the museum!).
This morning the GPS had routed us through, despite the fact the freeway was clear, side roads once we got across the bridge to the Virginia Beach/Norfolk area. We had passed through some very nice, but inexplicably on our route neighborhoods. Well, it routed us back that way as well, even though the freeway was pretty much clear. (What passes for rush hour around here, as far as I can see, would just be regular traffic in Atlanta.) Soon we were back at Staybridge, and since the "Sundowner" meal tonight was hamburgers, we just ate here.
I hoped we could go out a little tonight, so we weren't stuck in the room again, but James was sneezing and changed his clothes immediately. Instead we watched Big Bang Theory and "The Magic of Snowy Owls" on Nature.