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Nature Journaling: A New Discovery Everyday

By Victoria Tolson, Education Manager

I had never heard of Nature Journaling before this past month and I had never done an activity like this before. I’m not much of an artist and my only experience keeping a daily log for work and school, neither of which was really applicable.  So, I decided to start this journal on the 1st of April with a goal to journal for at least 15 minutes every day and to pick one species or thing and learn something new about it. I had a (mostly) empty sketch book not made for watercolor painting, some watercolor pencils that I’d never used before, and a single paint brush. I did my best with the tool I had, writing about and sketching what I saw.  I was mostly successful with my goal of learning and connecting with my local environment. And the more I journaled the more I wanted to know!  

I started my first couple of days by just sitting right on my back stoop and looking at the things right in front of me. Stuff that I pass by every day without paying attention. About 7 feet from my back door is an oak tree and because it is spring this tree is the bane of my existence because it covers my yard in pollen. The first day I learned a little more about oak pollen. The next day I moved on to look at the tree itself and the next, I focused on the ivy that covers the bottom of the tree. Each day I wrote my thoughts, sketched/painted, and then researched a little to find something new that I didn’t know yet. Several times, I identified plants that I walked by every day and never knew the name of. I identified a White Fringe Tree (pictured) and Foxglove. And learned more about their historic usage and scientific names. I understood more about my local ecosystem and the effect we humans have it that I’ve really noticed before! 

Even plants I’ve known about since childhood, I was able to find out new information or look at more closely. It’s wild how symmetrical and mathematical plants look upclose! It makes sense that math is a universal language, even in the natural word. Plants like clovers, dandelions, and buttercups, things that we would normally dismiss as weeds, have amazing features when you get up close and personal with them! I would draw them from different angles and make sure I drew their different components. I was always amazed at what I would observe just by paying closer attention!   

I had some plants and animals that I also made a study of because I couldn’t figure out what they were in one day. For a plant I would draw a leaf, flower, and stem. I would make notes about their color, location, and appearance. Were they a small plant that liked shade? Did they grow close to the ground? These observations could help me narrow down and find the name of my mystery plant. I would then spend time looking them up and adding their name to my journal once I found it. I have this one purple flower that is the bane of my existence! The drawing and notes I took are on the side. If you know what it is then please reach out, because I have yet to figure it out!  

I’ve even spent this past weekend stalking a mating pair of birds with their nest to find out their species. I would try and make another discovery or observation to help me narrow down my suspects every time I went to observe them. Right now, my best suspect is a species of Wren but I don’t want to be too hasty and I’ve got time to figure it out, their eggs haven’t even hatched yet! I have time to be patient and just enjoy the process of discovering. And soon, I’ll get to add little baby birds to my journal and all the new observations that come with that! I do want to caution about observing animals. I was really careful not to bother the nesting pair too much. I don’t want to scare them away from their nest or stress them out when they are just trying to raise some babies. I observed them from a distance and only got a little closer to take a peek once. I took a pretty blurry picture of the inside of the nest to see what the eggs looked like. But the eggs were clear in the picture so I was able to add speckled eggs to my list of observations. Hopefully I discover the species soon! 

Nature journaling has been such a great way to get in touch with the natural world right outside my door-step. For this entire journal, I never went past the yards surrounding my house. I didn’t have to. There was so much to see and discover right in my own backyard! So for this Earth Day, I hope you are able to celebrate by starting a Nature Journal and discovering all of the wonder that nature has instore for you right outside your window. Because if there is one thing I’ve learned while keeping this journal, it’s that the most beautiful and wonderful sights were right under my nose all along. I just had to pay attention!  

Nature Journaling: Observing Animals

By Taylor McConnell, Education Specialist

Tucked away in the back of a cul-de-sac, is a small childhood pond that was supposed to house fish and is now overtaken by pickerel weed and bullfrogs. The first bullfrog is skittish and never seen, only leaving behind ripples in the water. The second bullfrog is next to leave with one big hop and a scream. The third bullfrog stares from the shadows of the overhanging rock and then is the last to disappear. 

This scene happens every time someone walks out my front door. I wanted to learn more about bullfrogs, why they are in a smaller pond when there is a creak nearby and why they are so loud at night! I decided to be a scientist, so I grabbed my nature journal and took some notes about what I was seeing. 

