Sunday, May 3, 2009

Independence Seaport Museum

On Sunday, Kim and I went to the Independence Seaport Museum at Penn's Landing. We went to the museum primarily to see the new exhibit, "Tattoos in the Life of the American Sailor," that I had read about online. The exhibit was interesting, but not what I had expected. I thought there would be more photographs or even tanned pieces of human skins like that have at the Mutter Museum. Our favorite part of the exhibit was interactive tattooing station, where the image of a tattoo was projected on your arm.

Most of the other displays at the museum were only marginally interesting, with many of the interactive stations out-of-order. The first thing Kim and I noticed when we entered the ship-building workshop was how good it smelled inside. It smelled like newly mowed grass and fresh sawdust. Even better, This American Life was being played as we walked in. By far the best part of the museum was touring the two ships that they had opened for public: the USS Becuna and the USS Olympia. We visited the Becuna first, which is a submarine that operated during WWII. The most amazing thing about the Becuna was how narrow all the rooms, halls and accommodations were. I just could not imagine spending months at sea and being hundreds of feet underwater. This is the one bathroom shared by the entire crew of 67 non-officer crewmembers:

Next, we went onboard the USS Olympia is the last floating ship remaining from the Spanish-American War. She was the flagship for the Asiatic fleet while in service and is the third oldest floating ship, following the USS Constitution and Constellation and is the oldest Steel ship still afloat. In contrast, to cramped and stark Becuna, the Olympia was expansive, with very generous officer rooms. This should be expected since it was the lead ship in the Pacific fleet and hosted many of the highest officers of the US Navy. This was the Captain's quarters:

Although the Olympia is in need of repairs, $30 Millions worth according to a preservation society, the ship still has a lot of charm and best of all many of it's cannons still in place.

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