114-year-old Japanese battleship Mikasa Restored

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114-year-old Japanese battleship Mikasa Restored

Postby Crossroads Inc. » 2016-10-06 03:53pm

LINK FROM CNET

An hour south of Tokyo, on the edge of the bay is a piece of history unique in the world. Embedded in concrete just a few feet from the water is the 114-year-old battleship Mikasa. It's the only surviving pre-dreadnought battleship, not to mention one of the only Imperial navy vessels still intact from that era.

After 21 years in service, the Mikasa was decommissioned, but not scrapped. Instead she was preserved at the request of the Japanese government, with her engines and armament removed, and her hull encased in concrete.

After several extensive restorations, the Mikasa today is a museum ship, and a fascinating look back into turn-of-the-last century naval design.

Construction started on the Mikasa in 1899, half a world away from Japan, in Barrow-in-Furness, England. Commissioned in 1902, she had 4 12-inch main guns, 14 6-inch guns, 20 3-inch, and 4 torpedo tubes.

The Mikasa, named for a mountain in Japan, first served in the Russo-Japanese War where she took part in several battles.

Just days after the war, the ship's magazine exploded, sinking the ship. Salvaged and put back into use, it served coastal duties until after WWI. Though the Washington Naval Treaty limited the number of battleships, the historical nature of the Mikasa led to it being preserved minus its engines.

The following decades weren't kind to the Mikasa. Normal decay was exacerbated by odd private ventures, including selling off many of its parts, and converting the deck into a dance hall and an aquarium.

In the '60s however, restoration began, returning the ship largely to how it looked in its heyday.

Today, traveling about an hour by train from central Tokyo brings you to Yokosuka, the Mikasa's final home. It's a few minutes walk from the train station, but you can't miss it. Ships of all kinds float in Tokyo Bay, but the stacks, cables and guns of the Mikasa are certainly unique.

The tour itself is unguided, though there are often prerecorded stations scattered around which explain parts of the ship in English.

If you take your time, it takes about an hour to see the whole vessel. While the ship is not very big to begin with (432 feet/131.7m), there's almost nothing below deck. You see, the Mikasa isn't just encased in concrete, she's filled with it. The tour consists of the upper deck, the main deck, and the bridge, and though there's some storage down below, the rest is filled solid.

The restoration process may have begun 50 years ago but it is still ongoing. Many areas of the ship are furnished and look period-perfect. Others wait to be filled with artifacts of that era (and that hunt is ongoing). During my tour I happened to meet Captain Greg Kouta (JMSDF, Ret.) who is in charge of the Mikasa's restoration, as well as the ongoing preservation of the JMSDF Akishio which I had toured just a few days earlier.

Though the tour itself was short, it was a fascinating look at that middle-era of battleship design, after the steam-and-sails era, but before the massive dreadnought-era machines of the 20th century.


The Mikasa is open every day, except for the last four days of the year. Cost is 600 yen ($6 US) per adult, less if you're old or young.

If Tokyo isn't on your travel list, check out the photo tour above.


VERY Heart warming to hear this is almost finished, it is just so nice to see something of the past being conserved and NOT destroyed for a change.
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Re: 114-year-old Japanese battleship Mikasa Restored

Postby K. A. Pital » 2016-10-08 06:32am

So, just two ships from the Tsushima battle survive until this day - Aurora in Russia and Mikasa in Japan - or there are any other surviving vessels?
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Re: 114-year-old Japanese battleship Mikasa Restored

Postby Thanas » 2016-10-08 06:44am

I wish similar funding would be given to the USS Texas.
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Re: 114-year-old Japanese battleship Mikasa Restored

Postby Simon_Jester » 2016-10-08 08:26am

One of the downsides of the fact that the US has a LOT of museum ships, and no one of them attracts the same kind of iconic national status as Mikasa, sadly.