Observation #1 

I notice that the frogs are quick to leave when I walk outside, and it takes them a long time to come back out when I am sitting there. I researched and learned that bullfrogs are often on high alert from predators when I walk by. In their natural habitat their predators are large snakes, snapping turtle and alligators. While I do not have any alligators that live near me, my neighborhood is a corridor to Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge. That mean that we have waterways (creeks and canals) that are connected to the Wildlife Refuge and snakes and snapping turtles are nearby. 

After learning this, I decided I did not want to make this a negative interaction for the frogs and turned to two other methods of observation. First, I set my camera out and started to video the overhanging rock, which is where the largest bullfrog seems to be most of the time. Second, I started to observe from the opened window to see if they would come out or if I could hear them.  

Observation #2 

It looks like the bullfrogs are basking in the sun, like pond turtles do. 

I learned that frogs are amphibians and are cold-blooded. When an animal is cold-blooded it means that the animal’s body temperature varies with the surrounding environment. In the afternoon I am seeing the bullfrog come out to warm up from the sun’s heat. If the bullfrogs do not get warm enough, they go into an inactive state, which is seen most often during the winter months. 

Observation #3 

The bullfrogs get very vocal after the sun sets. We are able to hear them from inside the house. 

The bullfrogs are nocturnal, meaning they are most active at night. They also practice ambush predation; meaning they sit still and wait for the prey to come close enough to striking distance and then they pounce. 

Bullfrogs also have a series of calls they can make. 

Advertisement Call: Bullfrogs get their name from this call because it is loud, low-pitch bellow that sounds similar to a mooing of a cow. This call is used by males to establish territory and attract potential female mates.  

Alarm Call: This is a quick chirp, often done by juveniles, as they jump into the water for safety. 

Encounter Call: The male will make a short call signaling to other males that they are too close to his territory.  

Conclusion 

After all this research and documenting, I feel like I have a better appreciation for bullfrogs and scientists too! I learned a lot in the past couple weeks just from observing and researching my frogs. I know what their different calls mean and why they seem so shy. I also know that scientists obviously put in a lot more work than me when they study all the amazing plants and animals we sometimes take for granted. So as you start your nature journal, why don’t you become a scientist! Chose an animal and make some observations like I did. You can find out some of what scientists do when they study animals in the field and learn to appreciate the animals that live all around you every day. I know I did!  

 ***Side note: at the start of the spring they are very skittish and it is really hard to get picture of them. I have the video and the following are pictures from previous springs. The one of all the pickerel weed is latest year (we were finally able to remove the cattail) 

 

References: 

CaliforniaHerps.com (2020) Sounds of the American Bullfrog.www.californiaherps.com/frogs/pages/l.catesbeianus.sounds.html 

National Geographic (2020) Bullfrogs.https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/amphibians/a/american-bullfrog/ 

Virginia Herpetological Society (2020) American Bullfrog.http://www.virginiaherpetologicalsociety.com/amphibians/frogsandtoads/american-bullfrog/american_bullfrog.php 

 

Before Technology, there was Mail

by Keith Nitka, Battleship Operations Manager

The Military Postal Service is an extension of the United States Postal Service beyond the boundaries of the US and is obligated to provide prompt, reliable and efficient postal service for all members of the military where the USPS is not available. 

(Photo Source: 1991, ALL HANDS magazine)

Mail the “old fashioned” way was still used when the USS WISCONSIN (BB-64) was in service and the only way to keep in touch with loved ones was with what people call today “snail mail”, a letter sent through the US Postal Service. Lots and lots of paper mail and packages were sent through the US Postal service to keep family and sailors up to date with the happenings at home and out to sea. Mail clerks or PC’s, Postal Clerk was the Navy Rate that was responsible for the mail. In today’s Navy the PC rate was combined with the SK or Store Keeper rate to make the Logistics Specialist (LS), today’s Navy postal carrier 

Mail in the Navy was addressed to the Sailor or Marine through their ship or service command via a FPO or Fleet Post Office. The FPO’s were located on the east coast or west coast of the United States and the Battleship WISCONSIN FPO was New York, New York.  From the FPO it was then routed to the proper area where the ship was at the present time. When the ship was in the Persian Gulf, the mail would be sent to the naval base in Bahrain and from there to where the ship maybe via a delivery truck on the pier or the helicopter known as the “Desert Duck” if it was out in the ocean. Sometimes, Battleship WISCONSIN would be delivered mail for other ships along with her mail and then when that particular ship came along side for fuel, we could use the RAS system, or Replenishment At Sea system to send them their mail.  

