While we are on the subject of important Number 2’s (see our July 2 post here), I’ve been watching with fascination the re-launch of the Charles W. Morgan, the second oldest ship in America, and her 38th voyage around ports in the Northeast. Built in 1841, the whaler Morgan is the last of her kind and is only junior to the USS Constitution in terms of age. She is the oldest commercial ship afloat in the US. See her itinerary here.
For the past few months I have been lucky enough to view the Hampton Roads Port of Embarkation (HRPE) Collection at The Mariners’ Museum Library. This collection includes over fifteen thousand photographs donated in 1946 by Brigadier General John R. Kilpatrick, former commanding officer of the Hampton Roads Port of Embarkation.
Previous to World War II, HRPE served as a military port in the Spanish-American War and in World War I. Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, HRPE was reactivated. These photographs, taken by the United States Army Signal Corps, depict the various aspects of life at HRPE during World War II.
We have been following with interest the story about the USS Olympia (C6), the famed protected cruiser that served as Admiral Dewey’s flagship at Manila Bay during the Spanish-American War. The cruiser is the only survivor of that war, and the oldest American steel warship afloat. She fired the opening shot in the action that destroyed the Spanish fleet at Manila Bay, and she brought home the body of the Unknown Soldier from World War I in 1921.
USS Olympia has been a museum ship since 1957 at the Independence Seaport Museum in Philadelphia. The ship has not been drydocked in 45 years and corrosion at the waterline is severe. The Museum had announced that, because she could sink at her moorings, they were discontinuing tours beginning Nov. 22. Since then, the museum’s Board announced that they were putting that decision on hold, given the new availability of funds to make emergency repairs (Philadelphia Inquirer, Nov. 18, http://www.philly.com/inquirer/home_region/20101118_Spanish-American_warship_spared__at_least_for_now.html). However, if significant funding isn’t found, to the tune of $19 million, for drydocking and restoration, the ship could still sink at her berth or could be disposed of through scrapping or sinking off Cape May as an artificial reef.