CNET también está disponible en español.

Ir a español

Don't show this again

SS Jeremiah O'Brien

Ahoy to the SS Jeremiah O'Brien, one of the last remaining Liberty ships, and a participant in Operation Neptune, aka the D-Day invasion of Normandy. 

For more about this ship and this tour, check out Legendary Liberty: Inside the only remaining Liberty ship from D-Day.

Read the article
Published:Caption:Photo:Geoffrey Morrison/CNET
1
of 53

Liberty

Liberty ships were designed to be cheap and fast to build and reliable to run.

Read the article
Published:Caption:Photo:Geoffrey Morrison/CNET
2
of 53

Aboard

The O'Brien was built in Portland, Maine, and made multiple trips in the Atlantic, and later the Pacific and Indian oceans. 

Read the article
Published:Caption:Photo:Geoffrey Morrison/CNET
3
of 53

Size

She's 441.5 feet long (134.5 meters) and 57 feet (17 m) wide.

Read the article
Published:Caption:Photo:Geoffrey Morrison/CNET
4
of 53

Cargo

Most Liberty ships had either four, or like the O'Brien, five cargo holds.

Read the article
Published:Caption:Photo:Geoffrey Morrison/CNET
5
of 53

Crewed

Liberty ships typically had between 59 and 102 men, depending on the voyage and overall mission.

Read the article
Published:Caption:Photo:Geoffrey Morrison/CNET
6
of 53

Carry

They could transport around 10,000 tons of cargo.

Read the article
Published:Caption:Photo:Geoffrey Morrison/CNET
7
of 53

Cranes and cables

With no guarantee they'd be operating in a traditional port, they had extensive equipment to aid in loading and unloading their cargo.

Read the article
Published:Caption:Photo:Geoffrey Morrison/CNET
8
of 53

Guns

Liberty ships had minimal defensive weaponry. On the stern the O'Brien had this 5-inch/.38-caliber gun.

Read the article
Published:Caption:Photo:Geoffrey Morrison/CNET
9
of 53

Harbor

The O'Brien is docked at Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco, right behind the USS Pampanito, which we also recently toured.

Read the article
Published:Caption:Photo:Geoffrey Morrison/CNET
10
of 53

Mess

The officers' mess.

Read the article
Published:Caption:Photo:Geoffrey Morrison/CNET
11
of 53

Chief steward

The chief steward's compartment. He would oversee the meals, cooks, cleaning duties and so on.

Read the article
Published:Caption:Photo:Geoffrey Morrison/CNET
12
of 53

Cargo hold

The upper portions of two of the O'Brien's holds are partially open, containing a museum within a museum.

Read the article
Published:Caption:Photo:Geoffrey Morrison/CNET
13
of 53

Down below

None of the lower holds are entirely open, but there are viewing areas like this one, allowing you to see down into them. Pretty sure that guy is going to get in trouble for relaxing on the job.

Read the article
Published:Caption:Photo:Geoffrey Morrison/CNET
14
of 53

D-Day

There's also an extensive area dedicated to the D-Day landings. Several years ago we checked out the Normandy Beaches for the 70th Anniversary

Read the article
Published:Caption:Photo:Geoffrey Morrison/CNET
15
of 53

Resupply

In addition to the landings themselves, the O'Brien completed 11 journeys between the UK and France between June and September 1944.

Read the article
Published:Caption:Photo:Geoffrey Morrison/CNET
16
of 53

A bit of everything

The Liberty ships carried food, ammo, jeeps and whatever was needed by the troops. In the lower holds they could carry water, grain and more.

Read the article
Published:Caption:Photo:Geoffrey Morrison/CNET
17
of 53

Overnights

Youth groups can sign up for an overnight stay.   

Read the article
Published:Caption:Photo:Geoffrey Morrison/CNET
18
of 53

Mothballed

After the war, the O'Brien was mothballed near San Francisco for 33 years. 

Read the article
Published:Caption:Photo:Geoffrey Morrison/CNET
19
of 53

View astern

It's a bit of a hazy day, but you can make out the Golden Gate bridge to the left and Alcatraz to the right.

Read the article
Published:Caption:Photo:Geoffrey Morrison/CNET
20
of 53

PO mess

The petty officers' mess.

Read the article
Published:Caption:Photo:Geoffrey Morrison/CNET
21
of 53

Galley

The oven was, and still is, heated by coal.

Read the article
Published:Caption:Photo:Geoffrey Morrison/CNET
22
of 53

Cabin life

Compared to warships, the crew accommodations on Liberty ships are quite lavish. This isn't the captain's cabin, or even the first mate. It's for the second assistant engineer.

Read the article
Published:Caption:Photo:Geoffrey Morrison/CNET
23
of 53

Third mate

Even more expansive, this is the cabin for the third mate.

Read the article
Published:Caption:Photo:Geoffrey Morrison/CNET
24
of 53

First mate

The first mate's cabin has a bit more of an office feel to it, fitting for his role on the ship.

Read the article
Published:Caption:Photo:Geoffrey Morrison/CNET
25
of 53

Life boats

Since the O'Brien isn't just a museum but a seaworthy vessel, these have been restored to Coast Guard-approved levels.

Read the article
Published:Caption:Photo:Geoffrey Morrison/CNET
26
of 53

Wheelhouse

One of two locations where the ship is piloted. We'll visit the flying bridge a little later.

