‘Old Ironsides’ Now Ready for Virtual Touring

'Old Ironsides' hosts Medal of Honor recipientsAmerica’s oldest warship afloat is headed into dry dock next month at the Charlestown Navy Yard in Boston, but Google Maps and the U.S. Navy have made it possible for everyone to digitally visit the USS Constitution.

Just as Google made it possible to zip virtually up and down city streets almost anywhere in the world, it can now put you on and below deck of “Old Ironsides,” the still-commissioned Navy warship that made a name for itself in campaigns against the French, North African pirates and the British.

Cmdr. Sean Kearns, commander of the historic ship, called the timing of Google’s mapping ideal because preparation for the Constitution’s restoration had not yet begun.

“It enabled Google to photograph the ship pierside in her normal fully-rigged configuration before we down-rig the ship and move her into dry dock for restoration work,” Kearns said in a Navy announcement last month. The ship’s captain and crew all are Navy officers, sailors and Marines.

The ambitious restoration project includes replacing the vessel’s copper siding and making major restorations to the hull, interior and stern, the Navy said.

The ship was constructed at a private ship yard at Boston’s North End and launched in 1797, sailing and winning naval victories in the Quasi-War with France, the Barbary Wars against Arab pirates and the British in the War of 1812. She earned the nickname Old Ironsides during a battle with the HMS Guerriere, when some British cannon shot simply bounced off her 21-inch hull.

Typically, more than 500,000 people annually have toured the ship, the Navy said. The Constitution is part of the Freedom Trail, a list of monuments and historic sites related to the Revolutionary War and the early years of the republic.

The ship conducted its last turnaround cruise before preparing for restoration on Oct. 17, nearly 217 years from the day she was launched. The ship typically makes one such cruise a year so that she may be rebirthed in the direction opposite from the previous year in order to weather evenly.

Once towed out into the Boston Harbor, the crew conducts an underway demonstration that includes a gun drill. The cruise is open to the public, with those awarded the coveted tickets selected by lottery. The Navy said 600 guests were aboard for the October turnaround.

Kearns, in the Navy’s announcement, said the Google mapping means many more people will have a chance to see the ship up close.

“Not only will it allow the public to go on a virtual tour to areas of the ship that will not be accessible while Old Ironsides is in dry dock, it will also bring this virtual tour experience to millions of people worldwide who might otherwise never get the chance to visit the ship in person,” he said.

Here is the link to the virtual tour.

— Bryant Jordan can be reached at bryant.jordan@military.com

About the Author

Bryant Jordan
Bryant Jordan is a reporter for Military.com. He can be reached at bryant.jordan@military.com. Follow him on Twitter at @BryantJordan.
  • James Jensen

    I have roots in Boston, and have visited The U. S. S. Constitution many times. The crew (tour guides) have always been magnificent! They have great knowledge, and are not afraid to answer questions in the middle of their memorized text. The conditions of the sailors of 200 years ago worked in is on full display. Sick Bay, and how the burials at sea were highlights of each of my visits. God Bless the U.S. Navy for making the virtual tour possible. I can hardly wait to see it!

  • Linton Crabtree

    I was a crew member in 1969,my name is L. Crabtree,Capt.Belt & R.Adm. Wiley were in charge at that time,sure wish I could get a ships patch.
    L.Crabtree

  • blight_

    Missed the Constitution when I went through the old Navy Yard last year. I guess I’ll have to come back to Boston.

  • Guest

    I have never been on the Constitution, up in Boston, but, have been on the Constellation ( I am pretty sure that is the name of the ship ) down in Baltimore Harbor when I was a kid, back in the 60″s. My father bought me a coin, struck from one of the ships, rivets/wooden nails, but have since misplaced it :-( . Boy what an adventure that was. The conditions under which our sailors had to live, fight and generally survive were hard. Just as the basic living conditions of being alive during those times. I wish schools taught MORE about our American way of life in school, and our American history, but they don’t. What a shame. It would be GREAT to have a tour for each and every elementary school student, whehter real or virtual, as I believe this would help build in some patriotism, which I believe is soorly lacking. Maybe I am too old fashioned, or just too old :-), but, the Pledge of Allegiance wouldn’t hurt either.

  • oldmtnbkr

    Another one to see: the 1893 cruiser USS Olympia in Philadelphia. Unfortunately, she’s under private ownership, and the owners don’t have the bucks for upkeep, so her hull is rusting away.

  • Rif221

    Poll: better combat survivability…USS Constitution or LCS?

  • Jeff

    Funny, but the LCS is not a Ship-Of-The-Line (In todays fleet) but a support vessel to the fleet. Picket ship, minesweeper, sub hunter, small surface combatant…

  • denmanjarvis

    Old Iron Sides representative of our nations will to prevail