Mail being sent to the ship, no matter where in the world it was only cost the same amount of postage as it did to send a letter across town. While serving in a combat zone, mail from the service member was “Free”. The sender only need to write “FREE” in place of the stamp and with his or her return address in the upper left hand corner, the letter would simply need to be dropped in the mail box and it would be on its way.  

The PCs on the ship would receive mail, which consisted of letters and packages, magazines etc. The mail would then be sorted by the PCs for distribution, first by Department and then by Division. Once this is done, the Officer of the Deck would be notified and he would have the word passed over the 1MC “Mail Call, all division Mail Petty Officers lay to the post office to pick up mail, now Mail Call”. Each division has a person assigned to pick up the mail. He then will go to the post office to pick it up and return to the division to pass it out to the proper sailor. The PC would also take in outgoing mail, cancel the postage and sort it for outbound distribution going to the Sailors friends and family or to pay the bills or taxes. Next to “Moored, Shift Colors!” and “Liberty, Liberty…” “Mail Call” was the most beloved word passed. Nothing can replace the moral boosting sounds of mail call while serving so far from home. Sometimes, a mail call would pass and the Sailor may have not received anything or maybe there really wasn’t anyone to write to a particular Sailor or Marine. This slack in mail and moral was picked up by “Any Service Member” mail.  

During the Gulf War, “Any Service Member” mail was a big part of our incoming mail deliveries. Started in newspapers by columnist like “Dear Abbey” and “Ann Landers” in the states, any service member mail was a way for all people, especially those with out ties to the military, to show their support for the military. No matter what your thoughts on the war, everyone was in support of our troops, the individual men and women on the front lines over seas. On average the USS WISCOSIN received along with regular mail addressed to crewmen, 1000 individual letters and 20 to 30 large envelopes from school classrooms filled with letters from a class somewhere in America. Addressed to “Any Service Member”, they were a means to give mail and support to all members of the military. Some were notes of encouragement, others were letters full of questions like, “Do you ride camels? “How hot is it there? “Did you do anything dangerous yet? Some of the mail was actual packages. I remember we once opened a package addressed to any service member and in it was a used pack of playing cards from the Sands Casino in Las Vegas and I opened a package with a note of encouragement and a demo tape of the Goo Goo Dolls album “Hold Me Up”, I still have that cassette tape!  

I attribute this outpouring of support as a direct result of men and women like my father and his brothers in arms. My father, a Vietnam Veteran, was treated very poorly when he returned home, like so many of his fellow servicemen and women. When it was now my generation’s time in war, they were not going to let the nations populous treat us the same way they had been treated. Even though its not called any service member any longer you can still get involved. There are websites and charitable organizations like anysoldier.com or operationgratitude.com that can get a letter or package to a service member over seas or here in the states.

The Wisconsin (BB-64) Recruit Training Company

by Keith Nitka, Battleship Operations Manager

Did you know that the USS Wisconsin (BB-64) had its own Recruit Training Company formed from the state of Wisconsin? This was the first time that the US Navy tried this idea, a group of recruits, all from the same state and going to the same ship. The idea was hatched by the Navy Recruiting Command in Millington Tenn. over the summer of 1987 and by early winter, the plan was in place and recruiters were working diligently to fill the slots. The young men were all from the Great State of Wisconsin and they all met for the first time prior to leaving for boot camp. The Governor of Wisconsin, the Honorable Tommy G. Thompson, swore them into service on 10 February 1988. They were sworn in, in the capitol rotunda and given a flag of the state of Wisconsin as well as the Wisconsin Crest flag to carry during boot camp. It was here too that they first met their perspective CO, Captain Jerry M. Blesch. After swearing in, they said their goodbyes to family and friends and boarded buses for the 2-hour trip to RTC Great Lakes.  

The 80 recruits were Company 041 (C041) a.k.a. The Wisconsin Company. The 80 men came from all over the state of Wisconsin, towns like Caledonia and Lake Geneva; Sheboygen and Jackson, just to name a few. C041 was honored with many accolades by the time they graduated including being the Color Company at graduation and were rated the highest graduating boot camp company in their academic studies with 3762 points out of a total 4000. Company C041 was met again by Captain Jerry M. Blesch in their barracks prior to the graduation ceremonies. Capt. Blesch was there to congratulate them on their graduation and wishing them well during “A” schools. Capt. Blesch was also the Reviewing Officer for that week’s Graduation ceremony. Of the initial 80 recruits of C041, 64 graduated on 8 April 1988 (There’s that magical number 64 again). The BB-64 graduating company then went off to their respective schools for their rates and were scattered through out the country. As the sailors graduated from their schools they finally made their way to Pascagoula Mississippi, where the ship was being refitted for service and by the time of the ships re-commissioning ceremony on 22 October 1988, all 64 were back together again to start their Navy carriers, “in the fleet” on the finest ship the world has ever seen. 

