Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Yesterday a friend and I visited Philadelphia and saw the Cleopatra exhibit at the Franklin Institute (museum) and then toured USS Olympia (white cruiser) and USS Becuna (black submarine) at Penns Landing. For those who have an interest in Egyptian history and art I would highly recommend the Cleopatra exhibit. As for the Olympia, it is a potentially sad tale. The Olympia was Commodore Dewey's flagship at the Battle of Manila Bay in 1898 during the Spanish American War. That war was the coming out of the United States on the world stage and set the pattern for our emergence as a great power during the next century and beyond. Olympia represents that war and that turning point in U.S. history. However, it is threatened by the twin scourges of disinterest and neglect by the American public. It badly requires a major overhaul to the tune of $30 million, otherwise it may be necessary to dispose of the great ship. It may even be towed out to sea and sunk as an artificial reef. I am saddened by that possibility and hope it does not come to pass. I wanted to be sure that I strode her decks before such a fate might catch up with her. Looking at the fine paneling that makes the ship's interior look more like a yacht than a warship and walking the berthing and working spaces where hundreds of seamen had lived and labored was a joy to an old sailor like myself. She is the oldest steel warship still in existence in the world. I would really hate to see this symbol of America's heritage meet such an ignominious fate as being scuttled as a home for the fishes.