The USS Constitution, the world's oldest commissioned warship still afloat, has returned to Boston's waters. The undocking of "Old Ironsides" on Sunday marked the end of restoration work that started two years ago, officials say. The restorations extend the life of the nearly 2-foot-thick wooden vessel—the last remaining survivor of six ships created when President George Washington signed the Naval Armament Act—says a historian at Naval History & Heritage Command Detachment Boston. The ship enters dry dock about every 20 years for below-the-waterline repairs, reports the AP.
The most recent work included replacing 100 hull planks and installing 2,200 new copper sheets, 500 of which were signed by nearly 100,000 museum visitors, according to USS Constitution Museum President Anne Grimes Rand, who calls the ship "a wonderful symbol for our democracy." "It was meant to last for 10 or 20 years, and to have [the] ship here more than 200 years later, it needs constant care," Rand says. The ship was launched in 1797 and earned its famous nickname notching victories in the War of 1812. The vessel will be temporarily docked at a nearby pier to undergo more restoration work until September, when it will reopen for public tours. (Read more USS Constitution stories.)