A Travellerspoint blog

June 2013

A taste of the Smithsonian

Exploring the Air and Space Museum and the Natural History Museum in Washington

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The Smithsonian Institute is massive; its nucleus of over a dozen large museums lining the top end of the National Mall in Washington is the largest museum complex in the world. It was founded in 1846 using 105 sacks of gold sovereigns bequeathed "to the United States of America, to found at Washington, under the name of the Smithsonian Institution, an Establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge among men" by British scientist James Smithson who died in 1829.

The Washington Metro arrives to take me to the Smithsonian Institute

The Washington Metro arrives to take me to the Smithsonian Institute


The Smithsonian Castle and Joseph Henry Statue on the National Mall

The Smithsonian Castle and Joseph Henry Statue on the National Mall

Although there was no way I could (or would indeed want!) to explore all of the Smithsonian museums during my few days in Washington the National Air and Space Museum (the most popular of them, averaging 9 million visitors per annum) had always been high on my Washington bucket list.

The entrance to the  National Air and Space Museum

The entrance to the National Air and Space Museum

Excitingly several of the iconic "milestones of flight" are on display the moment you walk in off the National Mall; the Apollo 11 Command Module as recovered from the Pacific after the first manned flight to the Moon in 1969 has pride of place with the Spirit of St Louis in which Charles Lindberg made the first solo transatlantic flight in 1927 hanging from the ceiling above.

The Apollo 11 Command Module (1969)

The Apollo 11 Command Module (1969)


The 'Spirit of St. Louis' - first solo transatlantic flight (1927)

The 'Spirit of St. Louis' - first solo transatlantic flight (1927)


Viking Mars Lander (1976) in the entrance hall of the National Air and Space Museum

Viking Mars Lander (1976) in the entrance hall of the National Air and Space Museum

In my opinion however the jewel of the collection is the Wright Flyer in which Orville and Wilbur Wright made the first manned heavier than air flight near Kitty Hawk in North Carolina on the 17th December 1903 which has been given a gallery of its own. The Apollo Lunar Module also has its own gallery with the module on display being the one used for ground testing; the other 5 that were built are still sat up on the surface of the Moon somewhere!

The 'Wright Flyer' - first manned heavier-than-air flight (1903)

The 'Wright Flyer' - first manned heavier-than-air flight (1903)


Apollo Lunar Module (1972)

Apollo Lunar Module (1972)

About a third of the museum's galleries are devoted to space flight with several other command modules (the only bits that normally come back!) on show including Friendship 7 (1st American in space 1962), Gemini IV (1st American spacewalk 1965) and the Apollo Command Module used for Skylab 4 (1st American space station 1973).

Apollo Command Module from Skylab 4 (1973)

Apollo Command Module from Skylab 4 (1973)

Most of the really big space exhibits are on display in the Space Race Gallery including the backup Skylab Workshop Module (1973) which you can walk through, test vehicles from the US/Soviet Apollo-Soyuz linkup in 1975 and the Hubble Space Telescope (1990). There was also a German V1 Flying Bomb and V2 Missile on display from WWII and from more recent times a Tomahawk Cruise Missile.

The Space Race Gallery at the National Air and Space Museum

The Space Race Gallery at the National Air and Space Museum


Inside the Skylab Orbital Workshop (1973)

Inside the Skylab Orbital Workshop (1973)


Apollo-Soyuz Test Project (1975) with the Hubble Space Telescope (1990) in the corner

Apollo-Soyuz Test Project (1975) with the Hubble Space Telescope (1990) in the corner

On the aviation side there were several galleries containing military aircraft from different periods of history or performing particular roles. There was a gallery of biplanes with a reconstruction of muddy trenches from World War I. There was also a WWI de Havilland DH-4 reconnaissance plane with a box camera being held over its side pointing groundward in the Looking at Earth gallery, it looked very crude alongside the U-2 Spy plane and satellites that were also on display there.