“Bucky Badger”: Not the UW Mascot

by Keith Nitka, Battleship Operations Manager

Did you ever notice how looking for one item will bring you to something else; completely unrelated but still of interest and importance? I was looking for something about mail and I found an article written by Lt. Rob Raine. Lt Raine was the PAO or Public Affairs Officer on the ship at the time and the article was in an installment of “Wisconsin Family Ties”. For those of you not familiar, “Wisconsin Family Ties” was a newsletter of sorts that was sent under the direction of the Commanding Officer, USS Wisconsin during her final commissioning from 1988 to 1991. It was contributed to by all the divisions on the ship with little articles written about what the division was working on at the moment and any news of interest to family members. The newsletter was sent to the person on record with the crewmember to receive it. My copies went to my father John, living in New Hampshire at the time. In the issue mailed in August of 1990 there is an article that I would like to share here and expand a little on it. 

“Bucky Badger, the Legend Continues 

By LT Rob Raine 

The figurehead on a ships bow has long been a nautical tradition, both for Navy ships and civilian merchants. The cinematic stereotype of these figureheads (thanks to such notable swashbucklers as Errol Flynn and Douglas Fairbanks) has always been a rather over-endowed and scantily clad young miss. Figureheads are not seen much very often on modern warships, however, just over 90 years ago, the “other” Battleship Wisconsin (BB-9), did have a figure head, not scantily clad, but ‘fur’ clad. 

WISCONSIN’S figurehead was a Badger, the state animal. His name (yes, he’s a he) was ‘Bucky’. Unlike the usual 20-pound furry rodent, ‘Battleship Bucky’ weighed in at a hefty 1,200 pounds. His hide is cast from the bronze cannons captured from the Spanish Fleet at Havana, Cuba in 1898. He rode atop a shield bearing the word ‘Forward’, the Wisconsin’s state motto. 

The state and the ship chose ‘Bucky’ because the badger is tenacious in defending his territory. Close in on him and he will growl and snarl; take a second step and he will hiss; take the third step at your own peril. Badgers are tough and vicious; nothing stops them when they are pushed to far. 

Bucky was mounted just below the bridge on USS WISCONSIN (BB-9), standing America’s ground on the oceans of the world. From his high vantage he could look to the far horizons as the ship sailed, and look he did. In 1907-08 WISCONSIN sailed around the world with Theodore Roosevelt’s ‘Great White Fleet’. ‘Bucky’ saw the world through the eye’s of America’s Manifest Destiny, calling in distant lands: Australia, Japan, China, England and South America. 

In 1920 WISCONSIN arrived in Philadelphia, her final resting place. Two years later she was sold as scrap ands broken up, a continent away from the Union Iron Works in San Francisco, where she was built. ‘Bucky’ like his nocturnal namesake, disappeared. 

Sixty-four years later, as USS WISCONSIN (BB-64), one of the mightiest, most modern surface war ships in the world, was undergoing her recall to active service, ‘Bucky’ Badger returned. A researcher spotted the hefty rodent reposing peacefully in the Superintendent’s garden at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD. Apparently he had been there all along. 

Swift research by members of the Wisconsin State Historical Society confirmed that the rodent relaxing in the garden was indeed the illustrious ‘Bucky’. Further calls from Wisconsin Governor Tommy G. Thompson and USS WISCONSIN (BB-64) Commanding Officer, Captain Jerry M Blesch, unearthed the wily ‘Bucky’. Yellow Freight Company arranged for his triumphant return to his ‘home of record’, Madison Wisconsin. 

Presently ‘Bucky’ Badger is on four-year loan to the state of Wisconsin from the United States Navy. He is on display, atop his shield, just outside the Governor’s office in the state house in Madison.”     