K. A. Pital wrote:So, just two ships from the Tsushima battle survive until this day - Aurora in Russia and Mikasa in Japan - or there are any other surviving vessels?
There is a sad shortage of WWI and pre-WWI museum ships. Partly because a lot of the ships that could have played that role were used in the World Wars to the point where they were no longer in salvageable condition, I think.
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Re: 114-year-old Japanese battleship Mikasa Restored

Postby Captain Seafort » 2016-10-08 10:11am

Simon_Jester wrote:There is a sad shortage of WWI and pre-WWI museum ships. Partly because a lot of the ships that could have played that role were used in the World Wars to the point where they were no longer in salvageable condition, I think.


Indeed. Two other significant causes were a) that all major participants were economically exhausted, and therefore in no state to pay much attention to warship preservation and b) the disarmament treaties of the 20s and 30s.
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Re: 114-year-old Japanese battleship Mikasa Restored

Postby Adam Reynolds » 2016-10-08 06:21pm

There was also the fact that keeping old battleships in the 1920s potentially violated the naval treaties. It doesn't do to keep an old battleship as a museum ship when you could otherwise build a new one to replace it. The reason Mikasa was encased in concrete was as a condition of its preservation.

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Re: 114-year-old Japanese battleship Mikasa Restored

Postby Thanas » 2016-10-08 06:28pm

Simon_Jester wrote:One of the downsides of the fact that the US has a LOT of museum ships, and no one of them attracts the same kind of iconic national status as Mikasa, sadly.


USS Constitution might disagree with that.
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Re: 114-year-old Japanese battleship Mikasa Restored

Postby Simon_Jester » 2016-10-08 10:00pm

To be fair, yes, Constitution is an exception. Though she was nearly scrapped too.

At the same time, restoring Texas or another steel-hulled warship is a bigger, more extensive job. They're bigger ships, they rust, and you can't repair them with hand tools even in theory.
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Re: 114-year-old Japanese battleship Mikasa Restored

Postby Patroklos » 2016-10-09 07:57pm

I highly doubt that. Steel and its maritime use, repair and preservation is still the mainstream for modern day industry. The same can't be said for maritime wood construction, let alone things like rigging and sails. Both situations require period restoration expertise as there are some unique properties and uses of steel from various periods, but the special skills and the rarity of practitioners of it are far higher in the case of wooden ships.

That being said individual projects ships might still be more expensive than the USS Constitution based on that ship never having been neglected to the extent of a ship like the USS Olympia. When you let one of these go the repair bills escalate fast.

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Re: 114-year-old Japanese battleship Mikasa Restored

Postby Sea Skimmer » 2016-10-10 12:23am

Captain Seafort wrote:Indeed. Two other significant causes were a) that all major participants were economically exhausted, and therefore in no state to pay much attention to warship preservation and b) the disarmament treaties of the 20s and 30s.


The treaties really said it all, I mean we went so far as to try to ban war in 1928. People did not want to remember these things. They wanted to remember all the dead people they caused.

Also in the 1920s and 30s a large number wooden and iron masted ships were museums around the world. Why? Because they'd suddenly started to get very rare, even though people were building them new into the early part of the century. Very few of these ships actually survived past the 1960s through because of poor preservation methods (often none) and general lack of money, the same thing which is probably going to implode the US museum ship fleet long term. Or rather it certainly will at present funding rates.

It isn't for nothing that the drive for preserving big gun era ships suddenly began in the 1960s after all the form allied power navies had gone and flushed the WW2 era junk. Only when they become rare do we suddenly care.