German Fokker D.VII fighter from WWI

German Fokker D.VII fighter from WWI


de Havilland DH-4 observation and photoreconnaissance plane from WWI

de Havilland DH-4 observation and photoreconnaissance plane from WWI


Lockheed U2 spy plane from the Cuban Missile Crisis (1962)

Lockheed U2 spy plane from the Cuban Missile Crisis (1962)

From World War II there was a gallery containing an example of a fighter aircraft and a pilot's uniform from the USA (P-51D Mustang), Britain (Mk. VII Spitfire), Italy (Macchi C.202 Folgore), Japan (Mitsubishi A6M Zero) and Germany (Messerschmitt Bf 109G). There was also a German WWII Messerschmitt Me 262 included as the first operational jet fighter amongst the exhibits in the Jet Aviation gallery.

British Mk. VII Spitfire, Japanese A6M Zero, Italian Macchi C.202 Folgore and American P-51D Mustang in the WWII Aviation Gallery

British Mk. VII Spitfire, Japanese A6M Zero, Italian Macchi C.202 Folgore and American P-51D Mustang in the WWII Aviation Gallery


Japanese Mitsubishi A6M Zero

Japanese Mitsubishi A6M Zero


German Messerschmitt Bf 109G

German Messerschmitt Bf 109G


Messerschmitt Me 262 - the world's first operational fighter jet (1944)

Messerschmitt Me 262 - the world's first operational fighter jet (1944)

Naval Aviation was covered by a separate Sea-Air Operations gallery containing a reconstruction of the bridge of an aircraft carrier (with video filmed aboard the USS Enterprise) and examples of naval aircraft such as the Gruman F4F Wildcat and Douglas SBD-6 Dauntless from the WWII Pacific War and A-4C Skyhawk from Vietnam. The was also a separate gallery for Military Unmanned Aerial Vehicles which included a MQ-1L Predator that had recently flown 196 combat missions over Afghanistan.

Vietnam War Douglas A-4C Kittyhawk and WWII Douglas SBD-6 Dauntless

Vietnam War Douglas A-4C Kittyhawk and WWII Douglas SBD-6 Dauntless


MQ-1L Predator unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV)

MQ-1L Predator unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV)

There was also a large "America by Air" gallery devoted to passenger aircraft down the ages with a 1936 Eastern Airlines Douglas DC-3 hanging centre stage amongst a host of other historic passenger aircraft arrayed in front of the nose of a 1970s Northwest Airlines Boeing 747 which you could also walk through to have a look at the flight deck.

Commercial aircraft in the 'America by Air' gallery

Commercial aircraft in the 'America by Air' gallery

The final couple of galleries covered pioneering aircraft from the inter war years; the bright red Lockheed 5B Vega that Amelia Earhartused in 1932 when she became the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic and then the USA seemed to centre stage however I must admit bearing in mind I was on an around the trip I was particularly interested in the Douglas World Cruiser Chicago which was of two (of four that started) to compete the 1st round the world flight in 1924.

Amelia Earhart's Lockheed 5B Vega in which she became the 1st woman to fly solo across the Atlantic and the USA (1932)

Amelia Earhart's Lockheed 5B Vega in which she became the 1st woman to fly solo across the Atlantic and the USA (1932)


Douglas World Cruiser Chicago which completed the 1st round the world flight in 1924

Douglas World Cruiser Chicago which completed the 1st round the world flight in 1924


Northrop Gamma 2B Polar Star that flew across Antarctica in 1935

Northrop Gamma 2B Polar Star that flew across Antarctica in 1935

I spent a whole afternoon in the Air and Space Museum and know I could have spent a lot longer and there was still plenty more to see. I also managed to squeeze in a brief visit the Smithsonian's Natural History Museum on the north side of the National Mall (7.5 million visitors per annum and the most visited natural history museum in the world) on my final morning in Washington.

The National Museum of Natural History on Constitution Avenue

The National Museum of Natural History on Constitution Avenue

The first exhibition hall I saw inside was the Ocean Hall dominated by a 45 feet (14 metre) long North Atlantic Right Whale hanging overhead. However the exhibit adopted as the symbol of the museum is the massive African Bull Elephant in the Rotunda which was shot by a Hungarian big-game hunter in 1955 and subsequently donated to the museum. Its hide weighed 2 tons and it took a taxidermist 10,000 pounds of clay and 16 months to get ready before it originally went on display in 1959.

