Thursday, January 30, 2014

NS Savannah, Baltimore

Saturday was another freezing cold day, with snow still on the ground and an icy wind blustering, so I was glad that today's event was inside, albeit a ship. We were visiting N.S. Savannah in Baltimore which is now a national historic landmark. This was the world's first nuclear powered ship, conceived as a peace ship by President Eisenhower, under his 'Atoms for Peace' program, and successfully proved the feasibility of commercial nuclear ships.
Built in 1962 and running until 1972, this 600ft cargo vessel was named after the historic paddle steamer, P.S. Savannah, the first ship to cross an ocean by steam. N.S. Savannah was built in Camden, N.J. and made trips to major U.S. ports as well as global voyages.
Upon arrival, we all took part in a 20 minute training session and were then let loose on the decks. Apart from a few boy scouts being led around, we had the ship to ourselves and relished the freedom of wandering about unrestrained to take photos. I did notice a few envious looks from the boy scouts who were being herded by their pack leaders, or whatever they're called. We were warned that some of the bulkheads and ceilings contained asbestos plus there was lots of lead paint so we felt right at home as we wandered the galley ways and rooms.
The bar's decor shouted it's 60's influence and it seemed Star Trek played a part too.
I loved this old photo that I found propped up in a room.
Some of the cabins were left in their original condition but most of the bigger rooms had been restored to their former glory, I felt a bit like a rat in a maze as we walked through endless corridors, or I should say passageways, the correct naval term, and round corners and up or down stairs. So many of the areas looked alike and to be honest, if I hadn't been trailing a couple of buddies, I think I would have got lost.
A lot of the cabins had these wonderful screens to block the light from the porthole while lying in bed, and they all had the same lamps, some with shades. It looked like the interior of this ship was pretty trendy in its day.
The barber's shop and some cutlery I found in another room. We noticed that wherever we went, stainless steel ashtrays were fixed to walls or furniture. There's one at the end of the bench in the barber shop image and there were plenty in the corridors and the engine room.
The hospital and a crewmen's mess.
The kitchen was huge and seemed to be up to date with all the modern technology, including the newest invention, the microwave.
The atomic logo was everywhere and it became fun to look out for it.
We zipped back and forth on the different levels and then made our way down to the engine room. I couldn't believe we'd been given the freedom and trust to explore down here, we were in our element.
It was like a maze down here too with pipes running everywhere. I followed the huge propeller shaft to the end of the ship where it ended in black darkness. I freaked out a little as I stood and listened to the water lapping against the hull 15ft above me, then scuttled back to the lighted areas. It was too easy to imagine water gushing through a hole and this room filling up with no easy escape...
The control room, note the floor design.
And then I spotted some stairs tucked behind pipes in a dark corner.There were a lot of dark areas down here.
I climbed up a few flights but bottled out when I realized there were still a couple or more levels up, and I'd have to come back down those steep steps in the dark. I was a long way up, looking down and seeing the viewing gallery below me across the other side made me realize I'd climbed high enough.
We were due to meet upstairs so started heading that way but then found a corridor we'd not explored, so we scurried down there, anxious to see everything.
Here we found the laundry area and a butchers area, complete with a huge fridge area,
You can't tell me that this elevator wasn't Star Trek inspired!
And then we had to finish. There was a swimming pool on board but we knew we couldn't access that, nor the nuclear reactor room, though we had looked for the door. Time had run out yet I would have dearly loved another hour at least to be sure that there weren't any other cool areas I'd missed. But it had been a fun time and an honor to have walked the passageways and sat in the captain's chair on the bridge of such a noble vessel.
It was still freezing outside so nobody wanted to linger and chat. We quickly bundled into cars and went to the nearest bar to chat about our exploration over snacks and beers. The ship's website is here, where there's plenty more information and photos.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Hanging Art and Hanging around Tomes

On Saturday I arrived at the Marlboro Gallery, at Prince George's Community College in Maryland, with some other members of DCUE to hang our photos for an Urban Exploration show. Tom, a member of our group and a teacher at the college managed to get us the space, and we're all excited to see our work on display.
Some had to prepare their pictures for hanging or help others who needed assistance. Scott and I hung the pictures, guided by Tom, and we got them up in no time.
Tom adjusting the lighting so every masterpiece had its own spotlight.
Emily, featured in both of these photos, is not performing some strange stretching ritual movement, but is actually looking at her phone...
 Lewis setting up his iPhone for action, and afterwards he posted a 360 view of the gallery here.
Click on this image to see my photo and to enlarge details of the show. I'll be there on the reception night, please come!
On Sunday, after chatting Saturday during the installation, a few of us decided to visit an abandoned boys school in Maryland, Tomes. I've been here a couple of times before but not for a long time, so was curious to see how the place had held out. It's been closed since 1976 so has been crumbling away at a steady rate. Of course it was yet again a freezing cold day but thankfully with no wind, and my trusty hand warmers in my pockets made a cozy haven for my paws as we hiked through the woods.
There were a number of old houses scattered throughout the woods in which the officers had once resided, and which I'd not been in before. They were all so derelict and destroyed by time and the elements that they gave the impression of only being held up by the trees that had grown beside and inside some of them. It was mentioned that a couple of them looked as thought they'd had starring roles in the Amityville Horror move from 1979, it was definitely believable.
The roof had imploded on this house with the weight of it punching out the floors below down to the basement. Climbing to an advantageous angle to photograph the damage was a little dodgy but decidedly worth it.
After rummaging around some of the houses we headed over to the actual school area and started photographing the bigger buildings.
We all liked the entrance of this one!
The architecture on these structures is beautiful; it always saddens me to see them left to erode away or be pulled apart by vines and creepers.
As we approached the main building the bell tower was looking in a sorrier state than I last remembered, and upon entering we discovered that because its protective covering had been whipped away by winds and rain but never replaced, the damage inside had progressed so far that it was completely unsafe to climb up to the top as I had done on my first visit.
The beautiful marble staircases in the Directors Hall had lost a lot of their charm from when I remembered seeing them last, there was a lot more damage than previously, more piles of fallen plaster, and the huge hallway was almost in complete darkness with all the doors and windows boarded up, except for one.
The auditorium had suffered more damage too with the ceiling nearly fully collapsed and a gaping hole in the wall where a window had once been.
As the sun started to droop in the sky it cast some wonderful shadows within the building but we were also aware of the temperature dropping. It was freezing and damp inside this building with nearly all the doors and windows boarded up. We started packing our tripods away and climbed out to enjoy the last warm rays of the sun.
We got back to the car as the orange light turned to the grey of approaching dusk and gratefully huddled in the warmth of the car's heater. It was a long journey home for me and I was glad to fall in to bed with two little warm feline bodies to snuggle up against.