Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Tour: Great Stirrup Cay, Bahamas

A Day at Great Stirrup Cay in the Bahamas 

GPS: N25° 49.560; W077° 54.751

History of the Island:

Great Stirrup Cay is a small uninhabited sub-tropical island in north central Bahamas that is part of the Berry Islands Group. The island was a used by pirates from the time the British occupied the Bahamas and made  Nassau the capital until 1815. Once the United Kingdom abolished slavery, the British began to withdraw from the outer islands of the Bahamas until Great Stirrup Cay was abandoned.

During the American Civil War the island was used by the Confederate states to store provisions and to export cotton to Europe. The area was patrolled by Federal warships to inhibit the export of cotton by the Confederacy.

The Imperial Lighthouse Service erected the 80' high lighthouse on the north east coast of Great Stirrup Cay in 1863. The lighthouse site was manned until it was converted to solar power. The light is visible for over 20 miles.

1863 Lighthouse

During World War II the United States erected observational and defensive infrastructure including: submersible anti-submarine cables,  Later the U.S. Air Force constructed a satellite tracking station which was closed in 1991. A helipad that is known as Great Stirrup Cay International Airport is still in use.

Great Stirrup Cay International Airport 

Belcher Oil Company took ownership of a large section of the island.  In 1977, Norwegian Caribbean Lines (later Norwegian Cruise Line) acquired the western section of the island from Belcher Oil, developed recreational facilities and established a port-of-call their passengers.

Access and Activities:

Since the cruise ship cannot dock on the island, passengers arrive by tender boats.

Tender Boats Shuttle Goods and Passengers

Riding the Tender Boat
The Ship Remains At Anchor

Passengers disembark and are greeted with a bronze statue of Neptune at the entrance to the palm covered  beach area.

Neptune and Palm Covered Beach

The main beach area is called Bertram Cove. It is named after  Captain Allan Bertram, a the British Naval officer,  who lived and is buried on Great Stirrup Cay. His grave marker is located on the main beach.

Captain Bertram Grave Site

Since the original inscription on the headstone is worn and difficult to read, NCL has placed a nearby bronze plaque that reproduces the inscription:

to the memory of
Allan Bertram, Esq. 
Late commander of HMS Tweed
who departed this life of fever 
July 29, 1834 
after serving faithfully his country 33 years. 
Aged 44 years. 
O Bertram, the man, the father, 
art thou gone and gone forever hast thou crossed that unknown river 
life's dreary end. 
Like the we shall not find another. 
He died abroad
he was borne to the earth by the crew
that he died with, he had the tears 
of his shipmates, the prayers of 
his friends." 

Plaque placed by Norwegian Caribbean Lines - October 1979

Bertram's Cove is the main beach area. It can accommodate over 4000 passengers.

Bertram's Cove

Activities include swimming, snorkeling, parasailing, waverunner tours, kayaking, paddleboarding and an inflatable 40' high water slide. You can even hike along wide gravel roads the the far southeast end of the island encountering wildlife along the way.

Iguanas Abound
Southeast End of Great Stirrup Cay
The Peaceful  Southeast Part of the Island

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Tour of the Kennedy Space Center in Five Hours - Titusville, FL - 5 pm to 6 pm

Timeline and sights:

5 pm to 6 pm - Special presentation at the IMAX theater.

GPS: N28° 31.460; W080° 40.947

During the winter the Kennedy Space Center closes at 5 pm. Since, we were visiting with a tour group arranged by the cruise line, we were able to attend a special after-hours presentation at the IMAX theater.

IMAX Theater

Former Astronaut and retired Colonel Gerard (Jerry) Carr gave a short presentation about the Skylab program which was followed by a question and answer period. Colonel Carr was the commander of Skylab 4 for 83 days between November 16, 1973 and February 8, 1974.

Skylab Commander Gerald (Jerry) Carr
This was followed bu a 45 minute IMAX film documenting NASA's Skylab program.

Skylab in Space
6 pm - Get on the bus for the ride back to Port Canaveral and board NCL Breakaway and our next stop at Great Stirrup Cay in the Bahamas. 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Tour of the Kennedy Space Center in Five Hours - Titusville, FL - 4 pm to 5 pm

Timeline and sights:

4 pm to 5 pm - Visit the Space Shuttle Atlantis and the Shuttle Launch Experience

GPS: N28° 31.485; W080° 40.831

The Shuttle Experience is reached by entering the Atlantis Exhibit building where you view two consecutive multimedia presentations. The doors then open to reveal the Space Shuttle Atlantis suspended with its payload bay doors opened such that it appears to be in orbit around the Earth.

Entrance to Space Shuttle Atlantis and the Shuttle Launch Experience
First Multimedia Presentation

Second Multimedia Presentation

Space Shuttle Atlantis

The Shuttle Launch Experience is the newest attraction at the Kennedy Space Center. It is very popular and a bit time consuming to reach; so, plan your time accordingly. Entry to the Space Shuttle Experience line ends about 1 hour before closing.