North Atlantic Right Whale hanging high above the Ocean Hall

North Atlantic Right Whale hanging high above the Ocean Hall


The African Bull Elephant on display in the Rotunda

The African Bull Elephant on display in the Rotunda

Next up was the Dinosaur Hall with its mounted dinosaur skeletons towering above us and excited school parties. Predictably centre stage were enormous mounted skeletons of a horned Triceratops, long lumbering Diplodocus and the terrifying Tyrannosaurus Rex.

Triceratops skeleton on display in the Dinosaur Hall

Triceratops skeleton on display in the Dinosaur Hall


Diplodocus and Tyrannosaurus Rex skeletons on display in the Dinosaur Hall

Diplodocus and Tyrannosaurus Rex skeletons on display in the Dinosaur Hall

There were several adjacent galleries containing fossils of sea life, plants and mammals but the next one to catch my eye was the one on Ice Age Mammals and Emergence of Man which included large mounted skeletons of a Woolly Mammoth and an Irish Elk. There was also a recreation of a Neanderthal family's burial of young man based on a 70,000-year-old site found in the Regourdou cave in Dordogne, France.

Woolly Mammoth skeleton on display in the Ice Age Hall

Woolly Mammoth skeleton on display in the Ice Age Hall


Irish Elk skeleton on display in the Ice Age Hall

Irish Elk skeleton on display in the Ice Age Hall


Recreation of a Neanderthal Burial in the Ice Age Hall

Recreation of a Neanderthal Burial in the Ice Age Hall

Amongst the galleries upstairs was the Gems and Minerals Hall with rooms full of cases of sparkling minerals and odd shaped meteorites. In pride of place surrounded by a permanent crowd admiring it was the deep blue 45.52-carat (9.10 g) Hope Diamond from India, often referred to as the "most famous diamond in the world" and notorious since it was first discovered in the 17th century for supposedly being cursed.

The Hope Diamond

The Hope Diamond


The Gems and Minerals Hall

The Gems and Minerals Hall


Meteorites in the Gems and Minerals Hall

Meteorites in the Gems and Minerals Hall

Also upstairs there was the Western Cultures Hall containing amongst other things an ancient Egyptian coffin and an ugly looking mummy of a divine bull which when it was alive would have lived like a god in a special pen with a temple's walls. The Natural History Museum had several other galleries devoted to more contemporary wildlife with the Mammals Hall and Insect Zoo particularly popular but unfortunately I had run out of time and needed to move on.

Egyptian Coffin in the Western Cultures Hall

Egyptian Coffin in the Western Cultures Hall


Egyptian Bull Mummy in the Western Cultures Hall

Egyptian Bull Mummy in the Western Cultures Hall

Posted by FrancisRTW 03:00 Archived in USA Tagged buildings planes trains museums washington dinosaurs solo us_east_coast spacecraft Comments (0)

Capitol Hill and the White House

Tours of Capitol Hill and the theatre where President Lincoln was assassinated but only a distant glimpse of the White House

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Tours of public buildings tend to be free in the USA but often have to be booked up a long time ahead (as I found out to my cost when trying to visit the US Mint in Denver). I was chuffed therefore to find only a couple of days beforehand that there was still a tour slot available for the US Capitol during my stay in Washington.

The entrance to the Capitol is via the large underground Visitor Center at the back of the building opened in 2008. Having cleared the airport style security you enter Emancipation Hall dominated by the original plaster model for the bronze Statue of Freedom which stands on top of the Capitol's Dome.

The entrance to the Visitor Center behind the US Capitol

The entrance to the Visitor Center behind the US Capitol


The Statue of Freedom in the Visitor Center's Emancipation Hall

The Statue of Freedom in the Visitor Center's Emancipation Hall

Emancipation Hall is the large central space in the Visitor Center where you pick up your tour passes from one on the information desks situated at either end and then queue for one of the two Orientation Theatres - this place is designed to cope with numbers as politely as possible with lots of volunteer guides on hand offering help. While waiting there is a rather impressive Exhibition Hall with models and exhibits describing the history of the building; there is also looking up a rather unusual and impressive view of the Dome itself.