After reading this article, I did a little research myself and after you sift through the pages upon pages about the University of Wisconsin’s sporting teams I found a small article written about our “Bucky”. The article was written in 2019 by John Hart and covered everything in Lt Raines article with the addition that its still there, in Madison, Wisconsin. I did a little more research and with some assistance from Scott Roller at the Wisconsin State Historical Society I found out that “Bucky” was on loan to the State Historical Society for an exhibit to coincide with the USS WISCONSIN (BB-64) recommissioning and then in 1989 he was moved to the State capitol building. The 4-year loan starting in 1988 subsequently turned into a thirty-year loan. Bucky is still owned by the US Navy and the United States Naval Academy Museum is the custodian. Roller told me that the Wisconsin State Historical Society will need to make arrangements for “Bucky” to go back to the USNA museum soon but as of today “Bucky” still resides in the Wisconsin State Capitol building where guests and employees alike rub his nose daily for good luck. 

Nature Journaling Blog Series

by  Molly Graham, Education Specialist

Hello Everyone! 

I have been using this book to get ideas and inspiration! 

My name is Molly and I am part of the education team here at Nauticus. As someone who loves the outdoors, I wanted to find a way to still connect with nature during this time of social distancing. A friend of mine recommended keeping a Nature Journal, and I have found it to be a fantastic way to be creative while also being present with nature. I have been using the book “Keeping a Nature Journal” by Clare Walker Leslie and Charles E. Roth for inspiration. But I have found that one of the things that I like best about nature journaling is that it is personal to YOU, so you can follow whatever format you like. I walked to different spots around Norfolk and wrote down a few plants and animals that I observed. I’ve also thought about adding a weather log and maybe some poetry or quotes that go along with the season, just to list a few creative ideas. The world is your oyster, or in this case Nature Journaling is your oyster! Do whatever works for you and have fun with it. This is about connecting with nature and paying attention to all the things we are normally too busy to pay attention to. I found that it was often the smallest creature that I would normally overlook that I had the most fun observing and drawing. Case in point: my beautiful bee drawing below.  

So to start out with, Nature Journaling about paying attention to the world around us. You can do this by taking a walk or going into your backyard/patio or looking out a window; whatever is safest and best for you. Just take a moment to observe the outdoors and all of the sights, sounds, and creatures that we normally don’t pay attention to. Take a moment by yourself or with your family or roommates to look at how cool nature is and all the things we can find right outside our own windows! 

For my first entries, took a walk and wrote down a few facts that I could remember about the things that I saw that I was familiar with. Things that I could not identify I took pictures of so I could look them up later.  I used an unlined notebook, colored pencils, pens, and markers for my journaling, but you could get as creative or keep it as simple as you want toAgain, Nature Journaling is all about doing what feels and works best for you! 

Here are some pictures of my first pages! DISCLAIMER: I am NOT a very good artist (at all) but it was still so much fun to create something and be present in my local environment.  

My first page! I’m very proud of my first effort and have really worked on what I liked and didn’t like to do in the future. Practice makes perfect ayou can see by my next two page below, they were slightly more successful!  

AND finally, I thought I would share some pages from my friend Kathlean Davis, an artist and outdoor educator living in Richmond, VA. She included some really cool stuff that I can’t wait to put on my next pages like a season song: a list of all the sounds she could hear.  

I hope this blog has inspired you and given you some good ideas on how to connect with nature while social distancing. I know that I have already gotten my coworkers involved and it’s been really fun to compare what we all see and experience right outside our own homes. Hopefully you will start a Nature Journal of your own and journal right alongside us here at NauticusNext week, I am hoping to focus more on a marine environment and think about how the critters I see relate to the maritime world.  I am so excited to continue my nature journaling in the next few weeks and be able to look back through my journal to remember all of the cool things I saw and learned during my local nature adventures! This is a great way to practice mindfulness at we gear up for Earth Day and I can’t wait to see all of your journals then! 

Happy Journaling Everyone!  

What Can We Learn From the Blood of Horseshoe Crabs?

by Taylor McConnell, Nauticus Education Specialist

Horseshoe Crabs are known as a living fossil, this is because they have existed for over 450 million years. They have survived many mass extinctions, numerous shifts in the plate tectonics, ice ages, the rise and fall of the dinosaurs and the start of the human race. But the current question is, are horseshoe crabs here to stay?

(Photo Source)

 Horseshoe Crabs have a crucial role in their ecosystem, their eggs support many migratory bird species and their larvae supports many fish species. However, like many shoreline ecosystems, their habitat is being destroyed through pollution and human development.

