Jacksonville – As part of a two-day trip I took to northeast Florida this week, I went to Huguenot Park in Jacksonville today to do some wildlife photography, aircraft/ship spotting, and radio monitoring. The weather did not cooperate. It was too windy and rainy to take any photographs of wildlife, but it turned out that there was more than ample compensation in the form of a pleasant surprise: when I looked out at the Mayport Basin across the St. John’s River I saw what was clearly HMS Queen Elizabeth (R08), the Royal Navy’s new aircraft carrier! I was so excited, that I went out in the rain and got soaked to get my first photo of her. She was easily distinguished from the USS Iwo Jima (LHD-7) by her dual islands and ski-jump bow.
Luckily, the weather briefly improved and I was able to get some better photos. When the rain let up and I went back out to try for some more photos, one of her AW101 Merlins was on deck just behind the aft island. Getting to see HMS Queen Elizabeth made my day and made up for the crappy weather that kept me from doing most of what I wanted to do on the second day of my trip.
Some of the US Navy ships home-ported at Naval Station Mayport could also be seen from Huguenot Park: USS Iwo Jima (LHD-7), USS New York (LPD-21), USS Fort McHenry (LSD-43), USS Thomas Hudner (DDG-116), USS Little Rock (LCS-9), and USNS Hunter (TSV-3).
The ship spotting went well, but aircraft spotting didn’t go as well due to the bad weather. The only aircraft from Naval Station Mayport that were flying this morning were two HSM-40 MH-60Rs: AIRWOLF 06 (MH-60R, 167006, HSM-40) and AIRWOLF 43 (MH-60R, 167043, HSM-40).
Just upriver from the Mayport Basin is US Coast Guard Station Mayport. USCGC Maria Bray (WLM-562) was underway and outbound on the St. Johns River, while USCGC Hammer (WLIC 75302) and Barge (CGB-68014), USCGC Tarpon (WPB-87310), and USCGC Heron (WPB-87344) were moored at the station.
In addition to the military ships, there was some commercial traffic on the St. John’s River while I was at Huguenot Park. The shrimp boat Dawn Renee was going out and the barge San Juan Jax Bridge was inbound with tug boats Signet Lightning, Kaleen McAllister, and Stacy McAllister.
Even though I didn’t get to take any wildlife photos (although I did see some White Ibis, Snowy Egrets, and Great Egrets) at Huguenot Park, I enjoyed my visit and I’m looking forward to going back in better weather. There are plenty of spots for taking photos of waterfowl and shorebirds and it’s a great place for spotting at Naval Station Mayport.
Categories: HMS Queen Elizabeth, Jacksonville, Navy, NS Mayport, Photos, USCGC Hammer, USCGC Heron, USCGC Maria Bray, USCGC Tarpon, USS Fort McHenry, USS Iwo Jima, USS Little Rock, USS New York, USS Thomas Hudner