The Banks - Half a World Away travel blog

75 years - and still the oil leaks out


Land Ho !

While we were still sleeping the ship sailed into the harbour at Honolulu in Hawaii.

The day dawned beautiful, as you would imagine it to be; however we soon learned that the weather in Hawaii is very changeable – it can rain 4 times in a day, and I do mean RAIN, not a bit of mizzle; however in between the sun comes out and it is so warm that a bit of damp does not matter too much.

Our excursion today was mainly to Pearl Harbour; however it started off with what had been billed as a “city tour” but could easily have been billed as “sitting in traffic” – again.

There are 1 and a half million people living in Honolulu, and around 900,000 cars. Petrol is ludicrously cheap ($2.10 a gallon? 33-34p per litre), so everyone drives – or tries to drive everywhere. However, Honolulu is also small, and we eventually drive out of the town via scenic viewpoints and the National Memorial Cemetery to Pearl Harbour which is on the other side of the island.

I have seen the relevant films. I know all the statistics about how many battleships were involved (21 were present, of which 7 were sunk and most others damaged). But my overriding impression from the day was how SMALL it seems, to have ever had parked in it even half of those ships when The Attack happened.

On our trip to Nagasaki, they were very keen to show us what it is like now, and talk about its older history as well as its Big Event – to put it in context, if you like. Pearl Harbour is 100% about That Day and nothing else. Not only was there little context, but what there was, was one-sided in the extreme. We refrained from buying any, but there were t-shirts, mugs and numerous other souvenirs all proudly proclaiming that Pearl Harbour is where “World War II Began and Ended”……..there is no point expecting them to acknowledge that elsewhere in the world the war had already been going on for over 2 years by the time of Pearl Harbour, or that elsewhere we proclaimed VE day 4 months before they think “the war” finished……did these other events involve the US ?

No – so they did not happen. Or, we don’t care if they happened or not, they are not interesting or important.

The Memorial Centre is run by the US navy/military with military precision. Most of the battleships that were sunk were salvaged and back in service surprisingly quickly, but the Arizona hull remains where she sank, as a mainly sunken wreck, with over 900 sailors who were never recovered. They have built a cleverly designed open-sided Memorial across the wreck, and one travels out to this by (open sided) shuttle boat.

You can see where I am going with this. As we came out of the pre-shuttle film presentation, it was starting to rain heavily. It continued to rain heavily while we queued to board, throughout the 5 minute journey across the harbour, and for a further 5 minutes after. Last summer we went on the Ulverston Steamers on just such a day and got SOAKED. Today also we go soaked – but in Hawaii, you have a much higher chance of drying off afterwards than in Pooley Bridge.

Strangest of all is to see the oil on the water still leaking from the wreck 75 years after she went down.

We arrived back at our ship in mid-afternoon, and as we were not sailing until 9pm, we went and explored the “downtown” area of Honolulu itself. It was wet – spotting a theme yet ? We also managed to do some “souvenir shopping”, and got “on-line” with the free wi-fi.

We also saw the most awesome escalator, a recurring theme of this holiday. In the supermarket, the people go up and down the usual kind of escalator, but the trolleys have their own separate escalators which they travel on by themselves. Yes, we took photographs.

Finally, we sat by the harbour in the setting sun taking in the views until nearly 7pm . Others, we found later, had taken the bus to Waikiki Beach in the afternoon, in order to have cocktails on a hotel terrace overlooking the iconic view – but were devastated to find they were ludicrously expensive. Sadly, by the time we left Honolulu, it was after 9pm and totally dark, so although we undoubtedly sailed within a short distance off-shore from the famous beach, we cannot say that we saw it.



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