Story & Photography by Jerry Ginsberg
Hawaii boasts two fabulous National Parks; Haleakala on Maui (Sept. 2015) and Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on Hawaii, “the big island” (April 2014). At this writing, giant Kilauea volcano in Hawaii Volcano National Park is threatening to blow its top. This may be the long-expected “big one.” Even after about 4.5 billion years, our dynamic little planet continues to evolve.
In addition, Molokai has the singular Kalaupapa National Historical Park commemorating Father Damien and the safe place that he made for those suffering from leprosy. Besides these very precious federal lands, the island of Kauai, “the Garden Isle,” has some absolutely gorgeous natural areas including the NaPali Coast and Waimea Canyon, the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific.”
After all of these wonderful places, there remains yet another extraordinarily special place in our 50th State that is a must-see for everyone; Pearl Harbor.
On December 7, 1941, the Empire of Japan launched a surprise attack, bombing the U.S. Naval Base near Honolulu, killing over 2,200 Americans and plunging the United States headlong into World War II. Among the capital ships sunk and damaged that day was the mighty battleship USS Arizona. Japanese bombs struck its powder magazines and broke its back. It lies today right where it sank, permanently entombing 1177 American boys, their young lives cut tragically short.
Two decades later, an elegant and somber memorial, erected directly over the fallen ship was dedicated. No visit to Oahu is complete without a visit to this hallowed place.
While Pearl Harbor itself continues as an active naval base, the USS Arizona Memorial is a unit of the National Park Service and is open to the public daily. There are three aspects to your visit. Upon entering the visitor center, get your free tickets for the short ferry ride to the memorial. Rather than taking the first available boat, give yourself about 90 minutes to tour the visitor center. First, go through the museum, home to many fascinating and important historic artifacts. Then watch the short film, guaranteed to leave you with goosebumps.
After that, stroll onto the rear veranda for an opportunity to take it all in. On my very first visit here many years ago, there were still several Pearl Harbor survivors and WWII veterans out there holding forth with mesmerizing stories of their experiences. There are now so very few left.
When your scheduled boarding time arrives, climb aboard the launch for the short ride out to the grave of the fabled USS Arizona. Once there, you will have about 15-20 minutes to explore the memorial and gaze down on the sunken ship right below you. Walk all through the structure past the many poetic openings to the back wall. There you will see the names of all of those lost on that fateful day cut into the marble wall. Alongside is the curving sculpture known as “The Tree of Life.” By the time you leave the memorial to reboard your boat, you will certainly be imbued with the ethereal spirit of this place. It is a very deeply moving experience.
For some memorable photography at the Arizona memorial, try to be first off the boat when arriving. You will need to shoot handheld, so have your camera set accordingly and use your stabilization technology.
After your visit to the Arizona, make sure to take the tour of the historic battleship USS Missouri, the “Mighty Mo,” just five minutes away. You will marvel at the massive 15-inch guns that were used to hurl one-ton artillery shells at targets many miles away. Make sure to take in the Missouri’s Surrender Deck where World War II finally ended in Tokyo Bay.
Leave your hotel for Pearl Harbor very early in the morning for the best ferry selection and in order to get a parking space.
Jerry Ginsberg is a freelance photographer whose landscape and travel images have graced the pages and covers of hundreds of books, magazines and travel catalogs. He is the only person to have photographed each and every one of America’s National Parks with medium format cameras.
His works have been exhibited from coast to coast and have received numerous awards in competition.
Jerry’s photographic archive spans virtually all of both North and South America as well as many other fascinating sites around the world.