We landed in New York last night – and unfortunately brought the bad weather back with us. But while it wasn’t particularly pleasant to be walking around with a soaked jacket, it did mean that I got a very authentic experience when I went to The Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum this afternoon.
You know how I love going to old buildings and semi closing my eyes to make believe that I’m living there, decades or centuries ago? Well, today the wet weather helped me conjure the same experience aboard the USS Intrepid – putting me in the place of the thousands of men who’d squeezed through the corridors of the vessel as it played key roles in the nation’s biggest battles.
The former aircraft carrier, which was used in World War II and Vietnam, is parked along a pier at 46th Street and 12th Avenue and forms the focus of the museum, which also houses the Space Shuttle Enterprise and a submarine, Growler.
I started at Growler, which was in commission between 1955 and 1964, and which is now the only American strategic missile submarine open to the public. A group of 20 of us inched our way through the tiny corridors, where as many as 100 men would have lived and worked for up to four months at a time. I cannot even begin to imagine how claustrophobic that space would get after so long. Here’s hoping you got on with your co-workers.
Afterwards I headed to the main museum for a short movie about the Intrepid and learned that the huge vessel was launched in 1943 and went on to serve in World War II, Vietnam and later as a recovery ship for the Mercury and Gemini space missions. Notable military men graced her decks, including former presidential hopeful John McCain, and she has one of the most distinguished battle records of any Navy ship – although she also required numerous repairs throughout the years before she was de-commissioned in the 70s.
After the brief intro, I began wandering her decks – first through the engine rooms (which would have been violent spaces filled with sparks and smoke), then on to the sleeping quarters and then out into the drizzle.
There, I headed to the aircraft deck, which was dotted with a collection of planes that served in the wars, before dodging the rain to check out the command centers and captain’s bedroom and offices.
I must have been one of the few people in this section of the ship and it was so eerie. I could hear massive rain drops echoing off the metal walkways and navigated the slim metal rungs on staircases with care, nearly slipping in the puddles. It made the experience so real – giving me the slightest of insights into the grim weather the men could have experienced, as well as the isolation of being at sea in this spooky metal shell. Needless to say, it was so interesting.
Soaked through, I headed to the main concourse of the museum, where I checked out some artifacts and science games. But these failed to keep my attention half as much as the rooms of the ship and the thoughts of the fear and adrenaline the men endured.
Although thoughts of battle really sadden me – and the idea of celebrating or glorifying wars really bothers me – the experience was so interesting, and different from anything I’ve done all year. And while it’s easy to complain about the rain bucketing down today, I really think it added to the experience – and made me realize that us civilians on land don’t know the first thing about the hardships of the weather.