Wednesday, September 8, 2010
Chasing LST 325 Down The Ohio River
See my other blog entries on the LST:
Touring LST 325
LST - I Owe My Existence To Winston Churchill
Yesterday I took a vacation day and chased LST-325 down the Ohio River to take pictures. My original goal was to get a picture of the ship from the north shore as it passed the old Dravo site on Neville Island where my mother had worked during the war. It seemed like a grand idea to frame the shipyard as a backdrop to the passing LST. Unfortunately, I couldn't locate a good place to take the picture on the north shore, so I chose a park a few blocks down the street from Dravo (now Frontier Steel) on Neville Island. So instead of looking at Dravo, the picture is looking from Dravo. Not exactly what I had hoped for, but it would have to do.
Note! Click on photos for full size.
The ship's itinerary stated that it was going to take three local cruises then depart for Marietta Ohio. So I watched the tracker. The ship didn't leave until after 10. It went down to the far end of Brunots Island and turned back. The ship then left again after 12. I watched and it kept going past Brunots Island. I hopped in the car and took off for the 25 mile drive to Neville Island, hoping that the LST would get delayed at the Emsworth Dam. Using the Internet access on my Kindle, I was able to keep an eye on the ship's progress. The lock kept the LST tied up long enough for me to find a spot a few blocks down the street from Dravo and set up my camera and tripod. I had to wait about half hour, but along it came, looking magnificent! I snapped some photos and packed up and headed down to the access road for the Dashields Lock and Dam.
Unlike the spot at Neville Island, a small opening in the trees, the Dashields access road was right on the bank of the river and offered an unobstructed view of the river below the dam. There was a bit of a crowd of onlookers at this location. The ship soon showed up at the lock. I wanted to catch the ship in the open water, so I did not go down near the dam. It locked through and as it came sailing past it was playing "Anchors Away" over the PA system. I watched the ship for quite some time drift off into the distance and felt a bit of gloom that this might be a once in a life time event. This is probably the first time since 1945 or 1946 that an LST has floated down the Ohio and it could very well be the last. I also felt a great sorrow for my mother. Had this occurred 10 years ago before her cancer and Alzheimer's had acted up, she would have been thrilled to have toured the ship and stand along the river and watch it sail past.
I then proceeded to my last destination, Beaver, a small town a bit past the most northward point of the Ohio. It turns here and heads south west to eventually meet the Mississippi and flow to the Gulf of Mexico. I parked the car at the old site of Fort McIntosh, from the Revolutionary War, high on the hill above the Ohio. Unfortunately the park has a lot of trees blocking the view of the river. The small opening in the tree cover here offered a great view but it would be fleeting. I checked my Kindle for the location of LST-325. Hmmmm! Aliquippa, it didn't get very far. That didn't seem right, but maybe it had to yield to river barge traffic. I plugged the coordinates into the GPS to get an exact location, and it was 5 miles away as the crow flies. I had some time so I relaxed in the car. Suddenly I heard the distinctive horn. Damn! There it was. I fought my camera out of the case and grabbed my uni-pod. The ship was really moving. I got a couple quick crappy shots before it disappeared into the trees. Damn it!. I start running to another open spot in the trees a couple blocks away. Have you ever seen a 61 year old guy with junk knees and a bad back run? It is a sad sight. Needless to say the ship easily out ran me. I caught the stern disappearing into the trees. So much for LST-325. I had run out of time and could not chase it any further! I returned with sadness to my car. I checked the tracker again. It showed it was still down in Aliquippa. Later in the evening when I was back home I checked the tracker. Apparently LST 325 grew a set of wheels and took a convenient land route from Aliquippa to Stratton Ohio. I was not the only person horns-waggled by the errant tracker. I told several disappointed people pulling up to the park that the ship had just passed by. "But the tracker showed it was down in Aliquippa." Alas!
Again I would like to thank the volunteer crew and The USS LST Ship Memorial for a job well done! I have very much been enriched by touring your ship and seeing it underway down the Ohio River.
USS LST Ship Memorial
The infamous tracker:
For the next few days, you will be able to see the tracking from the Pittsburgh trip by clicking the "SHOW LAST" button and choosing "7 Days". I don't know what happened to the tracker, but it worked great until the ship got to Aliquippa. Then the coverage got extremely spotty creating tracks through land. For me it was invaluable for determining when to leave home. I didn't want to stand waiting on Neville Island for hours while the ship was doing the cruises. When it works, the tracker is really cool.
1. LST 325 on the Ohio River near the Dravo Site on Neville Island.
2. LST 325 in the Dashield Locks, Ohio River
3. LST 325 coming out of the Dashields Locks.
4. Lst 325 returning to the main channel, Ohio River near Dashields Locks.
5. LST 325 Stern shot near Dashields locks.
6. LST 325 sailing past Fort McIntosh, Beaver Pennsylvania (while I am relaxing in the car)
7. Map showing 3 photo locations for above photos.
8. A screen print of the tracker path. The red dots are where the tracker actually locates the vessel. The green line fills in the gaps between the contact points. The green line should have followed the river through Wheeling, New Martinsville, and St Marys. Note near Pittsburgh the closely spaced dots. The tracker went bad just about where I took the photos at the Dashields Dam and Locks. Map Credit: The tracker site listed above.