In October of this year Meridian Associates, Danvers, Massachusetts, laser scanned the spar deck and the deck’s 33 supporting beams of the USS Constitution, the oldest commissioned warship afloat in the world. This is a story about how 21st-century technology is being used to preserve this 18th-century icon of naval authority.
The Constitution won many battles in her storied 200-plus-year history. Launched in 1797 from Boston with a mission to stave off Barbary Coast pirates, the ship won engagements with the British in the War of 1812, hunted slave ships off the west coast of Africa, and served as an active
unit in the Navy until 1881. Today, the enemy is rainwater that accumulates on the ship’s spar deck, then drips down the ship’s structure to unwanted places. Fresh water combined with wood results
in rot, which spells death for most of yesterday’s ships. As wooden ships age, they sag – hogging, it’s called. For 1992-1996, the Constitution was in dry dock and most of the 14½ inches of accumulated hogging was removed. However, the camber in the spar deck was flattened out, resulting in ponding of water on the deck.
To prevent further damage from fresh water leaking into the ship’s structure, the Naval Historical Center Detachment Boston decided to replace the spar deck and restore the deck camber. This requires
locating the actual centerline in order to establish the new camber line. New beams will then be fabricated from laminated white oak which, when installed, will support the new spar deck with the desired camber.
Meridian Associates is contracted to deliver dimensional information to support design, fabrication and construction for this project.