Honolulu, on the island of Oahu, was not our first port of call in Hawaii, but it's where I thought I'd start my commentary on our visit. It's a good choice because, if for no other reason, the weather was good (we learned too late that the reason we got such a good deal on the cruise was that it's the rainy season in Hawaii!).
This was my first visit to Hawaii, and I'd always wanted to see Pearl Harbor and the related historical sites. Here's a Bilbo's-Eye view of just a few of the things we saw ...
First stop was the national monument that encompasses several major memorials ...
The visit to the USS Arizona Memorial is a three-step process. First of all, there's a short film about the attack on Pearl Harbor, beautifully and hauntingly narrated by Jamie Lee Curtis. From the theater, one goes out to the dock to board a Navy launch with a uniformed Navy crew for the short trip out to the memorial itself. This picture was actually shot after we left the memorial, but was the best one I got because I was seated in the extreme rear of the launch as we departed.
This diagram shows how the beautiful white memorial spans the wreck of the Arizona, much of which can be seen under the clear waters of the harbor.
According to the "Legend of the Arizona," the ship cries black tears for those who died in the attack ... the "black tears" are the oil which leaks from the ship's tanks at the rate of about five quarts per day. According to the legend, the ship will continue to "cry" until the last survivor passes away; however, since there are five known survivors of the Arizona still remaining, and about a half-million gallons of oil still in the ship's bunkers, it will probably continue to "cry" for a very long time.
1,177 Sailors, Marines, and Airmen were killed outright when the Arizona exploded, and most remain entombed in the wreck. The shrine wall in the memorial lists all their names.
Over the years, many survivors of the attack requested to be buried with their shipmates when they passed away. Their cremated remains are placed in urns, which are placed into the wreck in a solemn ceremony, and their names have been added to the shrine.
The USS Oklahoma memorial is another interesting and moving memorial. The battleship Oklahoma was also sunk at Pearl Harbor, but the wreck was raised to recover the bodies of the crew and to salvage as much of the ship's equipment and weaponry as possible. The Oklahoma was sold to a California salvage company for scrap, and sank at sea while being towed to Oakland, California in 1947. The memorial at Pearl Harbor consists of more than 400 white marble pillars arranged in rows, each inscribed with the name of a crew member who died ... the design represents the way in which a ship's crew dons their dress whites and lines the decks when a ship sails into harbor ...
I was also able to visit and tour the battleship Missouri, which is moored at Pearl Harbor and serves as a museum. The ship is vast, and I was glad that the self-guided tour route was clearly marked - otherwise I'd probably still be there, trying to find my way out. The most interesting spot on the ship was this plaque embedded in what's known as the "Surrender Deck" - it marks the spot on which the Japanese surrendered to the allied forces to formally end the Second World War.
Another ship that's open to visit was the World War II era submarine Bowfin ... a very interesting display that is NOT for the claustrophobic.
There were other locations we visited in the full-day tour, one of which was the Pacific Aviation Museum.
It was interesting and well laid-out, but a bit of a letdown for those of us who have regular access to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum and its Udvar-Hazy Annex here in the nation's capital. One of the most interesting displays was a Japanese "Zero" fighter, displayed with the markings of the force that attacked Pearl Harbor.
And that was our whirlwind visit to Honolulu, a place we definitely want to visit again ... although the traffic is hideous. I think we'll just surf from place to place.
Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow, when we visit the actual island of Hawaii and see real volcanoes.