Monday, March 23, 2009

Hawaii, Day 5

We awoke very early this day, at 5:30am to go to Pearl Harbor. The USS Arizona memorial is free, popular and historical. We had been warned about long (2.5 hour) waits, so we decided to get up earlier than usual and not risk the long wait. It was usually a battle to stay in bed asleep past 7am anyway - since we still hadn't quite adjusted to the time zone. An hour bus ride later, we arrived to the memorial.

Because of strict regulations, we had to leave almost everything behind in a bag check. Armed with only our wallets and cameras (and silly us, we'd both worn skirts with no pockets), we headed back to the memorial. After a small wait and a quick snack (we'd skipped breakfast), we watched a very informative, slightly depressing film about Pearl Harbor and that day. After the movie/history refresher, we boarded a boat, crewed by actually Naval officers in crisp white uniforms boated us over to the memorial.

Pearl Harbor

The memorial bridge, for lack of a better term, straddles the sunken wreckage of the USS Arizona, who went down and created an underwater tomb for its residents. It's an open air viewport which allows viewing on both sides, as well as a memorial wall that lists every name of the fallen USS Arizona. Nearby are markers for the USS Oklahoma and USS Vestal; and the USS Missouri is anchored nearby, still afloat.

Oil leaks slowly from below, creating rainbow patterns on the water. It's released at a rate of about 1-2 quarts per day (so that's 5,000-10.000 gallons since WWII). When it sank, it had about 1.4 million gallons, some of which burned after the attack. Apparently the ship and Pearl Harbor itself burned for several days post-attack.

As I've found in almost all adventures of visiting historical places, I find that there are always new details that I don't recall from when I originally learned about the event. In the on-site museum that we visited after our term, I learned about the Navy yard tug Hoga. It performed many duties at Pearl Harbor, including assisting the USS Arizona for 76 hours without break. She remained in service for 7 more years before being loaned to the City of Oakland, CA as a fireboat. It is now back in the possession of Pearl Harbor and out of 180 yard and service craft active at Pearl Harbor that particular day, the Hoga is one of three still in existence.

In addition, when the USS Arizona sank, it entombed 900 people, so it is a war grave. This prohibits any recreational diving around the ship, and research divers are not allowed to enter the ship. Any research about the effect of the leaking oil on the environment cannot violate this status either. Any sailor or Marine who was aboard the ship at the time of the attack has the right to be interred (cremated) in the ship. There have been more than twenty interments in so many years.

Wall of Dead

Speaking of that, amongst the other visitors on our particular ship, I could swear that a gentleman who served on the USS California was among us. He looked to be the right age, and other people seemed to treat him with a little extra kid glove treatment.

This trip was well worth the early rising and lack of breakfast. It was beautiful in its tragedy and made me think more about the past as well as the future. I was particularly captivated with the leaking oil from a photographic point of view. It may be harmful environmentally but its beautiful. I'm always a sucker for something rainbow-y and especially when its subject to the randomness and chaos of nature. See for yourself.

Oil & Water

Oil & Water


Oil & Water

Oil & Water

More pictures can be found at my flickr photostream.

After our morning of remembrance, we finally had our afternoon on a sunny beach in Waikiki, Hawaii. Hooray!!

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