Since my last blog post back in the middle of the month, I have been fortunate enough to do some fantastic travelling with my family and there will eventually be photos to come of that 9-day period. However, as with most good things in life, there is always a price to pay for the good times and my bill will amount to working over Xmas. So, here are 2 photos that summed up my Christmas Day yesterday:
I was in Sydney recently and paid a visit to the excellent Australian National Maritime Museum at Darling Harbour. One of the permanent exhibits is the ex-Royal Australian Navy destroyer, HMAS Vampire. Whilst wandering around the ship, and especially in this gun turret, I was reminded of a similar visit to a Royal Navy ship in 1976 (clearly remembered, as it was the hottest British summer on record) when, as a young teenager, my father was trying to convince me that a career in the Navy would be a wise choice. In the equivalent turret on that trip, my father pushed one of these shells along the track, only for it to disappear into the loading mechanism with a lot of clunking and whirring. As a young kid I was convinced the gun was now loaded with high explosive and only a button press separated downtown Portsmouth from total obliteration. In fear of being discovered for our brazenly war-like act, we toured the rest of the narrow, claustrophobic, unwelcoming steel ship and I became unwaveringly convinced that a life in HM’s ships was absolutely not for me.
If that life would have been bad enough, next door to HMAS Vampire was an even worse proposition – HMAS Onslow – an Oberon Class Submarine.
This is the one and only route through the submarine and we are looking at the engine room. Tucked into nooks and crannies throughout the vessel are kitchens, washrooms, bunk beds, the occasional individual cabin (if you were ever senior enough), communications and operations rooms. I’m sure never to be forgotten by her 68-strong crew was also the fact that all of these ‘amenities’ were of course hemmed in by torpedoes at both ends of the hull. This could be your home at sea for months at a time with up to 6 weeks solid spent underwater. How did they ever sell the idea to anyone?
So there we are, 2 jobs that are performed in claustrophobic, steel clad surroundings, in close proximity to high explosive and with the likelihood that people might try to kill you; both jobs that I would have absolutely hated doing. And what did I elect to do instead? Well, I dressed up in highly constrictive clothes with a helmet and mask on my face, strapped myself tightly onto a seat containing a couple of pounds of high explosive under my backside, wedged myself into a tight steel cockpit and blasted off at high speed into the sky where there was a high likelihood that someone (friendly, unfriendly, or self) would try to kill you.
Teenage logic, eh? Go figure!
Whilst friends and family were enjoying the New Moon at mid-Autumn Lantern Festivals around Hong Kong, I had to make do with this view of the moon rising over Pakistan. The big black area just below, and to the left and right of the moon is the shadow of our aircraft being cast upon the horizon by the sun setting directly behind us – kinda cool, huh?
As my last blog featured a photo of the old Hong Kong airport, it’s a bit of a coincidence that, the very next day, I went on a hike where I was able to take this photo of the new Hong Kong airport.
With two 3000′ high peaks within a very short distance from the runways, it must be one of the few major international airports in the World to be adorned with this sort of viewing gallery!
Here’s a recent photograph taken on arrival into Hong Kong, looking towards the West with Hong Kong Island on the left and the Kowloon peninsular on the right. In the foreground of the picture, and sticking out into Victoria Harbour, is the still recognisable shape of the old runway at Kai Tak airport, which closed in 1998. I never had the opportunity of landing at this airport – I wish I had; by all accounts it was an ‘interesting’ manoeuvre to say the least! Many old photos abound on the internet of aircraft seemingly brushing the apartment blocks of Kowloon as they made their turning approach to land on Runway 13. Passengers arriving into Hong Kong talked of being able to look into local residents’ apartments shortly before landing.
Last week, the ‘runway’ began a new life as a terminal for the new generation of ‘mega’ cruise ships that now ply the World’s Oceans. The terminal is the silvery blob at the end of the runway; the rest of the old Kai Tak site remains largely undeveloped – an incredible anomaly in Hong Kong’s land hungry dominion.