Wednesday, May 18, 2011

U.S.S. Carl Vinson sails past Corregidor

According to a recent newspaper article, the week of May 13 is historically the hottest of the year. This year is no exception, clearly the hottest week so far this year. Early last week Typhoon Bebeng passed nearby, resulting in a couple of cooler days and our first significant rain in months. As a result of the 2+ inches, things are starting to green up around here, and we can smell the fragrance from kalamansi and mock orange/orange jasmine blossoms…but of course it also increased the already-high humidity level. It’s kind of funny to us that on some days the distant views are crystal clear and we can actually see some of the Metro Manila high rises, while on other sunny days it is so hazy that you can’t even see across the few miles to Bataan.

On Monday, May 9, Sun Cruises had to cancel its tour because of high waves in Manila Bay. We stayed home and enjoyed the strong breeze. We noticed a long time ago that we have slide locks on both the inside and outside of our screen door, and that day showed us why. The wind blew strongly enough through the house to open the screen door despite having a Yale door-closer. So we locked the outside lock for the day, switching to the inside lock whenever we were indoors. Most of the time we totally ignore it.

Last year, Typhoon Basyang hit Corregidor on July 12. This year Bebeng passed by on May 9, meaning the first major typhoon of the year to hit the area came more than two months sooner. We wonder what else may be in store for us this year, whether this portends more typhoon activity for the season or not. Bebeng left 44 people dead in the country and caused over 30 million dollars (more than 1.3 billion pesos) in damages. It was a major enough storm that, following Philippine tradition, the name has been removed from the list for future “named storms,” meaning that Bebeng goes down in history by itself to avoid reawakening the negative memories that will now be associated with the name.

On Sunday, May 15, Ron sent us a text saying that an aircraft carrier was passing by Corregidor. We had heard that the USS Carl Vinson would be passing and had hoped to see it, but were afraid that it would pass us in the night. By the time we received the text and got to the north dock, it had already traveled well past the island, headed toward Manila. Unfortunately that meant that it was past the optimal photo position, and was now moving into the morning sun. Add to that the haze and we really didn’t get any good pictures, although our binoculars provided a decent view. The ship made the news when, two weeks ago, it was the recovery vessel for the SEAL team assigned to the Osama bin Laden raid, and provided his burial in the North Arabian Sea.

Between the heat and both of us recovering from colds, we’ve been lying low. We decided to take a short walk up to Battery Crockett to try to locate an emergency bunker that, according to our maps, is just a short distance up the hill from the east gun. It turned out to be very easy to find, in part because this is the best time of year vegetation-wise for exploration. It is easier to move through the jungle, and the ruins are much more exposed. Shortly, the vegetation will once again “explode,” as it takes advantage of the upcoming rainy season.

The bunker is particularly interesting because there is a large piece of concrete inside it, much too large to have been placed there by human hands. We are guessing that it is from the humongous explosion that occurred on the afternoon of May 2, 1942, when Japanese artillery crews were able to directly target the central powder magazine at Battery Geary, killing somewhere from 30 to 60 men instantly and sending chunks of concrete over much of the island. Steve’s father Walter, on the other side of Topside at Battery Way, was one of many who thought that a major earthquake had just taken place.

Today the ruins of Battery Geary remain, but only six of its original eight guns are present, and two of those are under the collapsed roof of one of the other two bunkers. One of those two can be seen sticking out below the fractured roof; the other is 20 feet to its right, inside the structure and not visible from a distance. These two guns appear to provide the only support still holding up the roof. As you approach the battery from the main road, you can see a piece of concrete stairway that had been thrown hundreds of feet by the explosion. It is shown in the lower left of one of the attached pictures.

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