The first of this week’s photo challenges is Ancient from Ailsa of Where’s My Backpack? If you look back through some of my previous blogs, you’ll see I’m lucky enough to have been to many Ancient places. Yet exactly what qualifies as Ancient is a matter of perspective. In fact, many consider events of the early 20th Century as already being Ancient history.
Even so, the story of what happened to the USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor remains all too familiar. At just after 8 o’clock on the morning of December 7th, 1941, a Japanese bomb pierced her forward ammunition magazines. The violent explosion that followed lifted the bow of the Arizona out of the water. Literally. The front part of the ship was utterly destroyed and 1177 members of her crew were killed.
I visited Pearl Harbor and the Arizona Memorial last December, a week after the 72nd anniversary of the attack. From inside the Memorial itself, I looked down on the wreck of a once proud battleship, through a Frame (this week’s word from Sue of A Word in Your Ear) in the structure’s floor.
There, in a Twilight Zone just below the surface, lies the slowly rusting hulk of the Abandoned leviathan. (Twilight Zone and Abandoned are today’s Daily Prompt and the Weekly Photo Challenge from the Daily Post).
Below is the story of my visit to this iconic monument:
For those that don’t realise, the USS Arizona Memorial can only be reached by boat. And with over 1½ million people visiting Pearl Harbor each year, it’s unsurprising that access to the actual Memorial has to be strictly regulated. (So reserve your tickets as early as possible in advance at the National Park Service website.)
We’d originally booked places on the 1:00 pm boat over to the Memorial. Even so, we arrived at the National Park just before 8:00 in the morning, to pick up our tickets (for the human members of our party, that is) and get an early start on exploring the rest of the site. At the ticket counter we were offered places on the 9.30 transport out to the Memorial, which, in hindsight, was an amazing stroke of luck.
Not long after we arrived, the heavens opened. Torrential rain poured from the sky, partially obscuring our view of the Arizona Memorial and the nearby USS Missouri. We waited nervously, as thunder rumbled in the distance and the occasional flash of lightning lit up the darkening morning. I know we all breathed a sigh of relief when our turn came to board the launch and we set off across the channel towards Ford Island.
It was a sombre Journey, walking down the gangplank from the launch onto the floating jetty, and then across the bridge to the monument proper.
The Memorial is like a bridge itself, straddling, but not touching, the ship that lies in state beneath it. Despite the gloomy, leaden skies above, the white walls of the structure actually meant it was relatively bright within. Beneath the Memorial, and on either side of it, the Arizona rests where she sank.
Before the events of December 7th, 1941, the USS Arizona was a floating city with a crew of 1512. Since that day, she’s been a tomb for 1102 of them.
Unsurprisingly, my visit to the Arizona Memorial conjured up the same feelings I experienced on Remembrance Day at the World War I trenches of Vimy Ridge in France and the 9/11 Memorial in New York City. Gazing down on the deck of the ship, just inches below the surface, I felt unbidden tears welling up in my eyes.
Speaking of tears, I’ve heard the oil that continues to slowly leak from the ship poetically called the tears of the Arizona. But to me it was more like watching her lifeblood, still gently drifting away, 72 years after she was mortally wounded. It’s a beautiful but heartbreaking sight.
And far from spoiling our visit to the Memorial, I found the torrential rain oddly fitting. It added a sombreness to the occasion, which I can’t help but feel would have been missing in bright sunshine.
The rain continued to fall as we returned to shore, where we resumed our exploration of the rest of Pearl Harbor (see Part 2 of my Pearl Harbor visit: Pearl Harbor Historic Sights). Around 11:00 am the weather was deemed so bad, trips out to the Arizona Memorial were abandoned for the rest day. Making us doubly glad we’d made it onto the 9:30 boat.
And if that’s not enough for you, there are now three Jaspa’s Journey novels to enjoy as ebooks! Perfect for Kids 8 – 80!