(Photo Source)                (Photo Source)

But the Horseshoe Crabs have a secret. Their secret is in their blue blood and it is saving lives. Every vaccination, every Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved prescription drug, many intravenous (IV) medications and injectable medications are tested for harmful bacteria, by Horseshoe Crab blood. The harmful bacteria that the Horseshoe Crab blood can detect is the same bacteria that causes fever, shock, and many other conditions in humans.

Horseshoe Crabs (Limulus polyphemus) have a unique way to combat these harmful bacteria. When the bacteria enters their body, their blood cells surround the harmful bacteria and clot to neutralize it. So, in the 1970s scientist started using Horseshoe Crab blood to help the biomedical field test for the harmful bacteria, and today it is known as a LAL test. LAL means:

Horseshoe Crab blood is collected by harvesting the animal and draining up to 33% of their blood. Each year about 500,000 Horseshoe Crabs are collected for this process. Many of these animals are then marked, so they are not collect a second time in a season, and released back into the wild. The current mortality rate is not well studied and varies depending on the source. Conservationist groups estimate about 30% whereas the fisheries industry estimates with 5% to 15%. While the exact mortality rate is currently unknown, at least 150,000 Horseshoe Crabs end up being sold to the bait industry to be used to catch American eel and conch.

(Photo Source)

What does this all mean for the Horseshoe Crabs and their future? Scientist are working on two methods to help the biomedical field with their need, while trying to reduce the need to harvest Horseshoe Crabs from the wild.

One method is captive breeding. Carmela Cuomo from University of New Haven in Connecticut has been doing research since early 2000 to figure out how scientist can get Horseshoe Crab to breed in captivity. This research is taking many years and she had a breakthrough in 2008. She and her team discovered that the Horseshoe Crabs want to lay their eggs on the beaches where they were hatched. So to replicate the beaches the team collected sediment from the beaches where they collected the Horseshoe Crabs from and they started to see eggs being produced. While captive Horseshoe Crab breeding has not become a large scale operation it is a potential strategy to use to reduce the number of wild caught Horseshoe Crabs.

Method two is to use a synthetic alternative (an equivalent man-made chemical) developed in the lab. There are many research groups working to create synthetics alternatives and the current projects are estimating a reduction in bleeding wild-caught Horseshoe Crabs by about 90%. Many of these research groups have developed the synthetic alternative and have tested the effectiveness to make sure it is comparable with Horseshoe Crab blood. However, now they have to communicate with the biomedical field and show that their synthetic alternative does match up with the ability of the blood of Horseshoe Crabs.

The fate of the Horseshoe Crab is still unknown and there are many challenges that the Horseshoe Crab still has to overcome. Next time you see a Horseshoe Crab remember to thank them, for every vaccination, for every FDA-approved prescription drug, for every medication received through an IV and for every other medical equipment and devices that touched human blood.

Citations

“Inside the American Museum of Natural History: Museum Secrets (Series 2).” Films Media Group, 2012, digital.films.com/PortalPlaylists.aspx?wID=103059&xtid=57622. Accessed 25 Mar. 2020.

Maloney, Tom, Ryan Phelan, and Naira Simmons. “Saving the Horseshoe Crab: A Synthetic Alternative to Horseshoe Crab Blood for Endotoxin Detection.” PLoS Biology 16.10 (2018): E2006607. Web.

National Park Service. “The Natural History of Horseshoe Crabs.” Fire Island; National Seashore, New York (May 31, 2018). Web.

Our National Treasure: Battleship Wisconsin

by Martha Walker, Nauticus Curator

75 years ago, the last battles of World War Two were raging all over the globe in Europe, the Soviet Union, Africa, Australia, East Asia, China, and the Pacific islands. It all came to an end in Tokyo, Japan in August 1945, and Battleship Wisconsin was there. 

As Wisconsin approaches her 76th birthday on April 16, 2020, we take a look at the early months leading into her World War Two service.

Wisconsin was one of six strategically designed fast battleships authorized for construction in 1939 as Germany and Japan were setting the world on fire. The Iowa-class ships:  Iowa (BB-61), New Jersey (BB-62), Missouri (BB-63), and Wisconsin (BB-64) were laid down in quick order, beginning with Iowa in June​1940. Each were completed within two years. The Iowas were designed to fire their big guns, support land battles, replenish other ships with fuel, and make fresh water from the ocean with onboard desalinization plants.

