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Georgia in Maine: 1904

Georgia in Maine: 1904

October 1904. Bath, Maine. "Bath Iron Works. Launch of battleship Georgia." 8x10 inch dry plate glass negative, Detroit Publishing Company. View full size.


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The Yard

There is a wonderful book about Bath Iron Works and the building of one of their last end-launched destroyers, titled "The Yard: Building a Destroyer at the Bath Iron Works".

It's a balanced mix of human stories and technical details, clearly explained for easy understanding. The author writes well, and conveys the fascination of shipbuilding.

The chapter on the launching answers most of the launch-related questions that arise periodically on Shorpy, including why all those men are beneath the hull with sledgehammers in many pre-launch photos.

Nautical edutainment

Once again many Shorpianista have provided a rich and entertaining education on a specific topic. Although at present I have no plans to build my own dreadnaught, one never knows, so just in case I know this Ship Manufacturing 101 will be waiting.

USS California snafu

The perils of in-line launching were illustrated at the christening of the battleship USS California on November 20, 1919, at the Mare Island Navy Yard

California was the first modern battleship built by the yard, and someone underestimated the headway the hull would build up after sliding into the water. The unfinished warship built up so much momentum that the it went clear across the narrow channel separating the island from the mainland and got stuck stern-first in the mudflats of the town of Vallejo.

Photos of the somewhat embarrassing launching are available here:

Re: In-line vs. Side Launch

It is a function of both size (as in length) of the hull, as well as the water available to stop down the hull after launch. Depth, too. Length comes in as an in-line launch can put severe sagging loads on the hull.

As hulls became too large, they switched to side launch. Although side launch seems to be pretty old by itself.

These days, almost all major ships are not "launched" at all, but built in a dock and flooded out. Much more convenient. Much safer. Both in-line and side launch do have their problems with the immediate neigbourhood. For instance, the Titanic ran into another ship at the occasion. Side lauchers have been reported to to get stuck at the bottom and doing a Schettino, i.e. topple over.

Bath Iron Works

In the early 80's I had the privilege of attending a US Navy ship's commissioning ceremony at Bath. The employees volunteer as ushers for these occasions. I had a chance to meet some of them. Their sense of tradition and pride was inspiring.

In-line vs. Side Launch?

I'm sure there must be an old salt here at Shorpy who can explain the advantages of one or the other. Is it a function of the geography of the harbor, or the size and shape of the hull?
I've seen pictures here and in old newsreels of both and the side launch seems more spectacular. It looks like there is a greater chance of something going wrong. And the amount and direction of water displacement makes a better show!
It's no wonder they always draw a large crowd.

Fitting-Out List

Items to be added when fitting out was doubtless a very long list. The white spots along the side are probably covering holes to take the bolts that would attach the armor and backing (teak, usually, in this period) to the watertight side shell. Note the shelf-like top of the below-waterline belt armor that is already in place because it would be out of reach once the ship is waterborne. The white spots are above this in neat lines. Other heavy items are the castings for the hawsepipes.

A neat detail, no longer used in modern ships, is the discontinuous bilge keel. The main advantage of it is that in full form ships a continuous bilge keel would stick out far enough at the midsection to be damaged when alongside a pier; varying its span to prevent this has occasionally been done but it is labor-intensive and therefore costly. However, the gap in this photo between fore and aft bilge keels is so large it makes me wonder if this class of battleships was known for heavy rolling at sea.

Lightweight launch

Completing ships on the ways adds to the weight, increasing the chance of a hung launch. The shipbuilders were probably mindful of the repeated failures over a ~3 month period in 1857-58 to launch the SS Great Eastern. Fitting out at dockside was a relatively minor inconvenience.


Commissioned 2 years later, served during WWI with the cruiser force escorting convoys.

Uh... Guys... You forgot a few pieces....

Does anybody know why they launched this ship so far from completion? Is that standard practice for large ships? It seems like it'd be easier to mount the turrets, etc, while it was still on land.

There's a good picture of this ship underway on Wikipedia (to see it full size requires the tif viewer). It's pretty weird looking by modern (more or less) standards (e.g., USS New Jersey). Those square holes along the side are broadside gun ports that housed one 6-inch gun each.

All five of these Virginia-class battleships were launched in 1904 and scrapped or sunk as targets in 1923.

Miss Tate, where are you?

Somewhere in this photo is Miss Stella Tate, sponsor of the USS Georgia. As sister of Georgia Congressman Tate the honor fell to her.

Good Grief...

I thought the folks standing up on the structure on the left were a bit crazy. a)How did they get up there? And b)Since it is raining the structure might be a bit slippery. A bit dangerous in my opinion.

I saw what appear to be two folks high up on the utility pole on the right side of the frame tangled amidst the wires and crossbars. What were they thinking????

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