Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Hawaii, Oahu Day 2 - Pearl Harbor Exhibits

We woke up fairly early, had cereal at the hotel for breakfast, then headed out to the Pearl Harbor area for a nice long day of history. We knew that this would be one of the highlights of our trip, because we both really enjoy historical sites like this (we also really enjoy history museums, Alcatraz, etc.). We arrived at about 8:15 on a Friday morning and promptly picked up our (free) tickets for the 9:20 boat ride to the Arizona Memorial, the earliest available time. We spent an hour checking out some of the cool artifacts around the waiting area, including a vast collection of historic torpedos over the ages:

Japanese Manned Suicide Torpedo
The husband showing off his guns!
I had been to the Arizona once before, on a choir trip to Hawaii in High School, but the husband had never been. It is sobering to think that these servicemen went from relaxing on their ship during peacetime to entombed in a sunken ship due to a horrific act of war - all in a matter of 9 minutes. The memorial is beautifully done, run incredibly efficiently by our military. You don't spend all that much time on the memorial itself, but that isn't necessary. The memorial visit is a time to reflect and remember; all the displays and sites back at the dock are where you want to spend your time taking pictures and learning more details. Here are some pictures we did take at the memorial
Me in front of one of the turrets visible above water
Husband, with USS Missouri in background
The memorial wall

I love symbolic flag pictures - this is a good one.
Alright, now down to the really good stuff: Folks, you can't go to Oahu and do the Arizona Memorial and then leave. You MUST go to at least the other two main attractions at the Pearl Harbor Historical exhibit: The USS Bowfin Submarine and the USS Missouri Battleship. Yes, they cost money where the Arizona is free. However, these sites offer so much insight into the lives of soldiers/sailors during WWII that it is completely worth the time and money to devote your day to these sites. Do not miss out! The Bowfin will have you climbing up and down fairly steep staircases and through porthole style doors, so if you are claustrophobic or have some difficulty moving around in tight spaces, the Bowfin may not be for you. But otherwise, man is this a fun little tour. They give you a headset to guide you through each area (similar to Alcatraz) and explain each little room of the sub in detail while giving you an account of life on the sub during its very active war history. I found it just as fascinating now as I did when I went on this tour in High School (I was one of the few in our group who paid the extra for this, the Missouri wasn't even an option back then):
Torpedo readying room
Sub kitchen
Mess Room
Husband, on the sub, viewing an active duty sub being brought up on the other side of the base - one of the coolest things we saw on the entire trip. Pearl Harbor is an ACTIVE Naval Base, people!
After the Bowfin Tour, we ate some hot dogs (Yes, family members reading this, that IS very funny) before headed out to the bus stop to drive over to Ford Island and the USS Missouri dock. The first thing you realize upon stepping off the bus is that this is a really big boat. I know, this makes me sound like a simpleton, but it really takes your breath away, and this is "just" a battleship, not even a "floating city" Aircraft Carrier. I knew that the Missouri is where the paperwork was signed to end the fighting in the Pacific for WWII. I didn't realize that the ship had been recommissioned for a short time during Operation Desert Shield and was in service as recently as 1992. I have an interest in modern military life due to my work (advertising to reach the military), and so I was thrilled that I was able to get a sense of life on a ship that was used so recently. I'm a military dork, what can I say? One thing I noticed was that while we were on the lower levels of the ship, I got a little bit of a vertigo feeling even with the ship just very gently swaying. Without windows or a horizon, it was a little disorienting. I can't imagine what it would be like if you were prone to motion sickness, which I am not, usually. The best part of this tour was the guides who were positioned throughout the ship to answer questions. They were so informative and obviously passionate about their work. One little visitor from Australia (about 6 years old) tailed one of these guides so closely that he kept running into him if the guide turned around quickly. Kids about 6-10 years old would LOVE both the paid tours. This tour, more than the others, made me want to call my dad and ask him more questions about his time in the Navy. He served in Vietnam and was on a ship that was sheared in half by a collision with another during manuevers. After being on this ship, the realization of how terrifying that night must have been for him becomes even more real to me.
Approaching the Mighty Mo'
One of the dorm areas
The chiefs mugs
This is a big boat!
We could have spent much more time on the Missouri, but the husband was getting hungry for what he was calling "real lunch" and so, at about 3:00, we headed back to Waikiki. We split a California Pizza Kitchen pizza because by this point, we knew we were going to dinner with our friend Jeff and so didn't want to spoil that by eating somewhere we didn't know or getting too large a portion. Jeff took us to Colony inside the Hyatt, which was a very short walk from our hotel and his apartment. We had a great time catching up with a longtime friend of the husband's, and the food was quite good. I didn't get a picture of my Hot Rocks Ahi, which was sashimi grade ahi served with a scorching hot rock that you put your ahi on to sear it to your liking. Yum, I love Ahi! Here are some of our other flavors of that night:
Filet Mignon, medium rare
Trio of potatoes - Molokai Sweet, Okinawa Purple, and Idaho Russet

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