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Article and Photography by Britt Dietz | Published on March 31, 2011
 Walking through the ship on this tour, I became amazed at the sheer size of the ship, and how many ladders and decks there were. It seemed like an endless line of hallways, bulkheads, ladders, and locking handle steel doors with each level seeming to be bigger than the next. Touring the ship, we were shown the mess halls (which will be covered in much greater detail later), various important parts of the Carrier including the hangar bay, the main anchor room, various squadron sections of the ship, and my most anxiously awaited section to visit: the flight deck. Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornets tightly lined up on the forward most part of the flight deck on the USS Abraham Lincoln docked in Pearl Harbor, Oahu - Photo by Britt DietzBoeing F/A-18 Super Hornets tightly lined up on the forward most part of the flight deck on the USS Abraham Lincoln docked in Pearl Harbor, Oahu - Photo by Britt Dietz Coming up onto the flight deck near the forward part of the Carrier, immediately we had to watch our heads and duck as we travelled past F/A-18 Hornet after Hornet. It was a sea of Hornets, almost so many that when standing in between the aircraft lined all over the forward part of the ship, you would barely see anything else. Already I was in a daze, and pretty sure this is what heaven looks like, except maybe with a few supermodels thrown in there as well. I know my sponsor was getting a kick out of me drooling, and my eyes glazed over like a kid in a candy store, but a candy store filled with huge speed of sound fighter jets. After walking around the flight deck for a little bit, I had already managed to shoot over 230 images, in just an hour's time. There were examples of every single aircraft on board sitting on the flight deck from Hornets to Hawkeyes, Greyhounds, Prowlers, and Seahawks. Because most of the Tigers were just getting there and getting settled in, the flight deck was pretty much empty. Technically, once checked in to the Carrier, the Tigers could still go have fun in Oahu until the next morning at 0600 when all crew and Tigers had to be onboard. So naturally, I took the time to take as many photos as I can, including some HDRI. The sun was starting to slowly set in the Oahu skies, and some of that beautiful light was hitting the aircraft. There were several amazing photo ops, even with the Carrier stationary in port at Naval Station Pearl Harbor, but there was one shot in particular that really stood about above all the rest.

 As I was shooting towards the aft section of the flight deck, I noticed on F/A-18C Hornet with an American Flag behind it. The wind was blowing pretty well up there on the deck, and the flag kept stretching out to full length behind this Hornet. With the dramatic lighting and the back lit flag flapping in the distance, I put on my telephoto lens to pull in the flag and make it appear a bit bigger behind the Hornet and took several shots until I was able to capture one with the flag in a pretty good unfurled position! A Boeing F/A-18C Hornet sits on the Flight Deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln Aircraft Carrier docked in Pearl Harbor, Oahu on March 13, 2011 - Photo by Britt DietzA Boeing F/A-18C Hornet sits on the Flight Deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln Aircraft Carrier docked in Pearl Harbor, Oahu on March 13, 2011 - Photo by Britt Dietz It was by far my favorite photo from the day, one that could be used on one of those motivational posters. The caption could simply say 'America. Win.' From the Flight Deck and into the 'island' of the ship (aka the Tower on the flight deck), we went up to what's called Vulture's Row. Vultures Row is three decks that have balconies on the Island that overlook the flight deck. Obviously, this is the prime spot to be during any launches or landings on the Carrier, and the only spot you're allowed to see. Space is limited on these balconies, with only enough room for about 2 people deep and about 15-20 people long. From there, you get a nice bird's eye view of everything. Picking the lowest balcony of Vulture's Row, we stood up there for a little and surveyed the sea of aircraft below us, along with the wonderful sunset in the distance. The Seahawk helicopters were neatly packed right below us, folded up in ways that make them look like oversized toys, and the various Hornets on the back of the ships were packed in with their wings folded up to conserve precious space on the Carrier. It was for sure a sight to see, and I couldn't wait for us to get underway so I could see these aircraft in action, and this flight deck to go from a quiet tranquil military air power parking lot into a busy highway to (yes, you guessed it) the Danger Zone. The main bridge and navigation decks of the Carrier Island are just a quick walk inside from the Vulture Row decks, so we toured the various command sections of the ship. Much like the USS Dewey destroyer that I had toured during its commissioning ceremony last year, most of the controls for the ship were all touch screen and LCD based including the main navigation and steering. Finally, after a bit more touring around various parts of the ship, it was time to head to the final spot, the 'Fan Tail' or back of the ship. It was the furthest back you could go, and on the same deck as the Hangar Bay. I'd spend a lot of time on this section throughout the trip, but for now we were there to see the sun set over the USS Missouri battleship and the very silent USS Arizona memorial. I took a minute to think about the sailors on board the USS Arizona who stared off into the same sunset on December 6 1941, unaware of the oncoming Japanese surprise attack the next morning.

