Almost exactly 182 years ago, in 1833, USS Constitution entered Dry Dock 1 for the first time under the command of Commodore Isaac Hull, hero of the War of 1812. Although she was the first ship to enter this dry dock, it would be another 94 years before she entered it again on June 16, 1927 for a four-year, nearly $1 million restoration.
History repeated itself the night of May 18, 2015 when “Old Ironsides” crossed the sill of what at times has been known as the “Constitution Dry Dock”. The staff of the Naval History & Heritage Command Detachment Boston, USS Constitution crew, and select members of the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard joined forces to safely dock Constitution over a 12 hour period. The entire docking procedure was overseen by the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. When Constitution‘s bow crossed the dry dock sill, Commander Sean D. Kearns, 73rd in command, relinquished his authority to the Docking Master until the end of the evolution.
The time-lapse video below begins with the rising tide filling the dock on the evening of May 18 and ends with Constitution safely landed on her keel blocks and shored up in place on the morning of May 19. Note the following:
- 00:08 Support cables in the foreground connect from the divers’ hut (bottom of screen) to the divers in the dry dock. The divers monitor the ship from below the waterline and communicate her position to the Docking Master throughout the evolution.
- 00:20 Constitution appears in the left of the frame, guided by the orange bow line that is attached to the dry dock capstan.
- 00:21 The first starboard docking line is visible. The docking lines, port and starboard, help to guide and center the ship over the keel blocks.
- 00:28 The first wale shore on the starboard bow is hauled into place. Eight wale shores on each side support Constitution port and starboard.
- 00:45 A crane appears from the right of the frame and installs the starboard gangway.
Margherita M. Desy
Historian, Naval History & Heritage Command
Margherita M. Desy is the Historian for USS Constitution at Naval History and Heritage Command Detachment Boston.
Manager of Curatorial Affairs, USS Constitution Museum
Kate Monea is the Manager of Curatorial Affairs at the USS Constitution Museum.