World’s Oldest Naval Vessel, USS Constitution, Can Still Sail

The USS Constitution was built in 1797, making it 215 years old. She has been a commissioned vessel in the US Navy that entire time, though she was retired from active service in 1881, and has been a museum ship since 1907. The last time the Constitution sailed under her own power was in 1997, for her 200th birthday. On Sunday, she  sailed again — for 17 minutes at 3 knots — this time to celebrate the 200th anniversary of her defeat of the British ship HMS Guerriere in the War of 1812, which was the first time an American vessel sunk a British one of that size. During the battle, a cannonball bounced off the Constitution without causing damage, which led to her nickname of ‘Old Ironsides’ — her sides are actually made of wood, as per the usual.

USS Constitution sailing on August 19, 2012. Photo by Steven Senne/AP.


Given her construction at the dawn of the republic, the USS Constitution is the American version of the Ship of Theseus (the namesake for the famous paradox). The former has been maintained in the Boston harbor for over a century, whereas the latter was supposedly in the Athens harbor for several centuries, so there’s still a lot of life in the Constitution.

From CBS Boston

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