Former aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk

Former aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk, drifting through the fog like a ghost ship, departing Bremerton for the last time today.
If you look closely in a few of the photos you will see her four propellers have been removed and are sitting at the rear end of the flight deck.Launched in 1960, she served for 49 years before being decommissioned and joining the reserve of inactive vessels (mothball fleet) at Puget Sound Naval Yard.

The last carrier of her class to be decommissioned, her fate is to be towed to Brownsville, Texas by Foss Maritime Company for scrapping. She became the sole responsibility of the salvage company as soon as she left the naval yard.

As her beam is too wide for the Panama Canal, Foss has the duty of taking her clear down to the tip of South America, through the Strait of Magellan, and back up to the Gulf Coast. Kitty Hawk will be towed by a single tug, the Michelle Foss (not pictured).

This trip will take at least 129 days, cover more than 16,000 miles, and take three separate crews, changed out in Valparaiso and Trinidad. Her towed speed will be somewhere between 5 and 8 knots, depending on weather.

The carrier will be boarded by representatives of the salvage company at port stops, otherwise she will be 100% unmanned for the voyage. Salvage crews have spent months prepping the ship, which includes adding a generator to run some interior lights, bilge and de-watering pumps, and the motor for the anchor’s windlass in case of an emergency.

Not only is the carrier too wide for the Panama Canal, she is too big for any salvage yard on the West Coast of the United States, necessitating the voyage to Texas.

This was a really amazing event to shoot, unfortunately the fog was so low that I couldn’t get a clear shot above the flight deck, and several times the superstructure disappeared entirely into the fog. Even more meaningful than taking the photos was meeting and spending time with people around the move. Whether it was fellow photographers, neighbors of Bainbridge Island, or the tremendous family at Foss, I learned more new names and was introduced to more fascinating individuals today than in the last entire year. You are all amazing, and I thank you for your time and effort.

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