Thursday, January 28, 2016

Maritime Tourism: The Los Angeles Maritime Museum

Maritime museums often seem to be an endangered species these days, yet they still have a lot to offer. We plan to drop anchor at selected maritime museums this year, beginning with the Los Angeles Maritime Museum.

The museum is housed in a Streamline Moderne building on the San Pedro channel at the Port of Los Angeles. This architectural style appropriately mimics an ocean liner. Built in 1941, the building was originally a ferry terminal for passengers traveling between San Pedro and the naval and cannery facilities on nearby Terminal Island. Today it showcases the history of the port that is one of the largest container facilities in the United States.

Ship models make up a large share of the exhibits at the museum. This is a model of the double-ended ferry Islander which served the San Pedro-Terminal Island run from 1941 until 1963 when completion of the Vincent Thomas Bridge ended the need for ferry service. The label informs us that the ride lasted three minutes and cost 10 cents.

A model of the famed English tea clipper Cutty Sark, launched in 1869. The original is on display in Greenwich, England. Not all the models currently on display at the museum relate to Los Angeles history. This situation may change.

The Chinese junk Ning Po does have associations with Los Angeles. Reportedly built in 1753, the storied boat became a fixture and tourist attraction along the coast of Southern California beginning in 1911. In 1938 the Ning Po caught fire and went down off Catalina Island where it remains.

Perhaps the most famous ship model in the museum's collection is not  of a real ship. It is the Poseidon, star of the movie Poseidon Adventure (1972). The model is based largely on the blueprints for the RMS Queen Mary, a real ocean liner berthed nearby in Long Beach, which was used for filming many scenes in the film.

The museum is home port for a real boat. The Angel's Gate tug, built to serve the war effort in 1944, now provides excursion sailing in the harbor. The tug was featured in a 2015 episode of the TV series "Agent Carter."

Finish up your tour of the museum in the gift shop "Sea Chest" or on the outdoor viewing platform where you can see the USS Iowa, the Vincent Thomas bridge, Terminal Island, and the occasional sea lion.

Eleanor Boba