One of the two Information Desks at either end of Emancipation Hall

One of the two Information Desks at either end of Emancipation Hall


The view of the Capitol Dome through the glass roof of the Visitor Center

The view of the Capitol Dome through the glass roof of the Visitor Center

The Capitol Building and Visitor Center is cluttered with statues as each US state is entitled to donate 2 statues honouring persons notable to their history to the national collection which they can change over time. Twenty four of the 100 statues in the National Statuary Hall Collection are in the Visitor Center.

Jack Swigert (1931-1982) from Colorado's Statue in Emancipation Hall

Jack Swigert (1931-1982) from Colorado's Statue in Emancipation Hall


Chief Washakie (1798-1900) from Wyoming's Statue in Emancipation Hall

Chief Washakie (1798-1900) from Wyoming's Statue in Emancipation Hall


King Kamehameha (1758-1819) from Hawaii's Statue in Emancipation Hall

King Kamehameha (1758-1819) from Hawaii's Statue in Emancipation Hall

The tour itself begins with a short film in one of the Orientation Theatres where you are allocated to a tour group; ours was large containing perhaps 80 people but all linked to the tour guide by a radio earpiece so everyone could hear her. We were then taken into the Rotunda and had its marble painted frescos, friezes, paintings and statues explained to us as we looked up at the inside of the impressive 288 feet (88 metre) high and 96 feet (29 metre) diameter Dome. The Rotunda is where John F Kennedy and ten other US Presidents have lain in state after they died.

Our guide explains the various pieces of artwork around the Rotunda underneath the Capitol's Dome

Our guide explains the various pieces of artwork around the Rotunda underneath the Capitol's Dome


Looking up at the inside of the Dome from the Rotunda

Looking up at the inside of the Dome from the Rotunda


'Baptism of Pocahontas' - one of the 8 large oil paintings depicting events from US History around the bottom walls of the Rotunda

'Baptism of Pocahontas' - one of the 8 large oil paintings depicting events from US History around the bottom walls of the Rotunda


Statues of Presidents Grant and Lincoln beside the POW/MIA Flag in the Rotunda

Statues of Presidents Grant and Lincoln beside the POW/MIA Flag in the Rotunda

Next we entered the semi-circular shaped National Statuary Hall; this where all the state statues were displayed from when they were first inaugurated in 1864 until 1933 by which time the hall had become rather cluttered (the statues were 3 deep!) and their weight threatened to fall through the floor. The statues were instead distributed throughout the building and today only 38 statues remain in the National Statuary Hall itself including Rosa Parkes (Civil Rights Pioneer 1913-2005 who refused to give up her bus seat to a white person) and Ronald Reagan (40th US President 1981-1989).

National Statuary Hall where the House of Representatives sat 1807-1857

National Statuary Hall where the House of Representatives sat 1807-1857


The Statue of Liberty above the south door of National Statuary Hall

The Statue of Liberty above the south door of National Statuary Hall


Rosa Parkes' Statue in National Statuary Hall

Rosa Parkes' Statue in National Statuary Hall


Ronald Reagan's Statue in National Statuary Hall

Ronald Reagan's Statue in National Statuary Hall

National Statuary Hall was originally where the House of Representatives met from when it was completed in 1807 until 1857. It has peculiar acoustics which mean you can't hear someone speaking quite close to you while being able to hear someone whispering on the opposite side of the room - a phenomenon demonstrated to us by our guide. It is rumoured that John Quincy Adams (6th US President 1825-1829) took advantage of this while a congressman 1831-1848.

John Quincy Adams' desk location 1831-1848 - the famed whisper spot

John Quincy Adams' desk location 1831-1848 - the famed whisper spot


Our guide (you can just about make her out in her red uniform) demonstrates the whisper point from across National Statuary Hall

Our guide (you can just about make her out in her red uniform) demonstrates the whisper point from across National Statuary Hall

Our official tour ended with a trip down to the crypt, but not before I managed to get sneak photo through the main backdoor of the Capitol along Capitol Street East with the US Supreme Court on the left and Library of Congress on the right. Down in the crypt we saw amongst the massive columns and arches supporting the Rotunda the White Compass Stone which marks the zero spot from which all of Washington's streets are numbered and where it was originally envisaged that George Washington (1st US President 1789-1797) would eventually be buried.