Constitution is kind of just endlessly amusing, since after long lived claims she wasn't the real ship, now we know an entire 17-18% of her is original timber! Yay! Original yet not completely screwed structurally for it the way Victory is.
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Re: 114-year-old Japanese battleship Mikasa Restored

Postby Thanas » 2016-10-10 05:18am

What is the problem with the victory?
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Re: 114-year-old Japanese battleship Mikasa Restored

Postby Sea Skimmer » 2016-10-12 04:49pm

Old and made of wood, rather directly. Being hit by probably 1000+ cannonballs in service + a damaging near miss by one Nazi aerial bomb wouldn't have helped either but it's mainly just a problem of her type of ship utterly never being suited to this kind of lifespan. Such ships have great strength from the direct fitting of wood, and minimal use of metal, but that means every joint is working loose and she's hogging badly now, made worse by the manner in which she is dry docked. That keeps her lower decks drier, vital, but no ship like that is meant to be out of water for long and the cradle does not support her as well as water. IIRC they are raising money for a new cradle, but still aren't sure how to design it. Encasing in concrete would actually be a good way to go for that, except that's very visually unappealing and would recreate partial problems with damp.

But she's very damp anyway because the upper deck has been leaking, literally these decks even when new had to be recaulked in real time, and some prior sealing measures made things worse. The upper deck really should be replaced, but they want that original timber, and in ship money terms its a lot of work it needs either way.

In the mean time they long ago took off all her real guns and carriages and replaced them with lightweight replicas, much more recently the top masts were also removed and won't be replaced at least until a new cradle is funded and installed.

It'd be always possible to 'save' the ship by replacing large masses of timber, but much of the point of Victory aside from her killscore is that she is in fact in very large part her original materials, and very little has been replaced at all since the 1940s when her bomb damage was naturally repaired. I'm really not thinking they are going to be able to get away with this forever. More decades maybe, but short of physically placing her inside of a structure, which would eliminate wind loads as well as allowing controlled humidity (don't want the wood 100% dry either) I think they'll be screwed on this. Probably remove the masts some day, assuming humanity exists, I bet we could carbon fiber much lighter rigging now. It would only cost money. I believe people with the budget for concept art have actually proposed roofing over the dry dock a while ago, but leaving the masts poking out.

For bonus problem, notionally you could just drill in shitloads of bolts to tighten up her hull, adding a lot of new material but removing little old, but these ships have so damn many joints the collective weight of bolting like that starts to cancel out any gain in stiffness. This is doing to be the long term doom of the Vasa hulk IIRC, its only held bolts in any functional sense, and while newer much lighter ones are being installed they still inflict fatigue on the half dissolved wood.

At some point I'd imagine they'd say, glue Vasa to a backing plate, or something like that in 2065.

Constitution in contrast is functionally about 1 century newer thanks to her 1845 era 'rebuilding' that only reused perhaps 18% of the hull, less stressful service, a less stressed type of hull to begin with. And radical preservation work was carried out sooner, she was on track to doom by hogging so they just replaced all the wood they had too. Thus why Victory is in trouble, and Consitution can still be sailed outright, if with only a couple sails ever.
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Re: 114-year-old Japanese battleship Mikasa Restored

Postby Elheru Aran » 2016-10-12 05:06pm

It might be possible to do for Victory what they did with the Vasa, which IIRC was they impregnated the wood with some kind of acrylic. (Or maybe that's another ship...)

Part of the problem is that of course the ship was meant to exist in a damp environment; the seawater helps keep the wood moist to some degree, which swells up joints and holds everything tight. But put it in a dry-dock and hold it up out of the water for a few decades... yeah it's going to loosen up, pretty badly actually. Constitution, while currently in dry-dock and has been dry-docked on occasion, has for the most part remained in water.
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Re: 114-year-old Japanese battleship Mikasa Restored

Postby Captain Seafort » 2016-10-13 01:00pm

Elheru Aran wrote:It might be possible to do for Victory what they did with the Vasa, which IIRC was they impregnated the wood with some kind of acrylic. (Or maybe that's another ship...)


Probably - they certainly did something along those lines with the Mary Rose, but I believe those two started out at least partially fossilised by spending several centuries in sea-floor mud.

Sea Skimmer wrote:Constitution in contrast is functionally about 1 century newer thanks to her 1845 era 'rebuilding' that only reused perhaps 18% of the hull, less stressful service, a less stressed type of hull to begin with. And radical preservation work was carried out sooner, she was on track to doom by hogging so they just replaced all the wood they had too. Thus why Victory is in trouble, and Constitution can still be sailed outright, if with only a couple sails ever.


