Today we're exploring a really amazing part of American History. We're in North Carolina at the birthplace of Aviation where the Wright Brothers successfully flew a heavier than air craft for the first time in history! For kids who like Space, this is what started it all.
Sunday, September 5, 2021
The Flowers Explore - The Wright Brothers National Memorial 2021/08/05
Our RV site is about 2 hours away from Kitty Hawk, Kill Devil Hills, and the Outer Banks of North Carolina. It was well worth the drive though.
We got to drive over lots of really long bridges over things like the Alligator River and Croatan Sound.
Orville and Wilbur Wright were originally from Ohio. It was the older brother, Wilbur, who had the idea to attempt tackle the problem of heavier than air flight. He asked the National Weather Service at the time for some places to attempt it that had 1) Constant wind, 2) Low Population, 3) Soft Landing places.
He was given locations like Chicago Illinois, San Diego California, Kitty Hawk North Carolina, and Jacksonville Florida. He wrote each of the cities asking if they would host him. The only one who wrote him back was Kitty Hawk North Carolina, so off he went!One of the first things the Wright Brothers did was test their models and calculations with a kite. One of the things the visitor's center offers guests is the chance to fly kites on the lawn every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 10-12. It's 11:45 and it's getting close to the end of the time. I parked the truck and the kids were running over to the tent a Ranger pointed us to.
Here a Ranger is handing out kites to anyone who is interested. Just leave your name and phone number.
It's a little sad, and I'd always had thoughts to do it, but this is the first time the kids have ever flown a kite. Completely unprompted, I love love loved that Ian just started singing "Let's Go Fly A Kite" from Mary Poppins.
But what an awesome place to do it, right? On the field of Kill Devil Hills (where the Wright Brothers made their first flight). And in the shadow of the monument dedicated to them!
Just a quick aside, at the time of the first flight, the city of Kitty Hawk was the nearest settlement to this field. In 1953, this 5 square mile area of the Outer Banks Coast became the town of Kill Devil Hills.Great job Ian.
Alli, you're doing awesome! The wind is pretty steady here. It didn't take much at all for the kites to reach the end of their strings.
I think we're going to need to buy some kites. The kids had an awesome time.
Right after we turned in our kites, a Ranger talk was starting over at the Visitor's Center. Those are always informative, so we hustled over.
"They taught us to fly"
Ranger Adonis (yes, like the person from Greek myth he said) led us through the Wind and Sand Tour. Adonis has previously worked at Arlington and is starting his first year here at the Wright Brothers Memorial. He talked us through the history of why they came out to Kitty Hawk.
We walked over to a recreation of their hanger (on the left) and housing (on the right).
Then we walked just a few feet to where it all happened. Right here is where man overcame the constant pull of gravity and headed towards the heavens.
The kids have been loving doing the Junior Ranger programs that are offered at the National Parks. Secretly Theresa and I love them too because it's a great way to get a lot of summarized information about the places we're visiting. Plus they're usually interactive so the kids stay involved. If you want to check it out, it's available online here.
The first thing we need to do here is design a National Park Service logo. What kind of things are important to you guys? What would you want to protect?
Ian wants to protect Flowers, Pandas, and Water from pollution. Alli thinks Trees, Bushes, Flowers, and Butterflies are important to protect.
Pretty amazing what two siblings can accomplish.
Hey, what's that old photo doing here? Oh yes, that's right. Back in 1989 I was here with my family too!
Our next activity took us over to the living quarters and hanger for the airplane.
How did they live back then?
Honestly it doesn't look too bad. It's bigger than the RV!
We walked along the path that the Wright Flyer took when it was making its historic flights on December 17th, 1903. Oh wait, that's Uncle Patrick when he was 3.
Wow, it was only 118 years ago, and it's amazing to think of all the human race has accomplished since then. The stone markers showed the distance, duration, and pilot for each flight. The kids had to fill in the blanks for these in their booklet.
Flights 1, 2, and 3, were all impressive to be sure, considering it was the first times it happened, but they were 120 feet, 175 feet, and 200 feet, respectively.
But that fourth flight... That flight was the one that solidly proved that sustained, powered, manned flight was possible. Lasting for 59 seconds and traveling 852 feet, this flight was one for the history books.
What I didn't know was that after this fourth historic flight, the 1903 Wright Flyer was caught in a sudden gust of wind, flipped and tumbled across the field, and damaged beyond quick repair. After that fourth flight, it never flew again.
Pieces of the broken flyer were given to some of the people who were around that day. The rest was crated up and shipped back to Ohio. After a lot of drama, which does make for some interesting reading here on the Wiki page, the Wright Flyer found its way to the Smithsonian.
Since that time, pieces of the original Wright Flyer have been taken on other historic events. A piece of the original fabric and wood were taken to the moon in 1969 in Neil Armstrong's kit. There was even a piece of the Wright Flyer's fabric on the Ingenuity (the helicopter attached to the Mars Rover Perseverance) that we cheered on when it landed on Mars back in February 2021.
Part of their activity book talks about how fast the first flight was. 120 feet in 12 seconds. It challenged the kids to see how fast they could run it. Both did it in about 7 seconds. But that's not quite enough for them. They wanted to see if they could beat the 4th longest flight. 852 feet in 59 seconds.
Could they do it?
Next it was time to walk up to the monument that was built back in 1927 and dedicated in 1932. One of their booklet activities was to think about who they thought deserved a monument, why, and to draw it.
Ian picked "Alli cause she plays with me, shares with me, and keeps me company."
Alli picked "Ian because he helps me out." (lots of planets, moons, and stars on that monument Alli)
Yeah, they're good kids.
We walked up the monument dedicated to the brothers.
Looking back towards the field.
The inscription reads "In commemoration of the conquest of the air by the brothers Wilbur and Orville Wright conceived by genius achieved by dauntless resolution and unconquerable faith."
And one last one from when I was here with my Mom and Dad just a few years ago.
Behind the monument is another statue, this time showing a recreation of the photograph that was taken during the first flight.
Wing Walking on the Wright Flyer.
Next we went back to the Visitor's Center. It was pretty crowded, so we didn't get to see everything.
But there were models of the different flyers that the Wright Brothers used.
And a model of the original 1903 Wright Flyer. Pretty cool, but I want to go see the original one at the Smithsonian.
They do have a part of the original here though. Part of the crankcase survived the engine breaking into pieces after that fourth flight.
They've completed a few of the different activities in the book. It's time to turn it in and see their Junior Ranger badges. And we got Adonis to look them over and swear them in!
A lot of the rangers seem to like to add extra things on the end. Adonis made them promise to "Listen to Mom and Dad. And clean my room every once in a while."
I like how each of the badges is individualized to the site. This wooden badge has the Wright Flyer on the front.
We were sent over to the gift shop to get the official stamps on their Junior Ranger certificate.
Those are some pretty cool stamps! Ian was curious how the Date stamp changes, so Cameron took it apart and showed him how they change it every night right before they go home.
Congratulations Junior Rangers! I hope you had a fun day here where history was made!
Alli - The Riyt Brothers. Mi favit prt was getting a junior ranger bag. I also liked trying to ran as fastr then the first aruplan and I did. We got to go to the riyt brothers bildg.
Ian - The White Brothers. I liked the White Brothers place. My favorite part was getting a badge. I almost ran as fast as their furthest the first plane went. I am glad they did it so we found out we could fly.