One of Hawaii’s most popular tourist attractions — the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor – will not reopen until fall at the earliest. In the meantime, visitors can take a free boat tour to the site of the World War II battleship and see other ships and museums.
During the protracted closure, boat tours continue, but without docking at the memorial. Instead, the Navy shuttles tour Battleship Row. The free tours — tickets are available each morning on a first-come, first-served basis — feature new narration.
Also can book up to two months in advance at Recreation.gov. The boat tours are still free, but there is a $1.50 handling fee.
The Honolulu-area World War II memorial, which sits above the sunken battleship with nearly 1,200 men entombed inside, abruptly closed May 6 after the adjacent loading dock was deemed unsafe.
A firm reopening date has yet to be determined, but engineers have begun the process of determining the best way to anchor the dock to the ocean floor. A 30-day timeframe for completion of the report is stipulated in a government contract awarded early last week.
“We would expect, being that we just signed the contract last week, that by late August, we’ll have the plan in place,” said Jay Blount, spokesman for the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument.
“We’ve been told that the implementation of this plan [the construction phase] will take at least 30 days. It could take longer,” Blount continued. “We don’t expect access to the USS Arizona Memorial to resume before Oct. 1.”
Blount said the expected reopening date will probably not be met, despite the fact that the National Park Service has began ordering parts for the new anchoring system. He said it is far more technologically advanced than the one installed prior to the memorial’s opening in May 1962.
“We’re comfortable saying ‘not before Oct. 1,’ but that’s about as detailed as we can get with the timeline,” he said.
“As you approach the USS Nevada mooring quay, for example, you can learn about the fact that although she was sunk to the bottom as she tried to leave Pearl Harbor, she was raised and later provided artillery support for the Allies as they stormed the beaches of Normandy in 1944,” Blount explained.
A World War II-era submarine, the Bowfin, is moored nearby and is open for tours.
Across the harbor on Ford Island, the Pacific Aviation Museum — the first target of Japanese aircraft on that fateful Sunday morning — is the repository for numerous military aircraft.
The same shuttle buses that take visitors to the aviation museum also stop at the Battleship Missouri Memorial. It was on the deck of this ship, anchored in Tokyo Bay, that the Japanese formally surrendered on Sept. 2, 1945.
Blount said the visitors he encounters continue to enjoy their time at Pearl Harbor despite the closure of the floating memorial.
“Let’s be honest. There’s nothing that’s going to replace standing on the USS Arizona Memorial and peering down through the shallow water that leads to the top of the USS Arizona as she lays on the harbor floor. It’s a national cemetery,” he said.