Veterans Day: The Running Gear of the USS Intrepid

By November 8, 2010blog
USS Intrepid Double-reduction gearcase

The USS Intrepid is a site of remarkable heritage: she has witnessed everything from the fiery impact of suicidal aviators to the triumphant recovery of humans who’d orbited the earth, and she has become one of New York City’s most popular museums whose decks now throw banquets and weddings instead of Vigilantes and Crusaders.

USS Intrepid Engine room repeatersUSS Intrepid Engine room repeaters.

While her superstructure was being overhauled in 2008, this architect had the opportunity to visit her below deck areas and can report that her boilers, low & high speed turbines, screw shafts – the compartments and running gear that steamed her around the planet, sometimes at War Emergency speed – are quietly rusting away.

USS Intrepid Propellor shaftPropellor shaft.

Of course, this gear is obsolete, will never run again, is laden with asbestos, is accessible only through the narrowest of passages, and could only be recycled by tearing the ship apart – leaving it to entropy is about its only fate.

USS Intrepid Soot blower and aux 600lb steam linesSoot blower and aux 600lb steam lines.

But there is one thing that could be done: figure out a way to allow the public to see it.

USS Intrepid Double-reduction gearcaseDouble-reduction gearcase.

For all the topside memorials, films, and testimonies, there is a technical complexity and authenticity in these unrestored spaces that is affecting and powerful. And if it comes across as unglamorous, claustrophobic, dangerous – well, what better to remind us civilians about the realities of war.

USS Intrepid 15 feet below the water line15 feet below the water line.