A sneak photograph out the backdoor of the Capitol along East Capitol Street

A sneak photograph out the backdoor of the Capitol along East Capitol Street


The Compass Stone and Lincoln's Bust in the Capitol's Crypt

The Compass Stone and Lincoln's Bust in the Capitol's Crypt

I then managed to get a pass to the House of Representatives Visitor's Gallery to sit and watch the Senate in session for ten minutes or so discussing the finer points of a new bill concerning the War on Terrorism (Congress was not sitting out of respect for a New Jersey Congressman who had died the previous day). It was then time to move on and I took the underground tunnel to the Library of Congress across the street.

The underground tunnel from the Capitol Building over to the Library of Congress

The underground tunnel from the Capitol Building over to the Library of Congress

The Italian Renaissance-style Library of Congress Jefferson Building directly behind the Capitol was built in 1897 and is the oldest of the four buildings housing the Library. Entry to the building is via its stunning Great Hall which has a 75 foot (23 metres) high stained-glass ceiling, marble floor and marble staircases. Branching off from the Great Hall are several impressive exhibition galleries on such topics as the American Civil War and American Explorers. Although we were only allowed a fleeting glimpse from the Main Reading Room Overlook, the centrepiece of the Building is the Main Reading Room with its ornate domed 160 feet (49 metres) ceiling and wood panelled desks.

Inside the Great Hall of the Library of Congress

Inside the Great Hall of the Library of Congress


View down into the Great Hall of the Library of Congress

View down into the Great Hall of the Library of Congress


The stained-glass ceiling of the Library of Congress' Great Hall

The stained-glass ceiling of the Library of Congress' Great Hall


View across the Great Hall to the entrance to the Main Reading Room Overlook

View across the Great Hall to the entrance to the Main Reading Room Overlook

It was now time for some external shots; the Library of Congress was fine but the US Supreme Court across the road was undergoing refurbishment and cloaked in white sheeting - Sydney Town Hall, Denver Capitol, St Patrick's Cathedral New York... I'm beginning to lose count of the number of landmarks that been obscured by scaffolding while I've been on my trip! At least they had the good sense to put an image of the building on the taupaulin so it wasn't an eyesore while undergoing the restoration work.

Outside the Library of Congress

Outside the Library of Congress


The US Supreme Court

The US Supreme Court


Rear view of the US Capitol

Rear view of the US Capitol

Walking back across the street and around to the west front of the Capitol I got a close up of the classic view of the building where it looks down the National Mall towards the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial. A short distance in front of the Building is the mounted Ulysses S. Grant Memorial (18th US President 1869-1877 and Civil War General) and the Reflecting Pool, again with great views of a very photogenic building.

View of the Capitol from the north west

View of the Capitol from the north west


Front view of the steps leading up to the US Capitol

Front view of the steps leading up to the US Capitol


View of the US Capitol from the path around the Reflecting Pool

View of the US Capitol from the path around the Reflecting Pool


Me sat by the Reflecting Pool outside the US Capitol

Me sat by the Reflecting Pool outside the US Capitol

The White House is 1.2 miles (1.8 kilometres) from the steps of the Capitol on the north side of the National Mall facing the Washington Monument. On the way there I stopped at the National Archives Building on Constitution Avenue and queued to see original copies of the US Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights in its central Rotunda for the Charters of Freedom with an original copy of the British 1297 Magna Carta on display in a case close by. Unfortunately photography inside the building was not allowed.

The National Archives Building on Constitution Avenue

The National Archives Building on Constitution Avenue

Carrying on to the White House, it has been the home of all US Presidents ever since it was completed in 1800 although it needed to be rebuilt after it was burnt down by the British during the War of 1814 (apparently in retaliation for the destruction of some public buildings by American troops in Canada). I had hoped to do a tour of the White House but these had been stopped indefinitely in March 2013 because of staff shortages following the 2013 budget sequestration (a casualty of US brinkmanship party politics!). Even the Visitors Center was closed for refurbishment temporarily replaced by a Portakabin in the Park to the front of the South Lawn.

