This morning at Naval Station Newport, Rhode Island, the hulk of ex-USS Saratoga (CV-60) was towed from her berth at Pier One, to begin the sad final trip to the shipbreaker. I have written of her before, as even in her dotage she was an inspiring and somewhat beautiful sight at the Naval Station. As one woman watching the proceedings said, “she has become a part of the landscape, and I will miss seeing her”.
Just after 0730 this morning, tugs took their places in order to back the 1,065-foot long supercarrier from her home of nearly twenty years. Once clear of the pier, Saratoga was turned about, so that her bow was facing the shipping channel. From there, the salvage crew aboard her passed a tow line to the ocean-going tug to tow her out of the harbor and into Narragansett Bay, and from there to the open ocean. More than a hundred people stood and watched, and many more than that peered from windows all over the base and the surrounding community. Many a graying man (and at least one woman) wiped away tears as the old girl was eased about, and began to slide silently under the Pell Bridge, to her date with the cutting torch. Below are the images I was able to capture showing Saratoga beginning her melancholy final journey. Fittingly, just as she began to move under tow, the overcast parted, and the beautiful old ship was bathed in one last spectacular glisten of sunshine.
Watching this once-powerful warship be towed away, one cannot but recall Melville’s lament of the glories of another ship whose storied history could not save her once her age had passed:
A pigmy steam-tug tows you,
Gigantic to the shore,
Dismantled of your guns and spars,
And sweeping wings of war.