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More About The New Deck

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  • A New Teak Deck for The Showboat:

The Battleship NORTH CAROLINA is in the process of replacing the original teak decking with new teak.

No systematic renewal or maintenance of the decking has been performed since the vessel was decommissioned (retired) in 1947. Thus, for nearly 50 years sun, rain, and dirt have slowly caused the deck to deteriorate. In this poor condition, the decking no longer functions as originally intended.


  • Wood Decks: A Practical Tradition

As was often traditional on warships, the Battleship’s weather decks (those exposed to the outside weather) were covered with teak decking.

The wood deck served several useful purposes:

1. Temperature and sound insulation - Steel decks quickly transferred either South Pacific heat or North Atlantic cold. The wood helped to modify the effects of the weather. The wood also deadened the sound of hundreds of sailors running and working on the deck.

2. Easier on the feet - In comparison to steel, wood "gives underfoot," causing less stress to legs and feet.

3. Protected the steel deck - Wood and its bedding compounds protected the steel from the corrosive effects of sun, salt, and water as well as from shrapnel (ammunition fragments) damage.


  • Why Teak?

Teak is a dense, heavy wood from Southeast Asia’s tropical forests. It contains a great deal of oily resin which helps the wood resist dry rot and other wood-destroying fungi.

The wood retains this protective oil for extended periods of time and the surface can usually be revitalized by mild abrasion. Traditionally in the Navy, the abrasion came from a process called holystoning. Sailors wet the decks with a holystone mixture of soap, water, and ground pumice and then scoured the deck using a rough brick. The mild scraping of the surface caused a small amount of the oily resin to rise from within the wood to its surface, thus refinishing it.

Although teak offered many benefits, its expense caused many commercial companies to use less expensive substitutes. For instance, the TITANTIC‘s decks were covered in pine.

If you are wondering about the wood as a fire hazard, the Navy took care of that by treating the wood with sodium tungstate, a permanent chemical fireproofing. Wood treated this way would not catch on fire from exploding shells.


  • Where Does Teak Grow?

While many varieties with of teak can be found in the tropical forests throughout Southest Asia, the "teaonus grandis" teak used on the Battleship’s decks is found in Myanmar, formerly Burma.


  • Teak Deck Benefactors

The project to replace the teak decking with historically accurate "Burmese" teak could not have been accomplished without significant outside assistance. We gratefully acknowledge the contributions of the following:

The Government of the Union of Myanmar, who most generously donated 40 tons of teak decking and who graciously offered the option to purchase the remaining 137 tons of teak required at a most favorable discount.

Richard G. Quick, President of Far East Studies Institute, whose personal intercession facilitated all phases of the negotiations between the Battleship Commission and the Government of the Union of Myanmar.

Charles D. Dean, Jr., President of Dean Hardwoods, Inc., who most graciously offered to act as the agent for the Battleship Commission in dialogue with Myanmar Timber Enterprise for the production of the decking and shipping lines to arrange for delivery to Wilmington at his company’s discounted rates. He is also providing drying and milling services at the Dean Hardwoods facility at cost.


  • Installing the New Teak Deck

NORTH CAROLINA’s decks consist of three structural elements:

1. deck frames
2. steel plate
3. wooden deckings

Attaching the Wooden Decking to the Steel Plate

1. Each deck board(A) is cut to length, pre-drilled(B) for fastening, and laid in position on the clean dry steel plate(C).

2. Each pre-drilled hole is then marked(D) on the steel plate with a punch and the board removed.

3. A threaded stud(E) is welded to the steel plate at each mark.

4. The area is then coated with bedding compound.

5. The boards are replaced. Washers(F) and nuts(G) are applied to the studs and are tightened.

6. Wooden deck plugs, called bungs(H), are placed over each stud and nut, filling the pre-drilled holes to deck level. The bungs protect the studs and nuts from weather and debris.

Making the Wooden Deck Stiff and Watertight

1. Boards(A) are milled with a wedge-shaped piece(B) removed from each edge. When the boards are in place, a v-shaped seam(C) is formed between them.

2. A mechanic, known as a caulker (or corker), drives a thread of cotton and then a thread of oakum(D) into each seam. He twists and packs them so tightly that the cotton eventually bulges out sideways and compresses the wood. This process creates enormous pressure.

3. While this pressure tends to separate the boards being caulked, it compresses the adjacent decking. As caulking proceeds, seam after seam, across the deck, the collection of boards becomes as one board, stiff and watertight.

4. Finally, a seam compound(E) is applied over the cotton and oakum to protect them from weather and debris.

1999 The Battleship USS North Carolina Commission
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Last updated: July 18, 1999.