February 11, 2001
At 0800 Central Standard Time, the Training Ship Empire State was located at Bienville Street Wharf, New Orleans, Louisiana and taking various services from the pier. The air temperature was 55 degrees Fahrenheit; skies mostly cloudy; winds were from the West at 08 knots; barometric pressure was 1024 millibars and rising. We are slowly adjusting to winter time in the southland.
The world is a severe schoolmaster, for its frowns are less dangerous than its smiles and flatteries, and it is a difficult task to keep in the path of wisdom.
Phillis Wheatley (1753?-1784)
Brrrrrr....It's Cold! Our voyage up the Mississippi was uneventful from the perspective of the River Pilot, but not so from the vantage of everyone else aboard. Each twist and turn along the muddy river was an exciting, new learning experience for the Cadets and for many of the crew. Curacao and St. Thomas afforded opportunities to witness precision tugboat operations and Watch Sections witnessed the magic that expert Harbor Pilots perform. However, in every case the mooring evolution was over in less than an hour and we were at special sea and anchor detail no more than two. We went to piloting stations at 0500, yesterday morning, and did not secure them until nearly 1700. That makes a long day filled with constant change, crucial decision-making, and opportunities.
First, the Bar Pilot boarded and navigated the treacherous delta at the mouth of the river. One could go aground very easily without help there. It is a giant mud flat with an ever-shifting channel flowing through it, and very difficult to manage, but our Pilot made it look easy. He handed off when the River Pilot embarked to do his special brand of exciting magic. He boldly set the throttles to ahead full, and away we went.
Navigating a busy river takes extraordinary concentration and skill and all of us gained a keen appreciation for that complex process. Meeting and passing situation abound. At one time, ships were four abreast (I have some excellent pictures) and of course, the dynamic river is always there to contend with. As I said in yesterday's log, the trip is an active geography lesson that makes Mark Twain's literature come alive. The Pilot's skill and local knowledge helped and one could sense that among the Cadets.
We arrived at the historic Bienville Wharf a bit ahead of schedule. The first line sailed up and over at 1506 and the practiced cadets made quick work of the mooring event. The pier was full of people awaiting our arrival, my wife, and son among them. I have learned to expect girlfriends, boyfriends, and spouses, but the large numbers of parents who were on hand surprised me. Then, why should the kids have all the fun?
Our berth is one of the best in town, barely two blocks from the French Quarter, and with plenty of entertainment in the adjacent River Mall. However, living is tough in the high rent district. Our location makes transfer of trash somewhat awkward because nobody wants to see a giant, smelly dumpster sitting in the center of things. We will have to work on that. Water was the primary concern and the duty section began the onload immediately. "Hollywood" showers are necessities before the big night on the town and our water situation during the past few days placed emphasis on necessity.
Anyone visiting New Orleans has heard of the French Quarter. The neighborhood is the most historic area in all of New Orleans and some of the quaint old buildings have survived since 1745...and when did the United States come to be? The Quarter was founded in 1718 and the architecture reflects the strong French and Spanish heritage but I doubt that the cadets will much notice. The entire area remains in a constant state of pre Mardi Gras frivolity; Bourbon Street was jammed with people and cracking with music. Tulane University is just uptown and I overheard several cadets mention having arrangements with friends who are students there. Nothing like local tour guides to increase the Saturday night excitement in New Orleans. I know that the Audubon Park and Zoo are just across the street from the University and I am certain that our cadets will take advantage of these attractions, too. Ask them about it when they come home.
Many establishments and entertainment groups are tuning up for the Mardi Gras, so bands are scheduled to play along the riverfront nearly every night. For those nature lovers, The New Orleans Aquarium is situated on the riverfront and shops, bazaars, and kiosks are everywhere. There is something for everyone, even those of us who generally go to roost at sunset.
Today promises to be exceptionally busy. We are hosting the Admiral's Reception this afternoon, with nearly one hundred invited guests, so Chartwell's Dining Service is busily preparing the food and refreshments. The ship looked very nice before we entered the river but the duty sections have done miracles and it looks even better now. One forgets just how much space trash occupies until it is gone. Many of our Senior Cadets will attend the party and they have the entire main deck smelling of shoe polish, hair spray, and after shave, and nearly forgotten dress blue uniforms are freshly pressed and hanging about. The seniors need the practice because we are hosting a job fair for them, tomorrow. Captain Wilson, the MMA Placement Officer, has arranged for fifteen companies and forty representatives to come aboard, have lunch and recruit. The shift in attitudes among the seniors is palatable. Coasties, graduation, and first jobs are upon them. Too soon for many, I suspect.
Well folks, I hate to rush off but I must press my shirt and polish my shoes...Let's see, my hat...where did I stow my hat?...
See you tomorrow.
Heading up the Mississippi, Cadet 2/C Megan Kearns
As we traveled the Mississippi, the scenery was like nothing I had ever witnessed. The water is clay brown, and the land barren. There are few houses along the way, and those are seemingly nestled amongst the swamps, and that is about it. But, seeing street signs situated at water's edge struck me funny.
The riverbanks are bordered with rocks and trees without leaves, just like winter at home, and everyone is trying to readjust to the colder weather. Even though the temperature isn't half as cold as it is back home, the cadets, bundled in winter hats and sweatshirts, stand and shiver. Our bodies are used to the Caribbean weather, so waking up this morning was quite the shock. On the up side, I had the best night's rest as the cooler air flowed into the holds and returned the comfort. I guess all we needed was colder water to sail. It is like being on a completely new ship. We are anticipating arrival this afternoon and many just can't wait to hit the streets of New Orleans for the first time. Me too!
QUESTIONS FOR MONDAY 12 FEBRUARY
Cadet Sparks started sea term with a balance of $480.70 in his checking account. He drew checks for $23.80, $65.00, and $165.00. His dad sent $200.00, which Cadet Sparks deposited in the account. What is his current balance?
Cadets collected benthic species from the sea floor. Next, they towed a net in the water column. What category of species will they collect there?
What are the deposits of sediment at the mouths of large rivers like the Mississippi called?
The idea of Mardi Gras has roots in what country? What do the words "Mardi Gras" mean? When is Mardi Gras this year?