Our visit to Oahu and Pearl Harbor
Saturday 31st March 2018
It was raining in Hawaii when we arrived - and it was definitely on the cooler side of chilly which we were not expecting!
Having left Fiji on Tuesday afternoon (including a short stopover at Christmas Island while they refuelled) we then crossed the international date line and arrived in Hawaii on the same Tuesday morning!
We headed to Waikiki where we had a studio booked for a couple of nights near the beach. We stuffed our faces at the Cheesecake Factory and then walked along the beach and along the main street. This part of Hawaii is quite developed and there's a lot of high end shops and hotels. It's basically a tropical island of America with all its brands but on this little chain of islands in the Pacific.
We headed back for a swim in the rooftop pool and then for an early night as we had two early starts coming up - the first being a trip to Pearl Harbor.
We woke to rain in the dark early morning and trudged our way to the tour bus picking us up. We don't usually do tours as we prefer to do our own thing but you can't just turn up to Pearl Harbor, you need to have tickets in advance and this tour with E Noa gave us the best way to see everything we wanted to.
We headed straight to Pearl Harbor to get the tickets and our hilarious guide "Uncle Cliff" told us some stories about the history of Hawaii and Pearl Harbor and himself as a mixed race Japanese/Czechoslovakian child, describing himself as "czechanese"!
We arrived and dropped our bags off as you cannot take even the smallest bag inside. The actual memorial is on the other side of the water to the Center itself and accessible only by a small ferry. Being there so early meant that the museum was still closed but we bought ponchos and walked around seeing as much as we could of the memorials on this side of the water at the Center in the pouring rain.
We entered the theatre to watch a short film that precedes the boat trip. The actual memorial is laid across the sunken remains of the USS Arizona, where many sailors remain entombed to this day. It was destroyed in a surprise attack by the Japanese on a Sunday morning during the Second World War.
We learnt about why the attack took place and the events leading up to it, how political decisions heightened tensions and how the attack ultimately led to a much stronger involvement in WWII by the Americans.
We then boarded the ferry for the short journey across the water to the memorial. I expected to feel quite moved and for it to be quite eerie and solemn but actually it didn't feel that way to us. It was quite busy but the sunken remains were less recognisable as a ship being up close and it was strangely beautiful with coral growing in it and brightly coloured fish darting around. The boat still leaks oil even now some 70 years later and the rainbow swirls on the surface only add to its haunting beauty.
It's quite unbearable to imagine what this would have been like and for those soldiers who were alive weeks after the attack banging on the ship's walls but rescuers unable to reach them. The list of names inscribed on the end wall is so long and the age of most of these sailors was just so young.
We made our way back to the ferry before getting back on the tour bus to visit the USS Missouri — a retired warship moored next to the sunken Arizona, watching over her.
The USS Missouri has such an interesting history, it's the site of the surrender deck where the Japanese formally surrendered to the allies ending the war in the Pacific and another story which I found fascinating. During the war a Japanese bomber aimed to drop his bomb on the Missouri but he missed and dropped it unexploded over the side while crash landing onto the deck. He died from the injuries sustained in the crash but the sailors aboard the USS Missouri not only gave him a full military burial at sea, they actually sewed a Japanese flag from materials on their boat to drape over his coffin. This act of humanity during a period of war really struck a chord with me and it's small acts of kindness like this shown to one's "enemy" that restores my faith in human kindness even at the toughest of times.
By this point however the rain was really coming down and thunder and lightning was starting so we dashed out and ran for the bus before returning to the Pearl Harbour Center to collect our belongings. As we returned we found out that the boats to the memorial had all been cancelled due to the bad weather and we felt very lucky to have been able to make it. It's somewhere we all wanted to visit and I'm so glad we got the early tour and we're able to do so.
On the way back Cliff drove us past some interesting sites, Hawaii is the only US state to have had a king and queen before it was overthrown and became part of the States. We saw a former palace and heard about why the coup took place. We also visited the National memorial cemetery of the Pacific - a huge area dedicated to service men and women. It was strikingly beautiful and peaceful just from the windows of our tour bus.
We headed back to be dropped off, in the still pouring rain, drenched and deep in thought at all we had learnt. It had been a great tour and one we all learnt so much on, also with much laughter thanks to our funny guide.
As we looked through our pictures of the day we noticed many "faces" appearing in the oil swirls in the water at Pearl Harbor. They are so visible we aren't imagining them and it felt quite spooky to see them. We highly respect anyone who serves in the military as we we've said in previous blogs, Nikki's maternal grandfather served in the British Royal Navy so we always find it interesting to learn about naval service. Pearl Harbor was a shocking and tragic event, like many other atrocities carried out during the war and it's important for the future generations to understand and learn about the history of the countries we visit.
With the dreadful weather continuing we crashed out in preparation for our early morning departure. We were leaving Oahu for Hawaii (known as the Big Island) to continue our adventures there.