Saturday, June 4, 2011

The U.S.S. Hornet (CV-12)

The USS Hornet is an Essex class aircraft carrier that was constructed in 1942. Originally named the Kearsarge, it was rechristened the Hornet in honor of the USS Hornet (CV-8), which was lost in October of 1942. She played a major part in many naval battles in the Pacific Theater during World War II, and served in the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and as a part of the Apollo Program, where she was used to recover astronauts as they returned from their mission to the moon. There is no way to do justice to the history of this vessel on this page. If you want a more full explanation of the history of this ship than I suggest you read it's Wikipedia page.

I am not normally a huge fan of military historical sites, but there is something very impressive about standing next to a full-sized aircraft carrier. The best part about this site is that you can ride your bike right up next to the ship. There are no security gates and only some staggered barriers to keep cars from driving out onto the dock. The only item of slight concern is a large sign that says "Backpacks Prohibited", which I can only assume is a remnant of post-9/11 security concerns. They offer tours of the ships on a regular basis and the docents are all retired enlisted men. They also offer on-board sleepovers to local Boy Scout troops, and if you head out there on a weekend you might find yourself hip-deep in a crowd of kerchief-wearing youth and their parents.

The ship was registered as California Historical Site No. 1092 in 1999, and became a National Historic Landmark in 1991.

Getting There By Bike...

The USS Hornet is docked at Pier 3, North, in what was the Alameda Naval Air Base. The base is on the far western end of the island, and the ship is docked at the far south-western corner of the base. You can either take surface streets through Alameda, or if you're feeling a little more adventurous, you can follow the Bay Trail west towards the Naval base from Crab Cove in Alameda. The Bay Trail will get you there in one piece, and you get to see some neat parts of the Alameda shore that are not easily accessible except by this trail, but it's full of twists and turns. Do yourself a favor and get a good map of the Bay Trail, or just plan on riding around until you get to the ship. It's hard to miss. One last word on the base; since they closed the doors in 1996 the primary use for the base is as a place for teenagers to drink. There is broken glass absolutely everywhere, so make sure you either have good flat-preventative tires or know how to fix a flat.
The U.S.S Hornet is located near a bunch of other historical sites. At the other end of the base there are two memorials, one for the Alameda Terminal, which was on the grounds prior to the creation of the base, and another for the maiden voyage of the China Clipper, which flew out of Alameda Naval Air Station on her first trans-Pacific flight. The Croll Building is also just down the road if you feel like riding a bit further.

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