Navy Harvests White Oak for USS Constitution Repairs
May 31, 2014 | 1:55 pm CDT
Click on the image to open
Click on the image to open
Click on the image to open

Photo By U.S. Navy

Click on the image to open
Click on the image to open

CRANE, IN  – The USS Constitution, the world’s oldest commissioned warship that is still afloat, will get some needed repairs in dry-dock, with an assist from U.S. Navy foresters working in Crane, IN.

The wood-hulled USS Constitution, also known as "Old Ironsides," built in 1797, earned its moniker during an engagement with British ships during the War of 1812. British sailors observed cannon balls bouncing off Constitution's hull and exclaimed her sides must have been made of iron.

Although the ship was commissioned more than 200 years ago, around 12% of the wood is still original, including the keel, the bottom frames and 13 bottom planks.

  In February the Navy harvested 35 specially designated trees at its base in Crane, IN, for the repairs to the ship. Trees are plentiful at the landlocked site, a center for technology and land services training for the Navy. It also has 53,000 acres of forest, and naval personnel dedicated to its management.  

The Navy forestry program manager there, Trent Osmon, oversaw felling 35 of the trees. Another 115 mature white oaks, whose location has been pegged using GPS, have been set aside for future use by Constitution.

The 35 trees will be moved to a covered storage area on base, where they will remain until needed, when they will be milled and shaped to match the Constitution’s original white oak hull. The newly milled lumber will replace deteriorated hull planking and and supporting structures, called "knees."

Repairs are expected to last through 2018. The work will be done at Naval History and Heritage Command's Boston Detachment, the Charlestown Navy Yard, a 213-year old former Navy shipyard and now part of Boston National Historical Park, which maintains Constitution.

Officials say white oak trees at Crane were first set aside in November 1973, following work on the Constitution with lumber purchased from the private sector, which proved to be costly.

Have something to say? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.