August 14, 2018

Photo Essay: A Merchant Marine Cargo Ship, Born and Berthed in LA

At present time, the S.S. Lane Victory is moored at the end of Miner Street near Berth 49 between the East and West Channels of the L.A. Harbor in San Pedro.

But it used to sail—and not just while it was in official military service.

Even after they transformed it into a public museum, they used to take it out on the water—and regular people could sail along.

While its cruise schedule is currently suspended, and while its volunteers get it back up to code and back out on the water, I paid the stationary historic and heroic vessel a visit. And I paid a dollar to ring the bell, just to contribute a bit to the cause.

The S.S. Lane Victory entered service at the end of World War II...

...but stuck around to serve in the Korean War, when she evacuated more than 7,000 Korean civilians (including one baby born on board).

They must've been crammed into every nook and cranny on the cargo ship...

...even down the alley by the propeller.

From 1966 to 1970, the S.S. Lane Victory also served in the Vietnam Conflict.

But she wasn’t just a warship – she also served in times of peace as part of the Merchant Marine fleet, transporting goods and services.

And so, it's no surprise that she's got a ton of power in her belly.

In the engine room, you'll find a variety of power sources, from turbines that work on steam pressure (as much as 6000 horsepower), DC generators on both the port and starboard sides (240 volts each), shore power (for while the ship is at berth), and battery backups.

It takes a lot to propel a big ol' girl like this through the embattled waters of the Pacific—not the least of which is reduction gear (nearly 100,000 lbs, necessary for steam turbine-powered propulsion), shaft turning gear (once every seven minutes), and a 31,000-pound propeller that can help her travel a mile with just 347 revolutions.

And, of course, since being permanently relocated to L.A., she’s become somewhat of a Hollywood starlet, having appeared in everything from The Curious Case of Benjamin Button to The X-Files.

That’s because her bridge, gun placements, cargo holds, and interior have all been restored...

...and if seeing it on the screen isn't enough, most of it can be accessed on a self-guided tour.

What you don't see is how intricate the process is of running a ship like this—from the fuel oil pumps to the lube oil, cooling condensers, and circulating pumps.

And in addition to simply getting where it had to go, the ship needed to be equipped to fight (particularly Japanese kamikazes)...

...monitor the environment out at sea (including water depth, via a fathometer), and communicate via armed signalmen, especially during times of radio silence.

The signalmen raised flags (for short distances) and flashed lights (for long distances)—though nearly exclusively during the day.

Born on the LA Waterfront (built at California Shipbuilding Corporation) and originally launched on May 31, 1945, it's nice to see the S.S. Lane Victory making LA its permanent home.

The Victory-class ship no longer carries any cargo—but then again, its most famous haul was the massive group of Korean evacuees.

Maybe one day it will carry passengers again—on a WWII reenactment cruise across the Santa Barbara Channel, just like it used to.

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Photo Essay: USS Iowa, The Last of the Battleships
Photo Essay: A Night on the Battleship
Photo Essay: The Light at Angel's Gate

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