Saturday, 1 June 2013


The weather on Saturday 18th May was absolutely dreadful as far as photography was concerned- 8 Oktas and wet in places. No go.

Sunday 19th May- woke up early, checked the weather forecast and weathersat image- found that there was no cloud over Changi, confirmed by the WSSS forecast. Decided to head for the Changi Naval base, via the Singapore Expo MRT where the website said a bus pickup was the only way to gain entry into the Singapore Navy's Open House. So well and good. The website also said the buses only ran from 0830 onwards, so started from central Singapore at 8am. I thought there shouldn't be much problem. Big mistake.

When I got to Singapore Expo, the NSMen manning the crowd control point said that the bus boarding point was at Expo Hall 3. The shock was in finding out that the line had already stretched from  Expo Hall 3 on the outside of Singapore Expo, all along the exterior wall of the Expo, back into the building at the point farthest away from Hall 3, and all the way back into the internal hallway towards Expo Hall 3, like a pair of giant tweezers. Well, at least half of the wait was in air-conditioning.

Then came the shocker when you reached Hall 3.

There was a 7-line zigzagging queue winding its way within Hall 3, to the centre of the hall where security had very thoughtfully set up its metal detectors, Xray machines and other security gear (so you did not have another long hurdle to negotiate when you reached the Naval base.)

Security screening

Half of Singapore seemed to have turned up. When you got past security, there were another 10 zigzagging lines before you finally got to the buses.

To prevent total mind seizeup, there were weapons displays iin the middle of the Hall:

Whitehead torpedo

Barak missile

Mistral missile system

Protector USV

The way out!

The shuttle bus took 20 minutes to get to the naval base. I got there just as the Dynamic Show started. Well, there just went 2.5 hours in a queue.

The saving grace was that cloud cover was 2 oktas, and the brilliant sunny blue sky conditions actually held for the duration of the show.

Awesome lighting

After the Dynamic Show, I went down to where the Foreign Warships were moored. Six were still around, and the light was so greatly improved over Thursday, that I decided to take a new set of  shots. Managed to board the LCS-1 USS Freedom this round, and she was a revelation inside. The Indian warships (INS Satpura and INS Kirch) were also open for visits, as were the Indonesian ships (KRI Frans Kasiepo and KRI Kujang).

Then came trying to board the RSN vessels, and my, were the lines long- over an hour each per ship.

Queing under blazing heat and sunshine made more tolerable by the tentage

In the end, I managed to board the missile corvette RSN Independence, the submarine rescue vessel Swift Rescue and the Formidable-class stealth frigate, USS Intrepid. Not visited were the Bedok-class minesweepers, the Victory-class missile corvettes and the RSS Endurance (visited on Thursday, though the FCU video could have done with a revamp, such a difference were the light levels).

Then, there was the queue for lunch, and the queue for various other exhibits.

The lunch tent

There was even a queue to buy drinks!

The visit to the Naval base ended at 1930, as I shot the ships during the light of the Golden Hour.

RSS Endurance

That's it. Open House has ended.

The journey exiting the Naval base was another physical challenge, with a trek of over a kilometre to the bus departure point.

The trek past the guardhouse at the entrance was just the beginning!

 Near the endpoint, the Navy helped the ordeal by giving away free bottles of mineral water- everyone would have exhausted their supply, and would have been dehydrated at that point, dinnertime as it was.

Water. Yayy!

Then, one reached the end point- a huge tent where there were another 7 snaking rows of people before you reached the head of the queue for the buses.

There were several points where children were left by their parents to sit on the floor in a dog-tired state as their parents continued along the line, to pick up the said kids later. The kids had essentially run out of Adenosine Triphosphate.

The final 10 minutes.

The bus took 20 minutes to get to Singapore Expo MRT. There was another queue for the train, then another wait to change trains at Tanah Merah MRT, before the final trip to Orchard MRT to pick up the car. Final time of exit- 2130 hours.

Back to civilisation, and normal crowding levels.

I was glad I had made the decision to go alone, sans wife and family. I doubt the brood would have lasted.

The funny thing was that they had quite enjoyed past Navy Open Houses- but I think the extreme queueing this round would have dented that. All in all, journey time from Central Singapore and all the queueing? I estimated 8.5 hours in all, out of a total time elapsed of 13.5 hours. Now, that is a long day.

About 4 of those 8.5 hours were spent in air-conditioning, but only an hour spent seated. Definitely not elderly/ child/ disabled friendly, and not to be attempted unless your stamina is up to it. Next Navy Open House: the weather had better be very good, or I'll give it a miss. The heat and waiting would have knocked out even younger people that I. Plus, you had to have a bladder of steel  to withstand even the initial 2.5 hour line at the Singapore Expo.

By the time I queued up to enter the Stealth Frigate, it was already 5.30pm. Being late in the day, the sun proceeded to set, as it was wont to do. And the effectiveness of the tentage as a sunshield began to degrade as the sun sank towards the horizon, and the light rays came in obliquely. It became pretty hot.

Getting cooked waiting outside RSS Intrepid

I was told that they had increased the number of Stealth Frigates on Open House duty to three (from just two on the last edition), but even this could not cope with the crowd. 

Nonetheless, I enjoyed the "ordeal", because the pictures made up for it. But I think I spent too much time waiting, and too little actually shooting. And I will remind myself just how much patience it took to queue, when I look at the photos.

This posting is written in the hope that the organisers will try to think up ways to make the next Navy Open House less of an endurance test in Extreme Queueing. No offence meant, for the Navy chaps put up a great show.

The end result is that the Navy is trying to evince this emotion of love, and all the overcrowding and long lines just militates against it.

Replace the Heart with a "Q"...

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