Our last morning in New York dawned overcast, gray, and cold. Our plane didn't leave until 6 p.m., so we checked out of our room and stored the luggage with the hotel for later retrieval. Even though the weather wasn't very pleasant, we were going to spend our last hours seeing the aircraft carrier USS Intrepid, a floating museum docked at midtown on the Hudson.
We'd seen the bow of the ship, complete with the new space shuttle pavilion, when our Circle Line cruise left its dock next door on the day of our arrival in New York. It seemed somehow fitting that on our departure day, we saw her again from the stern. The ship's gray paint blended somberly into the background of the gray skies.
After buying our tickets, we took an elevator up to the main deck and stepped out onto several football fields of steel plate. Immediately in front of us, we noticed a short line of people on their way down into the USS Growler, the 1950s-era submarine that is part of the museum. It seemed clear to me that this was a potential bottleneck area, so we decided to tour the submarine first.
The Growler patrolled the Pacific between 1958 and 1964. She was one of the early submarines carrying Regulus I cruise missiles armed with nuclear warheads. In the space of only a few years, these diesel-powered vessels were obsoleted by nuclear-powered Polaris subs which could launch ballistic missiles while submerged.
Here's a nice stolen pic of the submarine nestled alongside the carrier, taken from an angle I couldn't quite reach.
We'd toured an old submarine once before, a Russian sub on permanent display in Victoria, B.C. I couldn't help imagining all the men living and working in such close quarters, and not being able to even see the outside, much less go there. I'm not claustrophobic normally, but the idea of being stuck in a metal tube for months at a time made me squeamish.
The space shuttle Enterprise is now permanently housed in a special pavilion built on the foredeck of the Intrepid. Lemme tell you, this thing is BIG. Try as we might, even with Mike's wide-angle lens we couldn't get enough distance inside the pavilion to get a nose-to-tail shot. It was disappointing that we couldn't see the inside, but still worth a viewing nonetheless.
I was surprised to learn that the Enterprise was not a "real" shuttle, but only a prototype used in atmospheric approach-and-landing test flights, launched from the back of a 747. The true shuttle space flights were all flown by her five sister ships.
All that was left was to explore the Intrepid herself. Below decks were a number of historical artifacts, and a couple of "rides". I was tempted to take on the GForce Encounter, which simulates the experience of flying a supersonic jet; but ultimately my good sense (and my inner ear) convinced me against it.
The Intrepid saw significant action in the Pacific in 1943-44, including kamikaze attacks. The model at left shows her initial gray paint job at her launch, while the one at right illustrates a camouflage pattern known as "Dazzle Paint", which she wore after damage repairs in 1944.
To the left, a quad mount of 40mm machine guns which fired 160 rounds per minute with a range of 2500 yards. By the end of WWII the Intrepid had sixty of these guns.
At right, a long-range anti-aircraft gun which fired shells that exploded in the middle of enemy aircraft formations without requiring a direct hit. During the war the ship had twelve such guns.
The ship's anchor chain links were as thick as Mike's arm!
The Lockheed Blackbird at left was an intelligence-gathering plane used for CIA surveillance missions until 1968. It could fly over three times the speed of sound.
At right is a British Airways Concorde, which first flew in 1976. The Concorde could cross the Atlantic in under three hours, flying at 1350 mph at an altitude of 60,000 feet -- high enough for its passengers to see the curvature of the earth. Wish I could have done THAT!
Our time in New York was over. We'd had a great visit, and as we returned to our hotel to collect our luggage, I took a couple of final snaps of a very gray and dreary Times Square.
Then it was a long, commute-hour cab ride to JFK in the company of a rather talkative (and herky-jerky) driver with an Eastern-bloc accent. Service jobs in NYC are the very essence of the melting pot.
Finally, we boarded our JetBlue flight for home, tired but happy with great memories of the east coast. I can't wait to do it again.