How much of a difference do their relative sizes make? I'd imagine a three-decker would be under a lot more strain from her own mass than a single-deck frigate.
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Re: 114-year-old Japanese battleship Mikasa Restored

Postby Elheru Aran » 2016-10-13 01:20pm

Ah, Mary Rose! I think that's it... but yes, both are a slightly different situation than the Victory. The V does have a benefit in that they don't have to dig it up from the seafloor; they could simply encase it in a temporary building, carefully disassemble it in sections (so that the tourists have something to look at), impregnate the sections, then put it back together carefully. Easy? Cheap? No... but what value do you put on something that's literally a national monument?
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Re: 114-year-old Japanese battleship Mikasa Restored

Postby Sea Skimmer » 2016-10-13 06:39pm

Mary Rose and Vasa both have major problems with acidifcation of the wood, but its far worse on Vasa because of Baltic conditions linked to why she was so well preserved underwater in the first place. So little of Mary Rose is left her structural integrity isn't much problem, as long as the wood is preserved. If you took these wrecks apart though you would never be able to rejoin them. Remember all the hull planking had to go in a steambox before it went on the hull in the first place. Take it apart and it would all come out of shape and crack up.


Captain Seafort wrote:How much of a difference do their relative sizes make? I'd imagine a three-decker would be under a lot more strain from her own mass than a single-deck frigate.


Yeah it is. When the ship was new this was compensated for in part simply by building the ships of the line out of bigger and denser pieces of wood to gain more stiffness. Also on paper a taller ship is a taller girder which should be more rigid, but that's a relative thing. Wooden ships can only be so stiff, and longitudinal strength in purely wooden ships is never very good to begin with. That's why they could get pretty damn heavy, but hit maximum length problems at an early point.

Once that all works loose the looseness amplifies the peak stresses and the height of the ship works against it. Even without the bending motion of the open sea the uneven spot loads of the masts and stern structure are considerable. The basic fact that a frigate has fewer pieces of wood works to its advantage in this.
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Re: 114-year-old Japanese battleship Mikasa Restored

Postby Elheru Aran » 2016-10-13 06:57pm

No, if you took the hull boards (the main parts that would have been steamed, the internal ribs and such would have been cut out from the timber, following the grain as much as possible of course) off to treat them, you could use some sort of bracing rig to try and prevent them from going out of shape. It's possible... it wouldn't be easy, but it'd be possible.

EDIT: Of course, you would have to assess the question of cost versus benefit, and it's quite possible that a complete restoration of the Victory may not be possible in the long run if you want to keep the original timber. If you resign yourself to the 'george washington's axe' paradox and decide to live with replacing the timber, that's another matter.
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Re: 114-year-old Japanese battleship Mikasa Restored

Postby Sea Skimmer » 2016-10-13 07:12pm

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/ ... he_Bow.jpg

You got to be crazy to think you could take stuff like that apart and get it back together in any practical sense. Also note all the bolt heads all over, those are the modern additions to make her not collapse. The wood is cracked internally, and filled with chemical damage and multiple tons of corrosion generated acids. They had to drench her in anti freeze for two decades just to dry it out with minimal shrinkage, but that wasn't no shrinkage, and the anti freeze caused is own long term problems.

Apparently a plot is afoot to put fiberglass poles and other structures inside of her now as bracing but nobody has yet agreed just what and where.

On Victory the many timbers could be removed for work, she never sank. However places where she has more recent water damage tend to be wet rot aka total destruction of wood.
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Re: 114-year-old Japanese battleship Mikasa Restored

Postby LaCroix » 2016-10-14 12:21pm

re- taking apart and putting back together

Especially since the planks are dowelled to the ribs - for naval construction, the wooden dowel has a slit on the tip, with a wedge inserted - once hammered in, it jams the dowel in there, forever. For practical purposes, the only way to take these planks off is drilling the dowels out. (Or violence.)
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