Nassau Sailors Visit Gibraltar before entering Mediterranean

Story Number: NNS080318-15Release Date: 3/18/2008 2:16:00 PM
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By Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Jonathan Pankau

USS NASSAU, At Sea (NNS) -- Sailors from the amphibious assault ship USS Nassau (LHA 4) took the opportunity to visit Gibraltar during a recent port visit to nearby Rota, Spain, March 7-10.

The ship is deployed as part of the Nassau Expeditionary Strike Group in support of Maritime Security Operations and Theater Security Cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th and 6th Fleet areas of responsibility.

The Strait of Gibraltar, dominated by the Rock of Gibraltar, is a strategic naval entrance into the Mediterranean Sea. The strait, which connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea and separates Spain from Morocco, is eight miles wide at its narrowest point.

Gibraltar is a British overseas territory. Spain ceded sovereignty over Gibraltar in perpetuity in 1713 under the Treaty of Utrecht.

"As you can see from the fish and chips bars and telephone booths, Gibraltar is an English territory," said tour guide Eddie Hollands.

Gibraltar's natural caves and manmade tunnels have been used time and again as strategic bastions and choke points. St. Michael's Cave, one of the natural caverns that reside inside the Rock of Gibraltar, was even used to hide five hundred Spaniards from discovery after attempting to take Gibraltar back for Spain.

"Growing up in the U.S., you don't see the first-hand history of over 1,000 years of culture. The military aspect of Gibraltar is also interesting and how it's changed the face of war," said Nassau Executive Officer Cmdr. Neil Karnes.

St. Michael's cave is now one of the most popular tourist attractions in Gibraltar. It is said that the cave is bottomless and if one follows the caverns, it will eventually take you to Africa, although this has not been proven. The cave is occasionally used for concerts and orchestral shows due to its superb acoustics.

"St. Michael's Cave was really cool. The history of the caves is just phenomenal," said Karnes.

Just outside St. Michael's Cave, the Barbary apes wait for tourists. The only wild monkeys found in Europe, they are very people friendly and will even climb up on shoulders for a photo opportunity. It is said that if the monkeys ever leave, so will the British.

Karnes encouraged more Sailors to take advantage of Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR)-subsidized tours as the ship continues its deployment.

"I think the MWR tours like this are great. Having the opportunity to experience new things at a reasonable cost is a great advantage for Sailors," said Karnes.

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