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USS Olympia

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Showing 1-16 of 16 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Feb 22, 2012 6:31:27 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Feb 22, 2012 6:32:24 PM PST
I read an article awhile back that stated that the USS Olympia was in need of expensive renovation, beyond what the museum that displays it can afford. It stated that one of the options being considered was to sink the Olympia as an artificial reef!

This would be an awful thing for those of us that love historical ships. We have already lost the USS Oregon completely unnecessarily, due to a sad mess of errors during WW2. The Olympia is the last surviving vessel that fought in the Spanish-American War, and I cannot believe that anyone would seriously contemplate scrapping her.

We have 7 battleships as museums (and an 8th pending), and 5 carriers so preserved (with 3-4 more pending). I am happy that we have so many on display, and would not advocate scrapping any of them, but how is it that there is money to display and preserve all these, and not enough to be found to keep the much rarer Olympia around?

Has anyone heard the latest on this? I Googled the topic, and couldn't find any current news stories on this (nothing more recent than 2010). Anyone from the Philly area in here that knows if the ship is even still on display right now?

Posted on Feb 23, 2012 5:53:55 AM PST
R. Largess says:
It is appalling that the Olympia might be lost. She is a wonderful and fascinating ship, the only protected cruiser left, one of a tiny handful of 19th century steel and iron warships left. (Warrior, Huascar, Mikasa, Georgios Averoff, Aurora, maybe a couple of others?)

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 23, 2012 6:10:02 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Feb 23, 2012 6:12:23 AM PST

I share your astonishment at the thought of the "Olympia" being scrapped or sunk as reef. I find late-19th Century technology fascinating, and the destruction of "Olympia" would be a major loss.

I'm not from Philly but here goes:

I read an article some time in the recent past but I can't put my hands on it at the moment. When I first heard of the possible demise of "Olympia," the caretakers basically said there was no hope. This last article said there were now three viable options, and the funding for one of them looked good. If I remember correctly, the publicity in Philly had aroused substanital local funding, but I can't remember from the article if this was the most viable option.

Some time back (I believe it was) "Unsolved History" was trying to more firmly establish the cause of the sinking of "Maine" in Havana. The forensic scientists went to "Olympia" to run tests due to the similarity in metalurgy, systems, physical operations, etc. It's historical research opportunities like this that will be compromised or lost if "Olympia" is destroyed.

Apologies: I realize I've climbed on my soapbox here!

I hope this post can create additional publicity for the plight of "Olympia." As you noted, there are many later, much larger ships being restored/maintained, and I can't believe there are not sufficient dollars available for this project.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 23, 2012 2:58:51 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Feb 23, 2012 3:27:55 PM PST
KOP ESF says:
Yes, I'm from Philly.....and the USS Olympia is still on display but I'm not sure if it's in the clear yet? What the museum is looking for is an entity to whom they can transfer stewardship of the vessel to, and one that can obviously properly maintain and preserve the ship. Location could be anywhere. That would be a real loss for Philly though, but if it saves the ship, so be it. At least I can say I've been on the Olympia. With the "Great Recession" donations to the ship's caretakers, The Independence Seaport Museum, dried up and the museum was having real trouble maintaining the ship. The ship's in bad shape. Some parts of the vessel are not safe to walk lest someone crashes through the deck......or so I hear. It's a real shame, the oldest steel-hulled vessel afloat in the world. I hope they can save it? From what I understand the U.S. Navy has the ultimate say concerning the Olympia's fate. What the museum needs is a wealthy philanthropist to shell out some bucks for much needed maintenance on the Olympia.

