See the United States
January 14, 2005 9:53 AM   Subscribe

Ship shape? Welcome aboard the SS United States. Her maiden voyage was July 7, 1952, where she set a trans-Atlantic record which still stands. Her passenger list included such luminaries as Marlon Brando, Salvador Dali and Harry Truman. Several sites document the effort to save her from being sold for scrap or sunk. Far from her former glory, she now lies at anchor in the Delaware River in Philadelphia, a sad counterpart to her former self.
posted by fixedgear (25 comments total)
I was inspired by this thread which had a view of the Delaware River waterfront. I though, gee, I wonder how the United States is doing, one can almost see it in this picture (it would be just out of the frame to the left).
posted by fixedgear at 10:02 AM on January 14, 2005

It's sure doing a lot better than the American Star.
posted by saladin at 10:10 AM on January 14, 2005

When I was a kid, I read a gee-wiz article about that ship. The only thing I remember is the mention that the cutting board in the kitchen was the ONLY wood that would be found aboard the SS United States.

Funny, the little factoids that stay with you.
posted by Danf at 10:20 AM on January 14, 2005

Actually, I think you can see the ship in that photo. At least the two stacks and the stern of the ship. For reference, one of the stacks is near the base of the leftmost bridge tower. It's docked right across from the Ikea...and you can get a good view of the rusting hull from the cafeteria there.
posted by mbd1mbd1 at 10:31 AM on January 14, 2005

Prow, not stern. I think.
posted by mbd1mbd1 at 10:34 AM on January 14, 2005

Actually, on closer inspection you can just make out the smokestacks below the Walt Whitman bridge, to the left of the red brick building here. Must have been subconscious. Thanks, deafmute.
posted by fixedgear at 10:34 AM on January 14, 2005

Cool. My dad too the SS United States to Europe when he was a lad in the mid-50s. If one could afford the time, I think it would be really cool to go somewhere on an ocean liner (as opposed to a simple "cruise"). Do they still do that?
posted by spock at 11:00 AM on January 14, 2005

Why hasn't it been scrapped? Historical interest? Looks like Norwegian Cruise Lines bought it...

My god what a mechanic's nightmare it must be inside there.

Of course this is on top of the disaster called "Project America" which went from this to this. with a lot of this on the way.
posted by anthill at 11:01 AM on January 14, 2005

I sailed to Europe on the SS United States, but I was two so I don't remember it.
posted by kirkaracha at 11:41 AM on January 14, 2005

Until very recently, folks from Seattle had their own private derelict the Kalakala afloat in Lake Union. I biked past this sad futurist relic from another age for two years before reading about its unique (albeit niche) history. Through citizen action the boat will undergo complete renovation; I think the owners intend to make it into a floating museum.
posted by fatllama at 12:11 PM on January 14, 2005

Onboard the SS United States in 1999. As mbd1mbd1 mentioned, great view from Ikea if you're hungry for a Swedish meatball.
posted by romanb at 1:05 PM on January 14, 2005

" 990 feet of steel with 2000 passengers and a crew of a 1000. She averaged 35.59 knots in an incredible crossing of the Atlantic in 3 days, 10 hours and 40 minutes - setting the world record, both east and west across the 37 miles per hour.... could easily accelerate to 44 miles per hour...She could travel 10,000 miles without stopping for fuel...Her galleys could whip up no less than 9,000 meals each day

This is impressive, but let us pay our due homage to the USS Nimitz (CVN-68)[1][2], only one of the many United States supercarriers.

* NIMITZ reaches over 18 stories high from to keel to the top of the mast
* Eight steam turbine generators each produce 8,000 kilowatts of electrical power, enough to serve a small city
* NIMITZ` Food Services Department provides 18000 - 20000 meals a day
* NIMITZ can stock at least 90 days of refrigerated and dry storage goods
* NIMITZ` two barber shops trim over 1,500 heads each week
* The Post Office processes more than one million pounds of mail each year
* The ship has a fully equipped dental facility, staffed by five dentists
* The Medical Department is manned by six doctors including a surgeon, who provide everything from surgery to hydro-therapy. The ship also features an 80 - bed hospital ward.
* Four destilling units enable NIMITZ engineers to make over 400,000 gallons of fresh water a day, for use by the propulsion plants, catapults and crew.
* Power Plant: Two nuclear reactors, four shafts
* Length, overall: 1,092 feet (332.85 meters)
* Flight Deck Width: 252 feet (76.8 meters)
* Beam: 134 feet (40.84 meters)
* Displacement: Approx. 97,000 tons (87,996.9 metric tons) full load
* Speed: 30+ knots (34.5+ miles per hour)
* Aircraft: 85
* Cost: about $4.5 billion each