Wisconsin was launched December 7, 1943–two years after the attack on Pearl Harbor 7, 1943; Missouri was launched last and inexplicably numbered BB-63.

Wisconsin steamed south from Philadelphia Naval Shipyard to perform her sea trials in Chesapeake Bay. Norfolk was to be her designated home port.

Captain Earl  Stone steered  BB-64 back to Philadelphia for her shipyard commissioning April 16, 1944. Returning to Norfolk, her crew prepared for war, celebrated July 4th, then departed for her shakedown cruise to Trinidad, British West Indies.

After being put through her paces, Wisconsin sailed south September 24th, transiting Panama Canal into the Pacific Ocean. A week later, she reported to the Pacific Fleet at Ulithi, Caroline Islands. On December 9th, she joined Admiral Halsey’s 3rd fleet and participated in destruction of Japanese facilities in the Philippines. 

She earned her first battle stars in the Leyte Operation. The last major challenge of 1944 was “Halsey’s Hurricane”. This Pacific typhoon capsized  three destroyers; Wisconsin and most of the fleet remained unscathed.

This was just the beginning of Wisconsin’s role in the Pacific theatre.

Sail Nauticus Youth Programs: A Lesson for the Adults

by Annabelle Wax, Sail Nauticus Instructor

We always highlight how our youth programs at Sail Nauticus benefit the kids, but I’d like to share with you what it does for our adult instructors. We are lucky enough to have a variety of paid and volunteer staff across many generations and experience levels. This includes those retired, young professionals able to leave work early once a week, college grads undecided in their career, college students, high school students, those between jobs and those of us who have made a career of sorts out of it. Our youth programs are successful because we all honestly enjoy what we do.

Why, you ask, do we enjoy what we do?

For one, our Academy program offers middle school students three or more years with us, so I feel that I truly get to know each of them individually. I watch many of the students build an unshakable trust in their ability to tackle something so foreign to them as sailing is in the beginning. Sailing a 20-foot boat on the busy, industrial Elizabeth River alongside shipping traffic is no easy task. Talk about a confidence builder.

I recall a moment of frustration a couple years ago while sailing with three of our eighth graders. I felt that they were ignoring me and not sailing the boat as best they could. Then it hit me — at least they were sailing the boat successfully on their own. Not only that, they were sailing the boat on their own while talking about music and keeping an eye out for barge traffic. All at the same time. They were demonstrating enough situational awareness that I felt I did not need to be onboard; I don’t know why this came as a surprise to me.

I love that we cultivate and witness first-hand these students gaining lifelong skills such as situational awareness, confidence, communication, teamwork and even leadership in an outdoor setting. Also, I’ve always liked a surprise, and sailing with teens and preteens offers many opportunities for surprises.

Here’s what our instructors gain from our youth programs at Sail Nauticus, straight from the source:

  • “I didn’t realize how one place could create a family, a passion and change the direction of my life within a matter of two years. Even with all of that said, the best part has always been the students. You know when you can let them take the tiller and watch them sail successfully and confidently, that you may have impacted their life too.”
  • “This program has taught me how to adapt to the individual sailor rather than a group of sailors. I have learned how to coach intermediate and beginner sailing as opposed to a race team, which has made a huge impact in my coaching technique.”
  • ”I like the smiles of our students as they see the sails fill, feel the wind, brace themselves as the boat heels, and marvel at the speed of gliding through water. Sharing my passion for sailing provides me with a purpose.”
  • “I enjoy the camaraderie of fellow sailors, the laughter and silliness of the students as well as seeing the smiles when they feel that sense of accomplishment as they increase their sailing skills.”
  • “I like seeing a kid’s accomplished look when they have completed a difficult task, especially one I know they’ve been working hard on for a long time. Also, when the kids would get off the school bus and immediately start telling me about their day and what happened in school!“
  • “There are good days and bad days for everyone, but I know no matter what kind of day I’m having, seeing my students will make me smile. They never fail to distract me from the complicated world we live in, so I’ll always remember the sanctuary ‘Light Blue’ boat becomes when we are together.”
  • “Sail Nauticus has helped me to grow as an instructor and as a person. I have learned to be more patient with others and with myself. Working with the youth has reminded me about what is important in life: sharing time with our friends and our family. Forging new bonds of friendship and camaraderie, and working with others to keep the Ship of Life sailing into the future.”

Sailing with kids is certainly not easy, but somehow our students end up teaching us more about ourselves along the way.