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Inside the Battleship New Jersey's "historic homecoming" to the Philadelphia Navy Yard

How crews at the Philadelphia Navy Yard are restoring the Battleship New Jersey
How crews at the Philadelphia Navy Yard are restoring the Battleship New Jersey 03:06

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — It is a full-circle moment and a "historic homecoming" for Battleship New Jersey at the Philadelphia Navy Yard. The USS New Jersey is now temporarily docked in South Philadelphia while undergoing maintenance.

"We're at the Philadelphia Navy Yard at dry dock number three, which is the same dry dock she was built in, in the early 1940s (and) returned to in the late 1960s," CEO Marshall Spevak said standing on the ship's main deck. "This is a historic homecoming for the battleship."

A worker is seen cleaning under the Battleship New Jersey while it is dry docked.
Crews work under the ship. CBS News Philadelphia

Last month, the battleship was on the move for the first time in more than 30 years. The ship first stopped at the Paulsboro Marine Terminal before moving to the Navy Yard a week later.

This week, CBS News Philadelphia got a first-hand look at the important work being done while the nation's most decorated battleship is dry-docked. Ryan Szimanski, the vice president of education and curatorial affairs, took us on a tour.

"This is a side of them that nobody gets to see," Szimanski said.

All of the work being done is happening "under the waterline."

"The Navy would be dry docking a ship like this every 2-5 years," Szimanski said, "but that doesn't mean that you or I would ever get in there to see it."

The "critical hull maintenance work" focuses on three areas: repainting the hull, inspecting the through-hull openings and "fixing the cathodic protection system" by replacing dozens of anodes.

A view of the Battleship New Jersey "under the waterline." A large propeller is seen, and the ship is lifted up on blocks
All of the work on Battleship New Jersey is being done is being done "under the waterline." CBS News Philadelphia

"This is a $10 million project over the course of two months," Spevak said, "so a lot is happening very quickly."

It's quite the sight to see: four 18-foot, 20-ton propellors out of the water. The New Jersey is sitting on more than 300 blocks, which support some 45,000 tons of ship above.

"Not all ships get saved, so it's extremely special the Battleship New Jersey was chosen," Szimanski said.

Crews recently started applying the first coat of paint on the hull.

"We're putting three different coats on. Each coat is a different color," Szimanski said. "That way the painters can see what they've painted and what they haven't and over the next 30 years, we can see, as that paint wears away, what color is it worn down to? Is it time to start planning for the next dry dock?"

Back on the main deck, Spevak said not only does this project fulfill the mission to preserve, but it also allows them to continue educating the public. Every weekend, aside from the day of the Broad Street Run, they offer public tours.

"It's a once-in-a-generation opportunity to actually walk underneath the battleship," Spevak said.

He noted more than 3,500 tickets have been sold so far. Tickets can be purchased on the battleship's website.

"It's all going to go right back into this project and help cover our overhead expenses," Spevak said. "We have no other revenue coming in during this time that were here at the yard so the dry dock tours are really helpful to us and keeping us going."

Battleship New Jersey will remain at the Navy Yard for another month and a half before heading back down the Delaware and reopening in Camden in mid-June.

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