Over the course of USS Constitution‘s 2015-2017 restoration, approximately 350,000 pounds of white oak timber, cut at the Naval Support Activity Crane in Indiana, will be fashioned into hull planks and other structures. The first two deliveries of trees arrived in the Charlestown Navy Yard on July 7 and July 14, 2015.
For each delivery, the truck and its rig weighed approximately 75,000 pounds, 40,000 of which were the 45-foot-long, 40-inch diameter trees. Each tree weighs approximately 8,000-12,000 pounds.
Trent Osmon, forester of Naval Facilities Engineering Command Midwest’s Public Works Department Crane, oversees the harvesting of the white oaks for USS Constitution. “When we find a super tree during our treks into the woods we record its location,” he said of the process. “There are additions to the list each year as we [find] new trees. With 53,000 acres of forest…there are [also] subtractions to the list (lightning strikes, blowdowns, dying of old age) each year…”
The harvested trees are shipped by truck from Crane, Indiana to the Charlestown Navy Yard. Upon arrival, each 8,000-12,000 pound tree is offloaded onto the pier next to Dry Dock 1. Naval History & Heritage Command Detachment Boston riggers are in charge of the offloading and lay-down of the white oak.
The white oak trees (Quercus alba) will be fashioned into 35-foot-long hull planks on-site in the Navy Yard and will be installed below Constitution‘s waterline. As Joshua Humphreys, principle designer of the six original frigates, noted: “good, long substantial white oak” was necessary for the warships’ strength and durability. The hull planks will be installed after the copper sheathing is removed.
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.