A Tour of The Bay Area

On a bright sunny day in November 2010, a day remarkable for its crisp atmospheric clarity, three souls embarked on an aerial round-trip from Palo Alto to Napa and back again via the Golden Gate Bridge and Half Moon Bay.


7466 We take off northward from Palo Alto, and while still climbing through 1000ft we pass over the historic Cooley Landing. This is still closed to the public pending toxicity remediation and clean-up, but there is hope this will become a small park one day.



7475 Climbing higher towards the Dumbarton Bridge we turn across the bay and get a good view of the salt ponds as well as the piles of harvested salt that are visible in the middle of this picture.



7483 The plane is a Cessna 182G outfitted with a "glass cockpit". So instead of a panel full of dials and quivering needles that I might be more familiar with, Gary our pilot looks like he is playing video games on two flat screen monitors while simultaneously flying the plane.



7491 Once beyond Oakland we come to the Carquinez Bridge and just beyond that we can see what is left of the mothball fleet. This is steadily being reduced in size as ships are cleaned of their toxic components prior to being sold off for scrap.



7491 Secrets of the cold war - here we have a slightly closer view of a section of the mothball fleet and notice an unusual looking vessel (front row left-hand end in this picture). This apparent "barge" once hid a stealth ship called the "Sea Shadow" which was built inside this barge.

Prior to that it was known as HMB-1 (Hughes Mining Barge) and was part of the "Glomar Explorer" escapade to secretly recover the sunken Soviet nuclear submarine K-129 in the mid '70s.

The CIA ran an operation to recover the sunken submarine. The recovery effort centered on Hughes Glomar Explorer, a 63,000 ton deep-sea salvage vessel built for the project. The ship was built under the "cover story" that she was a deep-sea mining ship, intended to recover "manganese nodules" from the ocean floor. The ship was supposedly being built for the Summa Corporation at the direction of Howard Hughes for use by his Global Marine Development Inc. At the same time the "Hughes Mining Barge" was built. The barge, commonly known as HMB-1, was a submersible barge intended to carry the "claw" to be used in the recovery effort; it would also be used to hide the recovered submarine.



7500 As we approach Napa, clearly we are in wine country - the leaves are still on the vine but are wearing fall colors.



7511 After landing briefly at Napa to switch seats, we're off again, with this view as we climb out of the airport - we are very close to the Bay here.



7517 Heading out of the bay towards the Golden Gate Bridge, we pass San Quentin prison with two ferry boats passing on their way to and from Larkspur Landing.



7532 Over the Marin Headlands - and we get this view of the entrance to San Francisco Bay with the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco beyond it on the right.



7539 Above the right tower of the bridge we can see Alcatraz and to the left Angel Island - the Ellis Island of the west.



7545 Moving south, we can see the city with Park Presidio (tree-lined green strip along the bottom) connecting Golden Gate Park (which is still off to the right of this picture) with The Presidio which is the green area to the left.



7547 Zoom-in for a closer look at downtown...   beyond it Oakland, Berkeley and Mount Diablo.



7550 The green area stretching from bottom left corner is The Golden Gate Park with its Panhandle reaching towards downtown. The green blob to the right at the end of the panhandle is Buena Vista Park.

Some other prominent landmarks: The new De Young Museum (lower left edge) and the (new) Kezar Stadium (near one of the bright red roofs towards the middle) to St. Anne of The Sunset Church (Red roof with two steeples on bottom edge about 1/3 of the way from the bottom right corner) on Judah street which leads in turn to a UCSF hospital complex (middle right edge).



7557 Continuing south we reach the ticky-tacky little boxes that all look the same - made famous by the song. They lead a perilous existence on the edge...



7559 Some houses (looks like six) have already bitten the dust - and more to follow real soon.



7562 A little bit further south is more evidence of North America getting smaller. Here a whole two blocks have been cleared, except for two structures which are desperately clinging on. Rock has been piled at the foot of the cliffs there, and more is in process of being dumped on the left as we fly over. History has shown that these efforts are futile, they may delay the inevitable by one, two, or even five years. But the ocean will win.

The car park on the right looks particularly vulnerable.



7566 Another spot where North America is getting smaller. Every winter the roadway crumbles at Devil's Slide (in the middle of this picture) and the road is closed for repairs - sometimes for months. (Note the construction equipment at the right).



7567 As we come along a little bit further south, we can see that the construction equipment is at a branch of the road that appears to head into the mountainside - and a tunnel entrance. This tunnel will eventually divert traffic around Devil's Slide, but it is not ready yet.



7570 We fly over Princeton Harbor - just north of Half Moon Bay.



7573 Looking north along the coast back to Princeton Harbor - we are directly over the town of Half Moon Bay. Just north of the harbor we can see the huge runway of the local airport - built in an era when trans-pacific airliners might need an alternate landing site if San Francisco and Oakland were fogged in.



7584 A brief hop over the coastal range and we overfly Stanford University on our way to landing in Palo Alro.



7593 Soon after we pass over the Mountain View amphitheater, a landmark for aviators where you turn from base leg into final for landing.



7594 Lower the flaps and point the nose down in preparation for landing - a last look over the bay just before the wheels chirp merrily on the runway.



7506 Gary and Jim - Pilot and fellow passenger respectively on this remarkable flight.


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