Journal Entry  -  October 7, 1999  -  Day 26

Thursday Morning Position Report
8:00 a.m., Mountain Daylight Time

12 Degrees, 57 Minutes North


93 Degrees, 42 Minutes West

Days Run:

49.2 Nautical Miles


4.1 Knots (Average)  running at reduced speed due to a fixed ETA of October 16 at the Panama Canal.

Total Run This Leg:  1,933.4 Nautical Miles
Total Average Speed:  5.19 Knots
Hours / Days This Leg:  372.5 Hours, 15.52 Days
Distance To Go This Leg:  1,014.4 Nautical Miles
Estimated Time Of Arrival:  7:00 a.m., Saturday, October 16
Present Course:  117 Degrees, Southeasterly
Winds:  Westerly at 20 Knots
Seas:  3 Foot
Swells:  8 Feet from the West Southwest
Barometric Pressure:  1011 Millibars
Air Temperature:  78 Degrees
Sea Temperature:  77 Degrees
Visibility:  10 Miles
Skies:  Mostly Cloudy
Sea Floor:  2,150 Fathoms or 12,900 Feet

Position:  USS New Jersey is now 129 Nautical Miles Southwest of the Rio Suchiate, the Mexican Honduran border, and to New Jersey's distant east, on the same latitude, is Nicaragua.

"How Big? ... How Fast? ... How Wide? ... How Many Rooms?"

It all came together this morning at Lenox Elementary School in Pompton Lakes, New Jersey - American history, a Battleship's noble career, satellite technology, a small tug in the Pacific, 130 inquisitive 4th graders, and the state of New Jersey's Commander-in-Chief, and substitute history teacher for the day, Gov. Christie Todd Whitman.

"Boys and girls ..." Lenox Elementary Principal Vincent Iraggi said, as Gov. Whitman entered the classroom.  "It's indeed a pleasure, and a privilege, for me to introduce to you the Governor of our great state, Gov. Whitman."

Applause rang out from the young students, eager to hear their Chief Executive 4th grade teacher take them on a guided, electronic field trip of the USS New Jersey. The Governor spends time in classrooms throughout the state each month, sharing her perspective on New Jersey history for the students, as an example of the volunteerism she hopes will take hold elsewhere.

Gov. Whitman then opened her lesson presentation for the combined students of Lenox and nearby Lincoln Elementary schools.  She told the students she was aware that Pompton Lakes has a piece of the Battleship Maine, which then brought her directly into the subject of the 10:15 a.m. class, the state's namesake, USS New Jersey.

She relayed to the students the government's role in bringing home the Battleship, when commissioning took place, the mothballing periods, the competition for the ship's donation between New Jersey and other states, and how years ago, the state government formed a Task Force to work for the ship's return to New Jersey when the U.S. Navy was ready to donate the famed Battleship as a museum.

Gov. Whitman credited Assemblyman Joseph Azzolina, a retired Navy Captain who toured aboard the battleship during her Lebanon duty in 1983, with spearheading the movement to focus attention on bringing the battleship home.   The Governor said she added funds in the state budget this year to tow the ship home, and for improvements to the ship once the Navy decides where it will be permanently located in the state.

With this strategic back grounding presented, the Governor then told the students she had something special for them today.  "We actually have communication with the USS New Jersey, actually with the tugboat that is towing her," she said.

Although this reporter was not in the classroom to see the 4th grader eyes at this point, their questions soon displayed immediate and keen interest in this inter-continental, trans-oceanic, long-distance-satellite conference call with speaker phone in the front of their room.  "Is this really going to work," one imagines them thinking.  "From the tugboat? Cool."

Then the Governor mentioned she would be going to Panama next week to greet the Battleship and be aboard as the ship goes through the first set of Canal locks.

"She will be the last Battleship to go through the Canal before the United States turns over control of the Panama Canal to the Panamanians," Whitman said.  "So this is a big thing.  We're bringing her home, we're bringing her home on the shortest route, and it's the last major ship that will be going through the Canal before the transition."

Then the Governor called on this messenger to report the USS New Jersey's position this morning, how the trip was going, and how everything was.   In a word, he said, beautiful, from the beginning to now.  Captain Kaare Ogaard, he said, passed well beyond any storms before they would impact the tow, and the future looked just as good.

Now came the students' chance.  Hands flew skyward, and the Governor started selecting questioners from the excited crowd.

"How were New Jersey's 16 Battle Stars displayed? ...How tall is the ship? ... How much weight can the ship hold? ... What's her tonnage? ... How many rooms on the battleship? ... How long did it take to build her? ... How many knots can she do, her maximum speed? ... Who's the Captain now, does she have a Captain now? ... Was the Battleship ever damaged in war? ... How long can she go without stopping? ... Does the Governor have any friends on the Battleship? ... When was the last war she fought in? ... How wide is she? ... How many guns did she have on her? ... Did she have torpedoes? ... Could she fire missiles? ... How big was the ammunition? ... Did she ever fire nuclear weapons? ... What's her draw? ... Was anyone killed aboard her? ... How many people lived on her? ... Has the Governor ever been aboard? ... How fast is
the tow? ... Was she hand-made? ... Who were the first people to ride her? ... What was the biggest weapon on board? ... How many levels are there on the ship? ... How tall are the missiles? ... How old is the ship? ... Was she used for any other purposes besides wars and battles? ..."

And just as it was warming up, and as interesting classes always are, it was time for Principal Iraggi to bring the history session to an end.   The class period time was up.

Gov. Whitman had sailed through the student questions and answers, steering the young minds to new knowledge, and impressing Iraggi enough to invite her to substitute teach whenever the Governor was in the neighborhood.

She concluded by reminding her young constituent learners that all their remaining questions could be posted on the state's Department of Military and Veterans Affairs web site for answering.

Applause again enveloped the Lenox Elementary School class assembly as the Governor departed, hinting to them that she was eager herself to see the Battleship, step aboard her historic deck, and be part of her journey through the Panama Canal next week.

One question this reporter did not hear spoken, and perhaps only dreamed of in one or more of the Lenox and Lincoln young minds, was: "Governor, can I go to Panama with you next week?"

Submitted by Bob Wernet onboard the Sea Victory.


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