Read the article
Published:Caption:Photo:Geoffrey Morrison/CNET
27
of 53

The view out

If you stand in front of the porthole, this is the view. From the wheel, not so much. Generally speaking, though, the person manning the wheel didn't need to see out, just follow orders from the officers who could.

Read the article
Published:Caption:Photo:Geoffrey Morrison/CNET
28
of 53

Charts

Adjacent to the wheelhouse is the chart room. 

Read the article
Published:Caption:Photo:Geoffrey Morrison/CNET
29
of 53

Captain's cabin

Not really that much bigger or nicer than most of the other cabins. 

Read the article
Published:Caption:Photo:Geoffrey Morrison/CNET
30
of 53

Radio op

The chief radio operator's cabin with some period radio gear.

Read the article
Published:Caption:Photo:Geoffrey Morrison/CNET
31
of 53

Radio room

The main radio room with gear that still works and still has a licence to broadcast.

Read the article
Published:Caption:Photo:Geoffrey Morrison/CNET
32
of 53

AA

The O'Brien had eight 20mm anti-aircraft guns.

Read the article
Published:Caption:Photo:Geoffrey Morrison/CNET
33
of 53

Stacks

The two oil-fired boilers exhaust through here. We'll head down to the engine room shortly.

Read the article
Published:Caption:Photo:Geoffrey Morrison/CNET
34
of 53

Flying bridge

The view forward from the flying bridge.

Read the article
Published:Caption:Photo:Geoffrey Morrison/CNET
35
of 53

Sailors

The O'Brien typically had a complement of 41 merchant marines and 18 Navy gunners.      

Read the article
Published:Caption:Photo:Geoffrey Morrison/CNET
36
of 53

Engine room

Watch your fingers, toes and noggins as you head into the (working!) engine room.

Read the article
Published:Caption:Photo:Geoffrey Morrison/CNET
37
of 53

Triple steam

Steam generated by the boilers gets fed into this triple-expansion steam engine

Read the article
Published:Caption:Photo:Geoffrey Morrison/CNET
38
of 53

Steampunk

This was already decades-old technology when the O'Brien was new, but it was rugged and inexpensive.  

Read the article
Published:Caption:Photo:Geoffrey Morrison/CNET
39
of 53

Steel

Speed was not a priority. Liberty ships cruised at around 13 mph (21 km/h).

Read the article
Published:Caption:Photo:Geoffrey Morrison/CNET
40
of 53

Ask an engineer

Conveniently, there were two engineers on duty during my visit.

Read the article
Published:Caption:Photo:Geoffrey Morrison/CNET
41
of 53

Maintenance

The only way to keep a 70-plus-year-old engine running is with continual maintenance. 

Read the article
Published:Caption:Photo:Geoffrey Morrison/CNET
42
of 53

Lit

The boilers are lit several times a year for cruises around San Francisco Bay.

Read the article
Published:Caption:Photo:Geoffrey Morrison/CNET
43
of 53

Upper boiler

The boilers can produce 24,000 pounds (10,886 kg) of steam per hour each.

Read the article
Published:Caption:Photo:Geoffrey Morrison/CNET
44
of 53

Circuits

The switchboard still works.

Read the article
Published:Caption:Photo:Geoffrey Morrison/CNET
45
of 53

Generators

The three generators can create 20 kilowatts each. Only two were originally used to create power for the ship. The third was used power a coil that circled the entire ship and created a magnetic field in a technique called degaussing. This helped the ship avoid magnetic mines.

Read the article
Published:Caption:Photo:Geoffrey Morrison/CNET
46
of 53

Tool kit

Small, medium, large and extra-large. Also note the sea level line in the upper right.

Read the article
Published:Caption:Photo:Geoffrey Morrison/CNET
47
of 53

Triple

The "triple expansion" describes how the steam is used three times, across three increasingly larger cylinders.

Read the article
Published:Caption:Photo:Geoffrey Morrison/CNET
48
of 53

Boiler

The O'Brien's engine room doubled for the Titanic's in James Cameron's 1999 classic film.

Read the article
Published:Caption:Photo:Geoffrey Morrison/CNET
49
of 53

Steam power

The boilers generate heat by burning fuel oil. The steam lets the engine generate around 2,500 horsepower. 

Read the article
Published:Caption:Photo:Geoffrey Morrison/CNET
50
of 53

Boston

Via the National Archives, this is an unidentified Liberty ship being loaded in Boston Harbor in 1943. The O'Brien likely loaded up at a similar dock the same year before its first trans-Atlantic crossing.

Read the article
Published:Caption:Photo:National Archives
51
of 53

Loading cargo

This picture, also via the National Archives, shows another unidentified Liberty ship loading cargo from a different part of Boston Harbor circa 1944. 

Read the article
Published:Caption:Photo:National Archives
52
of 53

Golden

With a foggy Golden Gate bridge behind, the SS Jeremiah O'Brien sits ready for visitors or a tour around the calm waters of the San Francisco Bay. 

For more about this historic ship, check out Legendary Liberty: Inside the only remaining Liberty ship from D-Day. 

Read the article
Published:Caption:Photo:Geoffrey Morrison/CNET
53
of 53
Up Next

Crazy images caught on Google Street View