Water Week, Historic Waters

We had to get to the Atlantic Ocean! Hannah at Sullivan Island, SC

In June, one of my daughters and I took a trip to Charleston, South Carolina. On a sunset cruise with Adventure Harbor Tours, we not only enjoyed the relaxing ride and beautiful views, but got a history lesson to boot! Here are some highlights.

  • Fort Sumter: historic fort, start of the Civil War, Confederate forces fired shots upon Federal troops on April 12, 1861

Since the American Revolution, Americans have built systems of forts at harbors along the coast to strengthen maritime defenses. Following the War of 1812, several major weaknesses in the American coastal defense system were identified. To fill these voids, Congress and the US Army Corps of Engineers planned the construction of forty-two forts, primarily located along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts from Maine to Louisiana. These forts are collectively known as the Third System of Seacoast Defense.

Charleston Harbor made the list of sites vulnerable to attack, prompting the construction of Fort Sumter. Construction on the man-made island began in 1829. Thirty-one years later, sectional tensions exploded at Fort Sumter into armed conflict.

  • USS Yorktown: tenth aircraft carrier to serve in United States Navy, built in 16 1/2 months

 YORKTOWN was commissioned on April 15, 1943. World War II’s famous “Fighting Lady” would participate significantly in the Pacific offensive that began in late 1943 and ended with the defeat of Japan in 1945. YORKTOWN received the Presidential Unit Citation and earned 11 battle stars for service in World War II.

In the 1950s, YORKTOWN was modernized to operate jet aircraft as an attack carrier. In 1957, she was re-designated an anti-submarine aircraft carrier, and would later earn 5 battle stars for service off Vietnam (1965-68). The ship also recovered the Apollo 8 astronauts and capsule (December 1968). YORKTOWN was decommissioned in 1970 and placed in reserve.

In 1975, this historic ship was towed from Bayonne, NJ to Charleston to become the centerpiece of Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum.

  • Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge: opened on July 16, 2005, the longest cable-stayed bridge of its time in North America, the tallest structure in South Carolina

The new bridge had to be high enough to accommodate ship traffic to a world-class port, strong enough to withstand seismic events like Charleston’s 1886 earthquake (magnitude 7.3), sturdy enough to weather hurricanes like Hugo and aesthetically pleasing enough to satisfy the discerning public eye. The new structure also had to meet long-term traffic needs. To that end, it has eight vehicular lanes, and pedestrian and bicycle accommodations.

The awe-inspiring, cable-stayed main span boasts a deck almost 200 feet above the water of Charleston Harbor’s shipping channel and two diamond towers almost 600 feet high.

Have you been to Charleston, SC? Did you tour some of these sights? 

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Sources: National Park Service,  South Carolina Picture Project, Patriot’s Point

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