At One with the Sea in Hampton Roads
“Water, water everywhere,” is what you might be thinking if you just moved to the Hampton Roads area from, say, the corn belt or the mountains of Utah. Perhaps you’re here to take up a new job, or you’ve come to our area to be closer to your grown children and their families. Whatever the reason, we’re delighted you’re here, but we also realize that life in southeastern Virginia may represent a bit of a change for you.
There’s nothing like getting out and nosing around a little to become acclimated to your new surroundings. You are probably curious about the local history, and water has much to do with it. A couple of first-rate museums will help you learn about our strong ties to the sea: Nauticus in Norfolk and The Mariners’ Museum and Park in Newport News.
Located on Norfolk’s waterfront next to the cruise terminal, Nauticus is a science center and museum that shares space with the Hampton Roads Naval Museum. And moored alongside is the imposing, World War II-era battleship USS Wisconsin. Everything here is open to the public. From becoming acquainted with sea life in the museum’s touch tanks to a tour of the warship that served as late as 1991 in Operation Desert Storm, you can get a pretty good sense of just how important the sea is to life in this part of Virginia.
History you can see
Currently on display at The Mariners’ Museum and Park is a changing exhibit entitled ‘Sailor Made’ featuring a wide variety of artwork and crafts created by sailors going back to the days of whaling ships in the Pacific Ocean. There are several other outstanding exhibits and an amazing collection of maritime books, photographs and films: The museum’s library holds the largest maritime history collection in the Western Hemisphere. However, the museum is widely recognized for its award-winning Monitor Center. You will find here the gun turret from the famous Civil War ironclad, USS Monitor. In 2002, with the help of U.S. Navy divers, it was raised from the Atlantic Ocean off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, where the Monitor sank during a storm in 1862. Through glass panels, you can look into the laboratory where the turret still undergoes painstakingly careful conservation. Here you can’t help but reflect on the innovative design of a small but mighty ship that faced another ironclad in the Battle of Hampton Roads and changed the way sea warfare would be conducted going forward.
More to learn
If you like rivers, lakes, the ocean, the bay, tidepools and anything else connected to water, there’s so much more to learn here. For example, our region is home to the United States Fleet Forces Command. And then, of course, there’s the shipbuilding industry, which I find fascinating. But that’s a story for another day.