Crowds by the railings in front of the White House

Crowds by the railings in front of the White House


The White House - home of the US President

The White House - home of the US President


Me by the railings of the South Lawn in front of the White House

Me by the railings of the South Lawn in front of the White House

I did however manage to book a slot to visit the Ford Theatre 5 blocks away which is where Abraham Lincoln was assassinated while watching a performance of the play "Our American Cousin" shortly after the end of the American Civil War in April 1865. It's still a working theatre with a museum in the basement containing Lincoln artifacts such as the gun John Wilkes Booth used to shoot the President and then a trip upstairs to the theatre auditorium to see the Presidential Box beside the stage where the fatal shot was fired.

The Ford Theatre where Abraham Lincoln was assassinated

The Ford Theatre where Abraham Lincoln was assassinated


Glass case containing the gun that killed Abraham Lincoln

Glass case containing the gun that killed Abraham Lincoln


The Presidential Box inside the Ford Theatre where President Lincoln was assassinated

The Presidential Box inside the Ford Theatre where President Lincoln was assassinated

After he was shot President Lincoln was carried across the street to the small back bedroom of the Petersen Boarding House where he died in the early hours of the following morning. As with the theatre itself while the building has been restored to look like it did in 1865 very few of the furnishings are originals. Upstairs their is a museum describing how the assassins were tracked down and hanged and a book shop with an impressive tower of 15,000+ books claiming to contain every book ever written about Abraham Lincoln.

The Petersen House across the road where President Lincoln died

The Petersen House across the road where President Lincoln died


Abraham Lincoln's death bed

Abraham Lincoln's death bed


The tower of 15,000  books written on Abraham Lincoln in the Petersen House

The tower of 15,000+ books written on Abraham Lincoln in the Petersen House

Posted by FrancisRTW 02:00 Archived in USA Tagged buildings tour washington native_american solo us_presidents us_east_coast constitutions Comments (0)

The Jersey Shore after Hurricane Sandy

Punch drunk holiday coast desperately trying to get on its feet again after being hit hard by nature

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New Jersey is best known for the seaside resorts along its Atlantic Coast affectionately known as "the Shore". I'd seen Cape May the Southern Jersey Shore the previous week and it was now time for me to see the northern part of the Shore around Asbury Park and Ocean Grove popular with New Yorkers.

We began our trip to the northern shore with a visit to Ocean Grove which was founded as a summer camp for Methodists in 1869. Preachers and concerts are still held in its famous 6,250 seat Great Auditorium built in 1894 which has an 11,558 pipe organ centre stage, one of the 20 largest pipe organs in the world. A 4,000 foot square foot section of the roof was torn off in a single piece by Hurricane Sandy on 28th October 2012 but miraculously didn't damage any other part of the building or anything around it. The aftermath of Hurricane Sandy on the Jersey Shore was to become a growing theme of our visit.

The statue of Ellwood H Stokes and the Great Auditorium at Ocean Grove

The statue of Ellwood H Stokes and the Great Auditorium at Ocean Grove


Inside the Great Auditorium with its world famous pipe organ centre stage

Inside the Great Auditorium with its world famous pipe organ centre stage

Surrounding the Great Auditorium are 114 historic tents echoing back to when the summer camps first started. Packed away each winter they are re-erected and available for rent May to October - although there is a 10 year waiting list!

Some of the 114 historic tents surrounding the Great Auditorium at Ocean Grove

Some of the 114 historic tents surrounding the Great Auditorium at Ocean Grove


A close up of some of the historic tents surrounding the Great Auditorium

A close up of some of the historic tents surrounding the Great Auditorium

From Ocean Grove we walked over to nearby Asbury Park on the coast; at the northern end of the broadwalk there was a group of sorry looking buildings including an empty fairground carousel and casino. Their derelict condition predated Hurricane Sandy and was due to Asbury Park no longer being able to attract as many vacationers as it use to in its hehday of the 1940s and 1950s.

The Philadelphia Toboggan Company Carousel, Casino and Old Heating Plant at Asbury Park

The Philadelphia Toboggan Company Carousel, Casino and Old Heating Plant at Asbury Park


Close up of the Philadelphia Toboggan Company Carousel

Close up of the Philadelphia Toboggan Company Carousel


The derelict casino at Asbury Park

The derelict casino at Asbury Park

Making our way south along the boardwalk we reached Asbury Park's Grand Arcade and 3,600 seat Convention Hall built in the early 1920s. It was here on the 8th September 1934 that the luxury ocean liner SS Morro Castle came to rest on a sandbar a few yards off the Convention Hall after catching fire returning to New York from Havana, a disaster in which 137 died.

