Thursday, December 1, 2011

San Diego Bay

We arrived in San Diego on Tuesday. Our drive here from Yuma proved quite interesting. We traveled from flat desert land to rocky hillsides barren of little plant life. We then started climbing over mountains dotted with lush green foliage. Driving into San Diego we finally got glimpses of the Pacific Ocean. Yesterday, Wednesday, we spent on San Diego Bay. When we were here two years ago we had little interest in touring the Maritime Museum on the bay. Currently at the museum has a special exhibit  "Cook, Melville,and Gauguin, Three Voyages to Paradise". That was my incentive now to tour the museum. John spent the larger part of his day exploring the ships of the museum while I spent my time looking at the special exhibit. That exhibit is placed in two areas of the museum; on the steam ferryboat the Berkeley and on the HMS Surprise (a replica of a late 18th century Royal Navy frigate, she was used in the production of the movie Master and Commander). Below is a picture of the Berkeley.
Captain James Cook made his first South Pacific voyage in 1768. At that time he estimated the population of Tahiti to be about 200,000. On his second and third voyages to the islands he had along official expedition artists. Some of their art work is with the special exhibit in the museum. Cook's visit to the islands brought to Europe a vision of the Pacific Islands as an earthly paradise. Unfortunately the arrival of the Europeans brought disease, death and a collapse of the cultural values of the island people. By 1810 their population dropped to less than 8,000. Two subsequent visitors to Tahiti, Melville and Gauguin, witnessed and recorded in different media their experiences in the island paradise. The exhibit also has original work and artifacts associated with those men. I discovered that Gauguin not only did oils, but also watercolors, carvings and sculptures. As the curator of the museum, Marcus DeChevireux put it so aptly, "Melville captured its exploitation and Gauguin painted its eulogy". It is a wonderful exhibit which will be leaving San Diego on January 1. While at the harbor we also took a cruise of the bay in a 1914 pilot boat. Our guide on that tour had a lot of information on the history of the bay and its ships to share with us. When the first explorers came to this harbor it was mainly a marshland and  required a lot of dredging to make it a safe harbor for ships to enter. Below is a picture of the shoreline looking toward San Diego.It was overcast and a bit cool on the bay.

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