February 10, 2001
At 0530 Central Standard Time, the Training Ship Empire State was located at 28 degrees and 50 minutes N Latitude, 089 degrees and 26 minutes W Longitude. She was steering various courses and speeds as the Empire State entered the mouth of the Mississippi River enroute to New Orleans, Louisiana. The air temperature was 60 degrees and water 61 degrees Fahrenheit; skies were cloudy; winds were from the East at 04 knots; barometric pressure was 1018 millibars.
No race can prosper until it learns there is as much dignity in tilling a field as in writing a poem. Booker T. Washington
When you enter the mouth of the Mississippi and proceed upriver in the narrow channel through the flat deltas, you can understand why it's called "mighty". Muddy, brown water meanders southward for as far as one can see - in both directions. Transporting soil from farmlands in the Nation's midsection, the river continuously replants the land in the flat deltas that stretch southward from New Orleans for over 100 miles. This action flies in the face of the old real estate law that says: "Buy land now, 'cause they ain't making any more of it." Here on the Mississippi delta, new land is created every minute as the river dumps its cargo of dirt when it slows to enter the Gulf of Mexico. Of course the land is muddy, flat and filled with swamps and shrubs - stunted and mauled by annual innundations of the river. The levees that attempt to keep the restless giant playing within bounds are the tallest things in sight. Little hamlets hunker down and hide behind the long, man-made earthen dikes, hoping to escape the wrath of the river when it rises up in fury every so often.
Nothing but nothing says America like the stained brown water of the mighty Mississippi River. One cannot move on it without feeling the life within it or sensing the history played out around it. John Gunther wrote "The Mississippi River remains what it always was - a kind of huge rope, no matter with what knots and frayings, tying the United States together. It is the Nile of the Western Hemisphere"; his analogy is precise. The magnificent river is a distribution medium that stands in stark contrast to the information super highway that we celebrate today. It has substance, it has insistence, and in all history, the river has never once crashed. Most among us can only imagine the "information super highway", that complexity of microscopic circuits, and hair like fibers that zip packets of digitized data across the land. But we touch, and taste, and smell the river. We hear the waters coursing by and know that the river is the country's main artery, carrying the lifeblood of a nation. It is truly alive and real. For thousands of years, the river has served as the super highway for people from all corners of North America and the world. Trappers and traders, Indians and explorers, slaves and armies, all have been here, all are gone, but the river remains.
We have entered the Southwest pass, the largest and safest of the many approaches into the river and up to New Orleans. The channel is maintained by our good friends, the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers, the same team that maintains the Cape Cod Canal. The channel here is well lit and marked, but the shoaling water and shifting sands create such hazards that a special "Bar pilot" must be hired to get us into the river. Once safely past the mouth of the river, we exchange our Bar pilot for a River pilot at the little village of Crescent City that will guide us up river to our destination. The journey will take us over 10 hours! That's right, for those of you that thought New Orleans was right on the Gulf of Mexico, go look at a chart. We have a long ride upriver before we tie up at the French Quarter and sip that rich coffee with chicory in the Café du Monde. A trip up this river is like sailing back in the annals of American literature. One can easily imagine the hardships faced by Longfellow's Acadians or the feeling of sheer enjoyment fishing with Samuel Clements, Tom Sawyer, and Huckleberry Finn. Many of the towns at river's edge retain the flavor of Clements' time. I suspect that many are home to Huck Finn's "quality folks" even now. I am certain that New Orleans still quarters Riverboats, showboat actors, circus performers, and the steamboat men that Clements so colorfully described.
As Empire State twists and turns past shallows and sand bars, our modern day Fathometer measures water depths with far more precision and far less heart than did the leadsmen of earlier times. I can almost hear their cries; "Twain minus a quarter...Mark Twain" as paddle wheelers gingerly searched for safe passage among the ever-changing channels, shallows and inlets that are the river. Even with all our modern equipment and training, I am certain that this river grasps my heart as it did the Captain's then. Piloting the Mississippi continues to be a great adventure and I love it.
For England when, with favouring gale,
Our gallant ship up Channel steered,
And, scudding under every sail,
The high blue western land appeared
To heave the lead the seaman sprung
And to the pilot cheerily sung,
'By the deep nine'.
W. Pearce (c. 1793)
See You Tomorrow from historic Bienville Street Wharf in the French Quarter.
Go to web site; Http://www.webcams.neworleans.com See Bourbon and Bienville Streets, only eight blocks from Empire State. You never know who might appear.
No Water, Cadet 2/C Megan Kearns
Well, life is always interesting here on the TSES. While the TG problem is under control, the AC is still on the rocks. The holds have been about 90 degrees, and although several fans were bought to help circulate the air, it is still very hot. Just when we thought things couldn't get much worse, they did! Shortly after leaving St. Thomas, the laundry opened and we used 225 tons of water in only a few hours. The Chief Engineer reacted predictably and we have been unable to do laundry since.
The potable water supplies have been decreasing since Curacao. We were unable to make water while dockside, there were no potable water connections at the shipyard, and we used most of our water. We made some while underway to St. Thomas, but not nearly enough so on Wednesday the 7th, we were informed to take one-minute showers in order to conserve water. Some took this seriously, and others, I'm not so sure. Although we were only allowed one-minute showers, no one specified how many showers we could take so some cadets took several a day just to cool off. That ended when the showers (and the entire fresh water system) were secured and opened only during designated hours. (One hour after each watch) This way, cadets could shower after sweating to death in the engine room. The drinking supply was shut down until meal hours because the potable water tanks, which normally contain 24-27 feet of water, were down to the 3-7 feet marks. The engineers are making good water now and we are in the process of stocking up. We will fill all the tanks upon arrival in New Orleans and everything will return to normal.