The broadwalk entrance to the Asbury Park Grand Arcade and Convention Hall

The broadwalk entrance to the Asbury Park Grand Arcade and Convention Hall


Inside the Grand Arcade at Asbury Park

Inside the Grand Arcade at Asbury Park


Monument to the victims of the SS Morro Castle disaster in 1934

Monument to the victims of the SS Morro Castle disaster in 1934


The end of the Convention Hall where the disaster happened

The end of the Convention Hall where the disaster happened

Moving on from the Grand Arcade there was a lovely beach and a freshly restored broadwalk after being damaged by Hurricane Sandy. Once known as the "Jewel of the Shore" there was little evidence of the amusement arcades, food outlets and gift shops I had anticipated lining the broadwalk after visiting the Southern Jersey Shore the previous week.

The beach at Asbury Park

The beach at Asbury Park


The broadwalk at Asbury Park

The broadwalk at Asbury Park

While the Southern Shore feels like an endless amusement arcade what Asbury Park is famous for are its music venues and for being the home of a genre of pre-Beatles rock and roll and pre-Motown rhythm and blues music known as Jersey Shore Sound that was in vogue from the late 1960s until the mid 1980s. Examples of major artists of the Jersey Shore Sound are local boy Bruce Springsteen and early music from Jon Bon Jovi. Most famous of Asbury Park's music venues is the unassuming Stone Pony where many of the exponents of the Jersey Sound began their musical careers.

The entrance to the Stone Pony music venue at Asbury Park

The entrance to the Stone Pony music venue at Asbury Park

While there had been evidence of damage by Hurricane Sandy in Ocean Grove and Asbury Park nothing could prepare me for the devastation that greeted us as we drove further south along the coast to Mantoloking which had been especially hard hit. Two dozen oceanfront houses completely disappeared from their foundations during the hurricane and more than 50 others had to be demolished (10% of the housing stock).

Houses damaged by Hurricane Sandy in Mantoloking

Houses damaged by Hurricane Sandy in Mantoloking


Only the ground floor remains of this house in Mantoloking

Only the ground floor remains of this house in Mantoloking


House destroyed by Hurricane Sandy at Mantoloking

House destroyed by Hurricane Sandy at Mantoloking


Only rumble remains of these two houses at Mantoloking

Only rumble remains of these two houses at Mantoloking

There were piles of rubble, security fencing and construction plant everywhere in Mantoloking and in many ways it reminded me of the earthquake redzone in Christchurch I'd seen earlier in my trip. 37 people lost their lives in New Jersey during Hurricane Sandy, having seen the biblical proportions of the damage in Mantoloking the death toll could have easily have been higher if the area had not been evacuated beforehand.

House on wheels following Hurricane Sandy

House on wheels following Hurricane Sandy


Looting checkpoint notice at Mantoloking

Looting checkpoint notice at Mantoloking


Another badly damaged house following Hurricane Sandy

Another badly damaged house following Hurricane Sandy


House on stilts following Hurricane Sandy

House on stilts following Hurricane Sandy

From Mantoloking we carried on south to the seaside resort of Seaside Heights (location for the MTV Show "Jersey Shore" which I can't say I've watched) with its amusement arcade lined broadwalk more akin to those I'd seen in Wildwood further south the previous week. However unlike the South Shore Seaside Heights was badly hit by Hurricane Sandy with much of its Casino Pier collapsing into the sea and currently being rebuilt and its Broadwalk either newly restored or currently being reconstructed after much of the sand underneath it was washed inshore.

The broadwalk at Seaside Heights

The broadwalk at Seaside Heights


Closed broadwalk while Casino Pier is rebuilt at Seaside Heights

Closed broadwalk while Casino Pier is rebuilt at Seaside Heights


Another view of the pier repairs underway at Seaside Heights

Another view of the pier repairs underway at Seaside Heights


Broadwalk repairs underway north of Seaside Heights

Broadwalk repairs underway north of Seaside Heights

Posted by FrancisRTW 02:00 Archived in USA Tagged beaches churches theme_parks natural_disasters us_east_coast Comments (0)

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