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Christmas Gift Guide

Impressive

Beat to quarters

32-pounders

Imagine the noise

Captain's quarters

Quarter and poop (decks)

Nelson

Big guns

Private rooms

Bowels of the ship

No smoking

Coils and coils

The doctor is in

Warrior!

Note the stacks

Broad decks

Really big guns

Full kitchen

Wheels galore

Damn noisy roommates

Rifles everywhere

How posh

Captain's quarters

Steampunk awesomeness

Steam engine

Order up!

Alliance!

Bow torpedos

Now that's a home theater projector

Movies on the "big" screen

Supper

Where's the speedometer?

Learning to drive

Old tech, new tech

Captain's quarters

Phone home

In era

Some more equal

Where does this ladder go?

Haute cuisine

Engine room

Not a V but still an 8

Flippin' switches

Flood tubes 5 and 6

Our tour of the National Museum of the Royal Navy in Portsmouth, England, begins with the HMS Victory.

Thanks to centuries of tireless maintenance and restoration, the stunning ship looks brand new. Even today work is done to keep the 237-year-old Victory ship-shape, no easy feat considering the "moist" English air and the fact the ship is made of wood.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

Given its age, its size is impressive, as is the fact it's bristling with gunports.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

Entrance is through a small hatch cut into the side of the hull, onto the top gundeck.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

During its fighting days the Victory sported 104 cannon across five decks.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

Unlike what you might have seen in movies, the cannons didn't recoil far into the ship. Instead, the ropes you can see let them pull back just far enough so they could reload.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

Unlike the rest of the accommodations on the ship, the captain's quarters were quite civilized.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

In a nice touch (for the poor sailor steering), the wheel is sheltered under the poop deck.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

Shot in the shoulder. He died down below.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

The Victory also sported two 68-pounder carronades, which had a fairly short range, but packed a punch.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

Like most older military vessels, the crew slept wherever there was space. Some 850 men served aboard the Victory, and having walked around on it, I can't even imagine what it must have been like.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

Sorry for the poor photo quality, but it was really dark down here. This is the ship's hold, where they stored water, food and various other supplies.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

The ship's magazine -- in other words, lots of explosive black powder for the cannon -- was protected and buried as deep as possible on a ship made entirely of wood.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

Though rope was used for many things on board the ship, these heavy lengths were attached to the anchor.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

Vice Admiral Nelson died here, while the ship's doctor tried to save him. Looking at the tools available, I'm not sure he wouldn't have been better off with happy thoughts and a whiskey.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

Step forward 100 years and we get to the HMS Warrior. Visually, it seems just a larger version of the Victory. But underneath it hides several advancements in ship design that made all other ships of the era obsolete. It combined the steam engine technology of passenger ships of the era with wrought-iron armor plating. It made her fast and incredibly hard to damage.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

The Warrior was capable of nearly the same speed by sail or steam.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

The Warrior is big enough that it feels like a modern vessel. The Victory feels cramped from every angle, but you can move around a bit on the 19th century ship.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

Just as the decks, stairs and cabins on the Warrior are bigger than its much older predecessor, the guns too are upsized. There are 28 68-pound cannons, nearly three times the size of the main guns on the Victory. There were even 10 110-pound breechloading guns.

None were ever fired in anger. The Warrior came into being during one of the longest stretches of peace in Britain's history, the second half of the 19th century.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

In the center of the gundeck sits a proper stove and oven, practically luxurious on such a ship.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

Duplicate wheels connected by ropes gave a level of backup...and made for a gorgeous deck.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

The Master of the Boat had a pet in his room. It was loud.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

Racks and racks of rifles throughout this deck. It was clear once the cannon and guns stopped, everyone on board would have a rifle to use. All were 1853 muzzle-loading Enfield replicas.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

This is the officers' mess. Most modern navy ships don't look this nice. Notice the gold highlights on the wall panels.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

The multi-room suite that is the captain's quarters is so lavish and spacious it's now used for weddings.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

Deep down in the ship rows of boilers sit quietly. It's kept dark (hence the need for a flash in the photo). These create the steam that drives the engine...

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

It's weird seeing a piston the size of a car move. There's no steam, but they've rigged them up to move through their cycle, which is impressive to watch. It's like being miniturized and dropped inside a car engine.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

Not quite a takeout window, but the menu on the right did detail what each day's special would be.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

After a short water taxi ride, and stepping 100 more years into the future, the HMS Alliance is next. It was designed and laid down during WWII, but didn't see service until after the war was over.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

Four torpedo tubes take up the bow. Like most subs, much of the space in this room not taken up by torpedoes was used for food storage.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

Movie nights were apparently common. Common enough to justify a projector, anyway. What do you think, 50 lumens?

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

For a diesel sub, there were quite a few "large" rooms like this one where the crew could relax. Certainly not as big as the nuclear boomers, but better than a lot of WWII subs.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

All things considered, not a bad bunk room. Most of the 63 crew members had to sleep in the hall.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

Learn your dials, as there are no windows on a military submarine. This was one of several stations used on the bridge to get the sub where it was needed.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

Another one of the museums stewards talking about how to drive the sub, how to maintain depth and so on. Cool and fascinating stuff.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

I've been in a lot of subs of different eras, and they all seem to have this same gear. Not "similar" but seemingly the exact same piece of equipment. One manufacturer perhaps?

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

This photo is a bit weird, but the best angle I could get. This is looking straight up into the conning tower. The sliver of wood you see is the door to the captain's cabin, said to be not much bigger than a single bunk. Location, location, location though, it was right above the bridge.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

The roaming charges must have been fierce. Nothing like some old communications equipment to make you thankful for the "phone" in your pocket.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

They did a good job reminding you of the era the ship served, from the awesome fabrics to the newspapers scattered about.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

Like most subs, most of the crew ate at their bunks. There was no "main mess" like there is on larger boats.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

It goes up. Specifically to an external escape hatch.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

It is said that navy food is good, but submarine food was better. To hear the tour guide tell it, their cook worked magic with cans of random vegetables and sauce that lost their labels do to the on-board humidity.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

Almost all non-nuclear subs are diesel-electric, as in they run on batteries recharged by diesel engines. The batteries are usually removed before the boat is opened as a museum. The engines...not so much. These are in for the long term.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

The two 8-cylinder engines were supercharged for a total of 4,300 horsepower.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

Banks of these huge switches directed power throughout the ship, to or from the batteries, and so on.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

And exit, not through the gift shop, but the rear torpedo room.

For the full story behind the tour, check out A tour of the HMS Victory, HMS Warrior and HMS Alliance: 300 years of Royal Navy history.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET
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