You can check this out for yourself either by googleing Independence Seaport Museum or going to

Philadelphia also has the SS United States, a truly impressive ship, a massive ocean liner from the waning days of that era. It still holds the record for the quickest trans-atlantic crossing. It's in trouble too and in danger of being scrapped. The latest scheme to save it apparently is to convert it into a floating casino. Not a plan that inspires confidence.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 24, 2012 6:45:21 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Feb 24, 2012 6:57:18 AM PST
hopecorse says:
Yes, the Olympia is still open to the public. There is no danger of "crashing through the deck", as someone above incorrectly assumed. The museum continues to maintain the ship and has recently completed a number of projects to reinforce the hull at the wind and waterline.
The recession has not helped donations to any non-profit, and the public did not respond to news of Olympia's plight with an outpouring of financial support. At a preservation summit held on March, 2011 the museum announced a transfer application process for organizations that were interested in taking on the care of Olympia.
You might want to check out the Seaport Museum's website, which has a link to more recent information about the Olympia, include the most recent preservation efforts and the museum's process to find a new steward for the ship.
Hope Corse, Independence Seaport Museum

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 24, 2012 9:58:14 AM PST
KOP ESF says:
@Hope Corse- Good to hear the Olympia is not in as dire a condition as I've heard.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 24, 2012 10:25:45 AM PST
There is a reference in the semi-documentary novel "The Spy who had no faith in the World" to the "USS Olympia" in 1917/18 opening fire on sailors who had mutinied on board the Russian warship "Askold". in Murmansk Russia during The Russian Revolution Many sailors were killed and a boarding party from the Royal Navy Ship "HMS Glory" was sent on board. Some of those sailors looted the "Askold" and one sailor referred to in the above book took a diary from a dead Russian Midshipman and later made an entry in it that referred to the notorious "Ace of Spies" Sidney Reilly the man used as a role model for James Bond by Ian Fleming

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 25, 2012 5:07:00 PM PST
R. Largess says:
Don't know about all that - but the Olympia did bring the body of the Unknown Soldier back to the US.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 25, 2012 7:58:34 PM PST
KOP ESF says:
Which unknown soldier? Spanish-American War? There's not just one. Ever been to Arlington?

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 26, 2012 7:10:14 AM PST
R. Largess says:
The one in Arlington. The ship was armed with 6 5"/51's then. The present 8" turrets are fakes.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 26, 2012 10:51:56 AM PST
KOP ESF says:
There are 5 or 6 "unknown soldiers" buried at Arlington. I assume the Olympia carried the remains of the "unknown" from the Spanish-American War

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 26, 2012 1:42:33 PM PST
Mr Underhill says:
In 1921 USS Olympia brought back the remains of a WW1 soldier from France. Decommissioned in 1922.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 26, 2012 4:20:25 PM PST
KOP ESF says:
@Mr. Underhill-Got it!

Posted on Feb 29, 2012 11:47:17 AM PST
Apparently the latest plan is to move it to the West coast to Mare Island. Presumably it would be repaired to at least a minimal level of seaworthiness before being towed such a long distance. The logistics of that move should be very interesting. Hopefully they get it moved before I depart California within the next few years, because I would like to see it again. The time I was on it, all the upper works were closed and off limits, so I need to complete my tour!

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 1, 2012 1:01:06 PM PST
KOP ESF says:
@Dan-No offense, but I hope it never goes to California. I hope it stays right here in Philadelphia. It has become such an historical icon on the Philadelphia waterfront, it will be sorely missed if it leaves.

Posted on Mar 1, 2012 2:25:18 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Mar 1, 2012 2:25:41 PM PST
Actually Eric, I agree with you. I would rather have it stay where it is if the money can be found.

However, it sounds like a done deal that it will be going somewhere else, and from what I was reading, Mare Island is the leading contender. I am not from California (just stationed here for a few years), so I was only thinking that if it is going to come out here, I would like it to happen while I am still here so that I can see it again soon.

In a perfect world, the money would be found somehow, and they would be able to keep it right where it is (not that I need another reason to visit Philly again, just getting to eat the real-deal Philly Cheese-steak's are reason enough to go back!)
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Discussion in:  History forum
Participants:  7
Total posts:  16
Initial post:  Feb 22, 2012
Latest post:  Mar 1, 2012

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