We will never know how fast NIMITZ can go because it's Top Secret. Anyone whose been on one can tell you, she could cruise well over 50. She can also carry ~7,000+ crew/refugees/passengers
posted by reflection at 2:06 PM on January 14, 2005

Interesting. I look at the SS United States just sitting there and my first thought is I would live there? Turn the thing into a condo unit and I would consider living on it if I lived in the town. You would have a small city, perhaps it's own theaters and grocery store, certainly a work out facility and might even be crime free. Certainly unique as far as condos go.
posted by fluffycreature at 2:52 PM on January 14, 2005

Not a bad idea. The RCA Victor Building with its great Nipper stained glass windows is just across the river in Camden, and many former industrial buildings have been converted to condos in Old City Philadelphia.
posted by fixedgear at 3:20 PM on January 14, 2005

"she set a trans-Atlantic record which still stands"

It was broken in 1989 by the Gentry Eagle, and the current "Blue Riband" holder is Danish ferry Catlink V.
posted by cx at 5:24 PM on January 14, 2005

50 knots, reflection? Perhaps it's the illusion of speed:
> Ships, especially of displacement hull form, are generally limited in the maximum speeds they can comfortably achieve. The "barrier" to those maximum speeds generally lies between 30 and 40 knots for warships of fine form. Few navies in the world would accept the penalties in weight, cost and fuel consumption required for the dubious advantage of exceeding those speeds. [via]
posted by dhartung at 6:55 PM on January 14, 2005

Don't forget Phillip Buehler's Modern Ruins, and his section on the SS United States. This, in particular, is very cool.
posted by keswick at 7:35 PM on January 14, 2005

When I used to go up 95 from DC to Philly I would pass the Reserve Basin at the (former) Philadelphia Navy Yard, and then just a little bit further north on 95 was the SS United States. I always thought it was an interesting juxtaposition.

The hulk of the all-gun heavy cruiser USS Des Moines is still at the Navy Yard, among other ships.
posted by Fat Guy at 12:36 AM on January 15, 2005

Nimitz class ships are definitely capable of over 45 knots. Now they would normally not cruise at these speeds, but if you're say, trying to outrun a torpedo, they are capable of it. I know two people who served on Nimitz class ships who said they had personally seen the speed readout on the bridge, and it was over 50mph.

"Few navies in the world would accept the penalties in weight, cost and fuel consumption required for the dubious advantage of exceeding those speeds." Few navies would, but they are also not operating a nuclear powered ship that doesn't have to carry fuel oil, and one that has 280,000 horsepower. Few navies also have the sort of research investment in hull design that the U.S. does. Further, the threat of large long-range torpedoes from Soviet subs was extreme, and having a carrier that could outrun one, or at least go fast enough for the torpedo to run out of gas before it hit is worth a lot.
posted by cameldrv at 2:46 AM on January 15, 2005

Not to split hairs cx (don't people always say that when they are about to do so?) but here goes a link.
How can the Catlink V take the Blue Riband from the Gentry Eagle if the Gentry Eagle never exactly 'held' it? I think they changed the rules there.
posted by fixedgear at 2:53 AM on January 15, 2005

fixedgear, I don't follow? According to your link, Gentry Eagle did, indeed, hold the Blue Riband before relinquishing it to Catlink V. What is strange is that Gentry Eagle was given the Riband by Richard Branson whose record apparently is not recognized.
posted by cx at 6:12 AM on January 15, 2005

Right, that was my (convoluted) point. How can Branson give away a record he never really held?
posted by fixedgear at 9:09 AM on January 15, 2005

Speaking of aircraft carriers and crazy ass stunts, I present to you this. I don't know what speed she's sailing at, but that's a helluva wake and a helluva turn.
posted by keswick at 10:29 AM on January 15, 2005

50 knots, reflection? Perhaps it's the illusion of speed:

Don't trust what you read - trust common sense and the former Master Helmsman doing the explaining here. The NIMITZ is a nuclear aircraft carrier. The only limit to her speed is her falling apart. As cameldrv iterated, there is no reason she couldn't be pushed over 50. If you were a CO would you rather ruin your screws or take a torpedo?

A big difference between steam and nuclear ships is that steam is limited by the actual power the plant can put out. Obviously, nuclear reactors do not have this limitation.
posted by reflection at 11:30 AM on January 15, 2005

Huh? Surely a CVN's reactors only pump out so many megawatts, and so many megawatts will only push the boat yay fast. Besides, how is a nuclear-powered ship not steam-driven?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 1:04 PM on January 16, 2005

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