Enter Where You See This Sign

The $60 million ride allows visitors to experience the launch of the space shuttle. This is achieved by being seated in motion chairs while images are projected on a big screen at the front of the ride. Lights and loud sounds accompany the presentation.

Luckily, The Line Was Short
Scary Warning Sign
A downward ramp takes you from the Atlantis to the Space Shuttle Experience. About 44 visitors enter a room and are lined up in front of seven doors. When the doors open you are seated inside the Space Shuttle Simulator. After a series of orientations you are rocked back in your chair as the sight and sound show begins. You accurately experience the motions and the forces that astronauts feel during a real shuttle launch.

Shuttle Simulation Information While You Wait

Lining Up To Enter

Have A Seat

Monday, March 10, 2014

Tour of the Kennedy Space Center in Five Hours - Titusville, FL - 3 pm to 4 pm

Timeline and sights:

2 pm to 3 pm - Take the tour bus to the Visitors Center Complex and explore the 70 acre area.

GPS: N28° 31.370 W080° 410.000

The Kennedy Space Center website (q.v.) provides information on 23 named attractions within the 70 acre Visitors Center Complex. Link to Kennedy Space Center Website.

1 Visitor Complex Entrance
2 Voyagers
3 Early Space Exploration
4 Debus Conference Facility
5 Lunch With An Astronaut
6 Information Central
7 Rocket Garden Cafe
8 Rocket Garden
9 Children's Play Dome
10 Astronaut Encounter
11 Angry Birds™ Space Encounter
12 Robot Scouts
13 Bus Tour Boarding
14 NASA Central
15 Space Shop
16 Exploration Space®
17 IMAX® 3D Space Films
18 Orbit Cafe
19 Constellation Sphere
20 Shuttle Express Gifts
21 Space Shuttle Atlantis?
22 Shuttle Launch Experience®
23 Astronaut Memorial

We will visit the Space Shuttle Atlantis and ride the Shuttle Launch Experience in the next hour. Here are some of the interesting sights in the Visitors Center Complex.

Space Shuttle Liquid Fuel Tank and Solid Fuel Rockets
Constellation Sphere - A rotatable nine ton granite sphere supported by water.
These are known as Kugel Balls.
Rocket Garden
Meet and Greet with Veteran Astronauts
Angry Birds Encounter - Real-life Version of the Popular Computer Game
Childrens Play Dome

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Tour of the Kennedy Space Center in Five Hours - Titusville, FL - 2 pm to 3 pm

Timeline and sights:

2 pm - Disembark the tour bus at the Apollo Saturn V exhibit.

GPS: N28° 36.314; W080° 40.209

When the doors open you enter into a 560' long rectangular building that exhibits a Saturn V rocket. From 1966 to 1973, the multi-stage, liquid fueled, Saturn V ("Saturn five") rocket was used by NASA's Apollo and Skylab programs. 

Between November 9, 1967 (Apollo 4) and May 14, 1973  (Skylab 1), thirteen Saturn V rockets was launched from the Kennedy Space Center. Between December 21, 1968 (Apollo 8) and December 17, 1972 (Apollo 17), a total of 24 astronauts were launched to the Moon, three of them twice.

This family of rockets were designed under the direction of Wernher von Braun, and Arthur Rudolph  at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Boeing Aircraft , North American Aviation, Douglas Aircraft Company, and IBMas were the main contractors.

3 pm - Board the tour bus for the ride back to the Visitors Center Complex.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Tour of the Kennedy Space Center in Five Hours - Titusville, FL - 1 pm to 2 pm

Timeline and sights:

12 noon on 18 February 2014 the NCL Breakaway docks at Port Canaveral, FL.
12:30 pm the tour bus leave the dock for the 30 minute ride to the Kennedy Space Center.

1 pm tour begins with the arrival at the entrance to the Kennedy Space Center.

GPS: N28° 31.364; W080° 40.914

"Guests are greeted by a first-ever 3D representation of the NASA insignia and a majestic 75-foot-long, 5000-gallon fountain that pays homage to the dreams of late President John F. Kennedy, for whom NASA’s Kennedy Space Center is named. Kennedy’s face, along with a quote from his famous 1962 “moon speech” at Rice University, are laser etched onto a skyward-reaching arch of blue granite." - Kennedy Space Center website.

Sphere with NASA insignia.

Kennedy Fountain
The block of granite on the back wall bears the laser engraved image of President Kennedy along with the inscription:

For the eyes of the world now look into space
to the moon and to the planets beyond,
and we have vowed that we shall not see
it governed by a hostile flag of conquest,
but by a banner of freedom and peace. - John F. Kennedy

1:30 pm: board the Kennedy Space Center tour bus to visit the grounds. Included views of the Launch Complex 39 and the giant Vehicle Assembly Building, the largest one story building in the world.

GPS: N28° 35.066; W080° 39.042

Vehicle Assembly Building
2 pm - Drive to the Apollo Saturn V Center.