Historic ship makes its final voyage

May 7, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
Ben Koether flew all the way across the country for one more look, one last pass through the abandoned remnants of what used to be the Mare Island Naval Shipyard in Vallejo.

The old ship he came to visit was a once-proud vessel known as the Glacier. She came here out of the mothball fleet. Her next stop: a scrap yard in Brownsville, Texas.

"It's a lot different than it was in 1960, I'll tell you that," Koether said as he looked at the now tired, rusting ship.

Back in the mid-20th century, the Glacier was state of the art. She had a hull almost two inches thick. It was perfect for breaking 20-foot thick ice in waters no men had sailed before.

Koether served as navigator. "This is the last ship in the world that sailed virgin waters and charted unknown coasts," he said.

The Glacier made 33 trips to the Antarctic and was instrumental in allowing Admiral Bird to reach the South Pole for the first time ever.

"It's tragic to see the vessel in the condition she is in now," Koether said.

Koether now runs a computer company, and though he has done well, he cannot spare the $5 million that he says could save the Glacier and turn her into a museum.

That will take clout. "It is a long shot. It's up to a few senators to make a bold move," Koether said.

No bold moves came Monday. Koether could only watch as the Glacier moved ever closer to her end. The dry dock filled. Then a tug arrived to tow her away.

At Allied Defense Recycling, where they did the prep work, the staff see sentiment from former sailors almost every day.

"A lot of these people that have come out here, that was their first home away from home on some of these vessels," said Allied Defense safety officer Suzanna Castleman. "It means something to them."

Koether said he will go to Brownsville, and meet the Glacier there. It will be one last visit.

"We're still fighting. I won't give up until the torch hits the steel," he said. "I have done all I could possibly do."


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