The Day Before: Getting Ready!
Saturday morning the ladies were raring to go shopping. While Dotti and Tammy went in search of clothes and other goodies for the trip, Jim and I went to OMSI (Oregon Museum of Science and Industry).
Jim has always loved the Navy, and he had never been on a submarine before. Ever since Dotti and I took his daughter Jamie to visit the USS Blueback (SS 581), the Navy submarine at OMSI, he was interested in touring it. Of course, I was very happy to take him to do just that.
When we arrived at OMSI, the first thing we encounted was the ticket desk, and we had to make our choices as to what we were going to do. We had a 5 o'clock date with our wives to eat at the Black Angus, and it was around noon. So, we looked at the schedule and decided that we had time to visit the Planetarium, the submarine and the museum, but did not have time to watch a movie at Omnimax. The way things were timed, we would be going to the Planetarium first, and then the sub.
After buying our tickets, we had a little bit of time before the show, and so we visited the museum. We walked through the human life, or baby exhibit. They had babies' bodies on display, showing them in various stages of development from when they are conceived up until the time that they are born. It was ghoulish, because they actually had used bodies of real dead babies for the display. I am always amazed to see how far along babies do develop in such a short period of time. They have 10 fingers and 10 toes really early on, and even by the time a woman realizes that she is pregnant, the little heart is already beating.
After we went through the baby exhibit, we had a few minutes to look at some less depressing items. There were some snakes, lizards, and other living things on display in glass cases. There were displays demonstrating how we, and all animals, respond to the world around around us, especially in the realm of sight and sound—lots of things to see and hear. The interactive displays were geared for kids, but we are all kids at heart. We ran out of time too quickly, and we headed down to the Planetarium to catch the show.
Standing outside the entrance was a really interesting piece of mechanics and art. It was called a Gravitram and was a glass enclosed machine that took metal ball bearings, about a half inch across, and it moved them to the top, about 10 feet from the floor, and then dropped them off into various track ways, where they would roll down to the bottom once more. But there were many twist and turns, and intersections that would route them one way at one time and another way the next time. Some of the balls would get trapped until another came rolling along to release it.
All of the tracks were made of four parallel lengths of wire, about the thickness of a metal clothes hanger. It looked like something that a man might build in his garage for fun, and we could tell that the balls must have jumped their tracks from time to time, because there were some of them lying on the floor under the tracks; and later we saw a guy come to open the case and pick them up and set them into motion once more. But it was still fun to watch.
It was time for the Planetarium show. When I was young, probably around 1963, my Mom took me to see a show at the planetarium at the Griffith Observatory in Griffith Park in California. (During our honeymoon in 1976, Dotti and I also stopped for a quick visit at Griffith Park.) The dome looked about the same as the one at OMSI, but the show was completely different.
In those days, there were two large balls, mounted on a crossbar—looking for all the world like a strongman's barbell—in the middle of the room, each ball with little holes in them, so when the room lights were turned off, light from inside the balls would pass through and be projected upon the roof of the dome, simulating stars in a night sky.
Today, at OMSI, the planetarium dome is used like a movie screen and they project television type images upon it. They can of course put stars up with the projectors, but they can also project just about anything else on the dome that they choose to.
The program was called The Secrets of the Sun, and it was a good one! It had a lot of very cool effects. One of the neatest of these was a virtual trip right down the interior of the McMath-Pierce Solar Telescope! Even though it was built in the 1960s, this telescope is still the largest solar viewing instrument in the world, and with constantly updated new sensing equipment, it is still making discoveries about the sun today.
The telescope looks like a huge elevator shaft that has toppled over to land on top of a one hundred foot post that is sticking up out of the ground. The "elevator shaft" has come to rest at a 32° angle from the ground, which just happens to match the latitude of where it is located in Arizona. The shaft has a mouth that is 5 feet 3 inches across, and after doing a quick once over view of the outside of the structure, the "camera" moved up to the mouth and down its throat, just as the sunlight would. We moved quickly down the 164 yards of the tunnel to the reflective mirror at the bottom of it. It made our stomachs lurch a bit as we "fell" down the shaft.
When we got to the bottom, we could see the image of the sun reflected in the mirror.
Later on, the program gave us a virtual trip to the surface of the sun, where it is 6,000°C. Then we moved down inside the sun a hundred miles or so, where it was an unimaginable 16 million degrees! The deeper we went, the hotter it got, and finally we reached the core, where the nuclear fusion furnace was running. It was quite an interesting presentation.
We had enough time after the show to visit a little bit more of the science museum, and then to grab a slice of pizza, some chips, and a cup of coffee before heading over to the USS Blueback submarine.
When we got to the waiting area, they had a simulated hatch that we had to physically get through, just to show that we could make it. They didn't want anyone getting down onto the ship and then getting stuck in one of the hatches. It is both a test of size and agility, because you not only had to be small enough to fit through the hole, but you also had to twist your body into a contorted position to pass through, especially when you are over 6 feet tall. Jim and I both made it through okay, although I have to admit that it is not as easy to get through a hatch for me at age 55 as it was at 35. ☹
When the time came for us to go on the tour we were ready to go. We walked outside, and along the sidewalk to the ramp down to the ship. We soon were onboard and walking through the spaces. It was fun going through the sub. We saw the wardroom, the mess decks, the control center, the torpedoes, the berthing areas and so forth. I even noticed the T-827 transmitter that was in the comm center, which was part of the equipment set that I used to teach in the Navy.
After we exited the ship, we saw the ship's screw (prop) mounted on a stand outside next to the OMSI building.
Jim and I next went into the exhibition hall and acted like a couple of boys playing with our toys. We assembled some plastic plumbing in such a way so that we could use a hand crank pump to move water through to force a waterwheel to turn.
We then moved over to a tank of water where we had a lot of fun "sailing ships." Yes, we played with toy boats on the little tank that had a constant, and fairly strong, breeze blowing across it. We took little boats and configured sails for them; when we put them on the water and the wind hit their sails, they took off sailing for the other end of the tank. Having a water and ship theme to our activities seemed appropriate, considering what we were going to be doing on the morrow. ☺
It finally was time to head home and meet up with the ladies after their fun day of shopping. A little after 5 p.m. we set out for the Black Angus Restaurant, located in downtown Vancouver.
We had a great dinner, and as you might imagine, the topic was our upcoming cruise. When we got back home, we visited for a while and then went to bed. I got to bed about one o'clock, after printing up some information from the Internet related to our cruise. Soon the entire house was asleep, dreaming of water, ships, and glaciers.
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