||Charles W. Johnson
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...My eyes adjust to the subdued light in the cool, cavernous building where it is now, forever off the oceans, forever away from the polar ice and brutal weather it often endured. It sits on big wooden blocks, black-hulled and massive, in this quiet, somber setting. Its voyages are done, its work long since over. But this is not a mausoleum; it is not lying in state. It is very much alive. Its energy and history wash over me as I come close. As I let my hand run over its ancient skin, its deep scars, I am taken back to when I was little and heard my father talk of it with such awe and admiration, almost reverence, tinged with affection. Even then I sensed it had a life of its own, a personality built not just of the wood and iron but also by adventures at the far ends of the earth, by those who took it there. I had been eager to listen to stories about it, feel a bit of what others had felt who shared so many years with it. Now here I am, after all these years, ready to take in what the old ice ship will reveal to me, fully awake to what I had only dreamed before. As I walk along its 128-foot length, I am struck by how massive yet graceful it is, a perfect blend of opposites. Its hull is smooth, steep sided, and rounded at the bottom, so that encroaching ice could not grab, squeeze, and crush, but instead it would slide up on it. Its bow and stern, armored with thick iron plates, are edged like wedges for smashing through. On board, there is solidity everywhere, a kind of geologic permanence that its long, rough history has not diminished. Its sides are two feet thick, four feet at stem and stern. Below decks are great bracing wooden knees and buttresses athwartships, skewered to the timbers by thick iron rods and bolts. Its three masts are like enormous trees, rooted in the keelson, from which the trunks rise majestically, pass through the deck above, and head toward the sky...