Historic appeal - Or you may fire when you are ready, Gridley

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader sees on the news wire that the USS Olympia, Commodore Dewey’s famous flagship ship from the Spanish American War (and specifically the Battle of Manila Bay), is in danger. Lots of danger. Danger of three sorts. The first is that the ship will just sink at her moorings. The second is that she’ll have to be sold for scrap. The third is that she might be taken to sea and made into an artifical reef. According to the AP article:

Since taking stewardship of the floating museum from a cash-strapped nonprofit in 1996, the Independence Seaport Museum has spent $5.5 million on repairs, inspections and maintenance. But it can neither afford the $10 million to dredge the marina, tow the ship to dry-dock and restore it to fighting trim, nor the $10 million to establish an endowment to care for it in perpetuity.


Efforts to secure private or public funding have been unsuccessful, a stark reminder of recessionary times. Museum officials are reluctantly mulling whether to scrap the National Historic Landmark, said to be the world’s oldest steel warship still afloat, or have the Navy sink it off the coast of Cape May.

The 344-foot-long protected cruiser ideally should have been dry-docked every 20 years for maintenance. Instead it has been dutifully bobbing — and quietly wasting away — in the Delaware since 1945 without a break from the wind and waves.

The waterline is marked with scores of patches, and sections of the mazelike lower hull are so corroded that sunlight shines through. Above deck, water sneaks past the concrete and rubberized surface layers, past the rotting fir deck underneath, and onto the handsomely appointed officers’ quarters below.

Your Maximum Leader visited the Olympia in 1999. It was a fun little side trip during a visit to Philadelphia. At the time the ship looked to be in better condition than it is described right now. Of course, on the short tour of the ship one didn’t get to see all the areas that weren’t being kept up nicely. Your Maximum Leader hopes that the $20 million needed to keep this great ship afloat and cared for is raised.

For more on the Battle of Manila Bay you can clicky here.

Carry on.

Kevin Kim said:

For some odd reason, your post calls to mind the old “Ship of Theseus” problem in philosophy. I first heard a modern version this problem laid out in a Buddhism course at Catholic U. in 2000 or thereabouts, but the original version of the problem was recently laid out here, at Dr. Vallicella’s blog.

If a venerable ship like the USS Olympia is repaired using newly manufactured parts, to what degree is it the same ship? (That’s not really how the Ship of Theseus problem is phrased, but we’re still left to ponder questions of mereology [the study of the relationships between parts and wholes] and identity.)

Kevin Kim said:

I must have been high or something when I wrote my recent comments here.

“I first heard a modern version this problem laid out in a Buddhism course…” should read, “I first heard a modern version OF this problem laid out in a Buddhism course…”

Well, testicles. My kingdom for a “preview” function!

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