Monday, August 10, 2009

Aboard the U.S.S. Hornet

My German friend's California visit ends later this week, so this was probably the last excursion together for this trip. Now I have to get back to real life and prepare for a trip of my own.

In Alameda, California, there is a World War II era aircraft carrier that has been turned into a museum. As one guest book comment earlier yesterday observed, "Don't wear heels." They have a good portion of the ship open to the public, with different levels accessible by the original, steep ladders.

We may not have explored every corner of the ship, but we arrived at around 10:30 and we left at about 4:30. After walking around the flight deck, we took a docent-led tour up into the "island," the ship's control tower and navigation unit. Visitors, especially the smaller ones, are invited to sit in the captain's chair. There's an excellent view from up there, one I was not tall enough to see without climbing up.

Most of the ship, though, is below the flight deck. The other docent-led tour was down into the engine room, and it also included such spaces as the galley and the brig. (A detachment of Marines aboard the ship controlled access to munitions stores and saw to it that time spent in the brig was unpleasant.) Some parts of the lower levels are open to visitors, including rooms full of the "racks" and small lockers that served as quarters for most of the enlisted men aboard.

The hangar bay and flight deck also serve as an aeronautical and aerospace museum. The U.S.S. Hornet was the ship that recovered a couple of the Apollo 11 and Apollo 12 capsules, and the capsules and the quarantine trailer (a converted Airstream that was state-of-the-art in its day) are among the items displayed in the large hangar bay that forms the main level of the museum.

When we first began to plan the day, we were thinking in terms of something that involved less walking, since the trips to Sacramento on Friday and San Francisco on Saturday involved quite a lot of walking. We certainly missed on that count, but I'm glad we saw the ship. It's certainly not a run-of-the-mill museum, and we'll both have plenty of time when we're not together to rest our feet.


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