The hammerhead’s not dead — and I can prove it

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IMG_9109The Puget Sound Naval Shipyard’s iconic hammerhead crane, whose green steel still towers over Bremerton, hasn’t been in use since 1996. But you might be surprised to know it still moves from time to time.

See exhibit A, these two photos. I took both photos from close to the same vantage point: on Park Avenue near Sixth Street, looking south into the shipyard. There’s almost exactly a 90 degree difference between the photos.

This discovery sent my curiosity off the charts. Is this aging wonder of Bremerton, built in Pennsylvania in 1932 by some of the same iron workers who constructed the Empire State Building, back in service?

Answer: No, not exactly.

Mary Anne Mascianica, a shipyard spokeswoman, told me that moving the crane  is actually quite routine.

“We rotate the crane about twice per year to ensure that we can move it to provide clearances for various ship movements,” Mascianica said.  “The crane is no longer certified to make any lifts and there is no plan to recertify the crane.”

So it rotates. But the 2,400 ton structure, a National Historic Landmark, does little more than that — though it serves as a highly prominent location for a Seahawks’ 12th man flag, some may recall.

Mind you, I have friends in the shipyard who will likely say, “Josh, I could’ve told you that.” But you didn’t. So now it’s my job to let everyone else know.

“When the Hammerhead Crane is rotated it is a sight to see and will take up to 6 minutes to complete the rotation,” wrote Ken Haines in a history of the crane. “But it still operates and feels as smooth as silk.”

I will take this opportunity as a teachable moment. Here’s a few really cool facts about the crane:

The crane was built by the Pennsylvania-based Dravo Corporation for $500,000, funding for which was provided by President Franklin Roosevelt’s National Industrial Recovery Act.

Photo courtesy of Puget Sound Naval Shipyard.
Photo courtesy of Puget Sound Naval Shipyard.

 

The 2,400 ton steel crane was transported by rail from Dravo’s Neville Island plant in Pennsylvania to Baltimore, where it was put on ships and then taken through the Panama Canal to Bremerton.

Photo courtesy of Puget Sound Naval Shipyard.
Photo courtesy of Puget Sound Naval Shipyard.
The cockpit of the crane. Photo courtesy of Puget Sound Naval Shipyard.
The cockpit of the crane. Photo courtesy of Puget Sound Naval Shipyard.

 

 

According to Ken Haines’ history, the cranes were mainly used to move 14 and 16 inch guns of battleships and heavy cruisers. It cost $110 an hour to use. It was retired in April 1996.

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3 thoughts on “The hammerhead’s not dead — and I can prove it

  1. Wonderful article. Thanks so much. My dad worked in the transportation shop and was one of those who ran the crane. Loved reading about the history and seeing the pictures.

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