There are cranes, and then there are super cranes

I love to find examples of old industry. Imagine a time when our grandfathers built steel titans to move mountains. . . and it was all in a day’s work. Mechanical marvels were part of the golden age of our country.

I got really excited when I found this photo of USS Kearsarge (AB-1), a massive crane ship converted from a former battleship. The giant crane on Kearsarge could raise 250 tons of pretty much anything within reach. In this photo, taken at Boston Harbor in 1925, the crane is lifting a 120-ton crane as a child lifts a toy.

Battleship Kearsarge was commissioned at Newport News, Virginia in 1900. The 11,525-ton warship operated around the world until decommissioning in 1920. Yet the U.S. Navy didn’t want to part with all that steel and began converting her into something completely different.

Kearsarge works on battleship Idaho.

It’s always nice to find new uses for obsolete hardware. Some hulls are scavenged for spare parts. A handful of warships are sold to friendly countries. Others serve as floating classrooms or test new technology. On occasion, some vessels are stripped down and deliberately scuttled to serve as artificial reefs. But USS Kearsarge had an entirely new life after her guns and superstructure were cleared away and a massive crane was fitted to the deck. The crane ship was put to good use in the yards of Puget Sound and Boston. The auxiliary vessel was sold for scrap in 1955 after more than thirty years of labor.

The Kearsarge‘s capabilities are easily eclipsed by the super cranes in a modern shipyard, but this unique platform must have been quite a sight in the 1940s. Take a look at some of the crane ship’s photos here!

Photo 1:  Craneship Kearsarge (CHA320C1), Boston Public Library Flickr collection

Photo 2:  USS Idaho (BB-42) (NH 43459), U.S. Naval Historical Center

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