National Maritime Center Nauticus Featuring Battleship Wisconsin and The Hampton Roads Naval Museum, Norfolk, VA
Several years ago, the city leaders of Norfolk decided that a beautifully-built waterfront museum that combined several themed destinations would result in a nautical center-of-gravity that would become a must-visit destination for tourists and families alike. The result is Nauticus, a multipurpose jewel of a building located on the Norfolk waterfront adjacent to the battleship Wisconsin. Nauticus is a nautical-themed museum with educational displays and interactive exhibits colocated with the Hampton Roads Naval Museum — and the battleship Wisconsin.
Like the New Jersey, the Wisconsin was one of our nation’s ultra-fast, ultra powerful Iowa Class battleships. She could zip through the seas with the speed of a destroyer yet weighs an otherwise sluggish 52,000 tons. She carried crew of 1,900. The Wisconsin has three massive gun turrets each with three 16-inch guns capable of firing a 2,700 pound shell 20+ miles with near pinpoint accuracy. She served in the Pacific Theater of World War II, Korea, and in Operation Desert Storm. Proving the seaworthiness of a large ship, in 1944 she and an entire Task Force of several hundred ships sailed directly into a Pacific hurricane that was packing 180 mile-per-hour winds and generating monster seas. Three ships went down, several more were damaged, and 790 men were lost — but the Wisconsin sustained a mere two injured seamen. After the Gulf War she was decommissioned and moved here in 2010 as a museum ship.
Start your visit on the Wisconsin. Her weather decks have been beautifully restored and her interior compartments have exhibits that will tell you much about her service at sea. Optional guided tours take you into the engine room and throughout the ship, but most visitors elect the self-guided options.
Nauticus is the shoreside museum next to the Wisconsin. Here you’ll find numerous military and science exhibits (many oriented toward school children) including the visually fascinating SOS Station. SOS Station shows how weather patterns form and sweep across our planet (oftentimes on unpredictable storm tracks). It uses a suspended Earth across which the magic of special effects dramatically creates weather phenomena that sweep across the globe.
The Hampton Roads Naval Museum is your final stop. It’s up a flight of stairs and has one of the finest collections of model ships this side of Annapolis. Note the Monitor and Merrimack. These civil war enemies were the first iron clad ships to do battle (it was a stalemate) however the Monitor introduced an idea the revolutionized warships. No, it was not armor plating – rather, it was the turret. The main gun on the Monitor was mounted in a turning 320-degree turret that was placed inside in a protective shell called a barbette. It is through this idea of a turret that we can directly connect the Monitor to the 16-inch gun turrets on the Wisconsin.
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