Flight Deck  Aircraft  - USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) Tiger Cruise 2011 - Day 1
Flight Deck  Aircraft  - USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) Tiger Cruise 2011 - Day 1
US Navy Ship: USS Arizona  Memorial  - USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) Tiger Cruise 2011 - Day 1
Pearl Harbor    - USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) Tiger Cruise 2011 - Day 1

 As quickly as the brief tour had begun, it was time for it to end. Ending the tour in the hangar bay, I was on cloud nine waiting for this journey to get started. There'd still be one night, my first night on the Carrier, for me to get through before we were underway. A dramatic sunset behind the USS AbrahamLincoln (CVN-72) Aircraft Carrier docked at Pearl Harbor Naval Station in Oahu, Hawaii.  HDR Image composed of three different photos - Photo by Britt DietzA dramatic sunset behind the USS AbrahamLincoln (CVN-72) Aircraft Carrier docked at Pearl Harbor Naval Station in Oahu, Hawaii. HDR Image composed of three different photos - Photo by Britt Dietz While walking away from the Carrier, the sun was just about hitting the hills in the distance, and I stopped to shoot some HDRI style images of the Carrier with all the aircraft aboard. Little did I know it would be one of the best HDRI images I'd get during the whole trip right at that moment, and it's a great memento of my excitement of what was to come. After taking our friends back to their home in Oahu and returning the rental car to the Airport, it was time to head back to the Naval Base and board the Carrier for the final time, I wouldn't be setting foot on land for 6 days from that moment. While walking to the Carrier, many food vendors had set up shop right outside the dock the Carrier was on, for sailors and crew to get something other than the onboard food that they'd been getting the whole trip. There was a variety of choices, and it was packed with sailors getting a last bite of something fresh and new before getting back on board, not to mention the beer was flowing for them to partake in as well. Taking a break to grab some dinner there and hang out a bit getting to meet some of the other security personnel who I'd be seeing a lot of on the trip, it was then time to say goodbye to soil and trees and hello to water and steel. The various night lights on the various decks of the US Navy USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) Aircraft Carrier light up the waters of Pear Harbor, Oahu. - Photo by Britt DietzThe various night lights on the various decks of the US Navy USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) Aircraft Carrier light up the waters of Pear Harbor, Oahu. - Photo by Britt DietzTaking a last few shots of the Carrier with the various night lights on, we climbed up the large ladder to the Lincoln and headed down to the security berthing. Both of us exhausted from a very very early day of waking up (about 4am) in order to see the sun rise on the other side of Oahu, we were ready to turn in early. After getting ready for bed, it became time for me to get on up to the top bunk, which seemed easier in theory than actually doing it, especially for a tall guy like me. Using foot holds on the bottom two bunks, you have to pull yourself up, and then slide in. One would think that would be easy, especially with the top bunk having so much space I could sit up in bed... but there was a big obstacle blocking that from being easy. A large bar went across the open side of the bed that contained a sliding curtain that you could slide across for privacy, much like many beds in trains or special airlines. The problem was that with the bar there, you either had to carefully craw over the bar and throw yourself into the bed, or crawl between the bar and the mattress, which was only a foot and a half tall. Not a lot of room to squeeze in, but I found it was easier to do that than to leap over the bar and risk hitting your head on the very hard ceiling or the crazy patterns of piping and wires. But the trick is, you have to keep one foot on the top most foot hold, then slide your other foot up and over the mattress, then almost do the splits as you bring your head in and thrust your chest forward pushing yourself through that space between the bar and mattress enough that you can take your foot off the foot hold and slide yourself into the bed. Sounds like a complicated process right? I wish I could say I mastered it by the end of the trip, and while I was indeed a lot quicker at it, I still felt very clumsy each time I tried to get in.

 I was given extra Navy wool blankets as I was told that since I was on the top bunk, it'd be extra cold, and they were not kidding. Being directly below the vent that was constantly throwing out cold air 24-7, I used all three of the wool blankets. At the time, I didn't realize why the bed sheets were so very tightly tied onto the mattress, which made it difficult to get into, but I would realize why the next day when we were out to sea, something I'll touch on in the next two day's stories. Sitting there all tucked into the bed, I wasn't sure id I'd even be able to sleep, the excitement and wonder danced in my head reminding me over and over a simple and crazy fact: You're sleeping on an AIRCRAFT CARRIER. Thankfully, the constant hum of the air conditioning vent was a perfect white noise, and I found it to be very soothing and knocked me out rather quickly, along with the nice easy on the eyes red lighting that would automatically activate once the main white lights were turned off. It was at that moment that I slowly found myself drifting to sleep, excited for tomorrow's leaving port and heading out to the great big sea would offer...

CONTINUED IN PART 3 OF THE USS ABRAHAM LINCOLN TIGER CRUISE 2011 STORY, COMING SOON! CHECK BACK ON WARBIRD PHOTOS FOR THE REST OF THE 7 DAY TRIP ONBOARD THE CARRIER! FOR THE ONLINE REPORTS FROM THIS SERIES, CHECK OUT THE LINKS BELOW:

PART 1» STORYPHOTO GALLERY
PART 2» STORYPHOTO GALLERY
PART 3» STORYPHOTO GALLERY
PART 4» STORYPHOTO GALLERY

Author and photographer BRITT DIETZ has been attending airshows for as long as he can remember.  Growing up with the former Marine Corps Air Stations El Toro and Tustin in his backyard, he's been exposed to every type of modern military aircraft.  Britt began shooting photography at Airshows during the last El Toro airshow in 1997, shortly before the base closed and soon found an intense passion for the aviation photography trade. Continuing to harness this love traveling to airshows all over the West Coast, in 2003 Britt launched his first Aviation Photography website called Warbird Photos Aviation Photography, and has been shooting professional aviation photography ever since having been published in various magazines, newspapers, books, and calendars.

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