Our next stop along the historical tour was the World War II museum in New Orleans. Originally dedicated only to D-Day remembrances, it is currently in the process of expanding -- enormously -- to encompass all of WWII, and much is still under construction.
The high point of the visit was the excellent "4-D" movie, "Beyond All Boundaries," narrated by Tom Hanks. 4-D means non-film effects such as smoke, vibrating seats, flash-bangs, and 3-D objects that mesh with the screen action are part of the experience.
We saw some other WWII exhibits, navigating our way through groups of field-tripping middle school kids with "Class of 13" on the back of their shirts. It struck me how ancient this history must be for them -- they are too young to even remember 9-11.
We saw huge WWII planes hung in a massive gallery. Visitors can walk among them on catwalks, although they warn anyone with a fear of heights to avoid even exiting the elevators, let alone venturing out on the catwalk! I don't have a fear of heights, but there were a couple of times when the vast amount of space to the floor made me cringe just a little. These planes are on the fourth and third floors. Those little tiny dots on the left are people on the ground floor.
We then participated in a recreation of being a crew member on the submarine Tang. The Tang, under the commnand of Lt. Cdr. Richard “Dick” H. O’Kane, sank a record 33 Japanese ships during 5 patrols. Unfortunately, on their fifth (and last patrol before returning home), the last torpedo to be fired boomeranged back and sunk the Tang, killing most on board. Most of those that survived were captured by the Japanese and sent to POW camps.
We were all given identities of real crewmen on that ship, and we were assigned "their" posts on the sub. John and I were John Kanast and Arthur Darienzo, and our post was Hull Opening Indicator Panel. Our job was to open and close the torpedo doors (in reality, to push a button when it flashed). We never knew exactly what the other people were supposed to be doing, but some were turning wheels and dials, some moving a periscope, and some just sort of standing around.
When the simulation was done, you found out if "your" crewman survived or not. Neither of ours did.
Next we were off to a BioBlitz in the bayou! A BioBlitz is a weekend when teams of specialists in all sorts of flora and fauna scour an area to count the number of species they can find. This one was at the Jean Lafitte National Historic Park and Preserve, and was a joint venture with National Geographic. In addition to the teams, the public was invited for food, entertainment, and learning.
This was my second BioBlitz-- I had participated in the 2006 Potomac River Gorge BioBlitz on the Odonata team (dragonflies and damselflies) as a photographer with my friend, Richard Orr. This time my particpation was limited to strolling past booths, talking with artisans, and eating snow cones and crawfish hotdogs (and sampling John's alligator dog).
Here's the group photo from 2006. Yes, I'm in there somewhere:
We had to park at a State Park and use the shuttle to get to the site of the BioBlitz. Did I say shuttle? Hah. It was a school bus. A big, yellow, grumbly, shaky, klunky school bus. It wasn't crowded so we each had a seat to ourselves which was fortunate because the leg room was so tight I had to sit sideways to sardine myself in. Ah the memories! Watching the huge doors creak open and then clambering up step after step as the bus driver's face changes from bored to impatient. Avoiding eye contact as everyone stares while you look for an empty seat that is not next to the kid picking his nose. Stepping in gooey, stringy bubble gum left on the floor, now heated to the consistency of peanut butter. Listening to the air brakes, and trying not to think of it as a "bus fart."
But at least I didn't have to deal with that odd kid, the one with the wild hair and piercing eyes, who kept peering at me over the seat behind me. But then again, maybe I did.