The USS Anchorage sailed through the ice floes of upper Cook Inlet and docked at the Port of Anchorage on Wednesday morning. The new U.S. Navy amphibious transport dock ship, 684 feet long and about 10 stories high, is moored in its namesake city for its official commissioning ceremony on Saturday.
The public is invited to tour the ship on Thursday and Friday. Here is some of what you can expect to see.
• The flight deck, about an acre in size, from which helicopters and vertical-takeoff aircraft operate.
• Medical facilities said to equal a small town hospital, with operating rooms, intensive care beds and a dental clinic capable of performing root canals.
• The bridge, with a .50-caliber machine gun to remind us that this is a warship.
• The pilot house, with a big map of Cook Inlet spread out. In the age of GPS, the Anchorage still has a use for nautical charts.
• The Central Control Station controls the ship's power and other functions, like water desalinization. It's one of the few duty stations with its own coffee pot, because personnel on watch cannot leave the post.
• ATM machines let crew members charge vending machine cards.
• An enormous parking and maintenance area runs nearly the length of the hull, holding Humvees, eight-wheeled land assault vehicles and a M777 howitzer. It terminates in a well deck section that can be flooded so hovercraft, boats or amphibious assault vehicles can enter through giant doors on the stern.
From the well deck, it's a long climb back to the flight deck where visitors disembark. The ship is not handicapped accessible and visitors will need to climb several steep ramps and ladders. They can be tricky to descend.
Most doors are really hatches, with a tall lip at the bottom that must be stepped over. Changes from bright light to dark make it harder to spot potential obstacles, so move carefully.
Do not bring backpacks or large handbags; this is not just a security matter; such items can catch on things or make it difficult to move in tight spaces. You want your hands free to deal with ladders. Though children are welcome, babies are not a good idea.
Do not enter prohibited areas, which are indicated by signs and chains.
Knives, glass containers, toy weapons and liquids in containers larger than 20 ounces are prohibited. Cell phones and cameras are permitted but their use may be restricted in certain areas.
The public may tour the USS Anchorage from 1 to 8 p.m. Thursday and 2 to 8 p.m. Friday. Access for members of the public is only available by shuttle bus from the Northway Mall and Sullivan Arena. Buses leave at approximately 30-minute intervals.
You must take the bus; you cannot drive your private vehicle into the secure area of the port.
Visitors may be required to go through metal detectors or undergo other security measures. Those over 18 will need government-issued I.D., such as a driver's license, passport or military identification.
Saturday's Commissioning Ceremony can be attended only by those already holding one of the 4,000 tickets.
USS ANCHORAGE BY THE NUMBERS
Length: 684 feet
Beam: 105 feet
Displacement: 25,000 long tons
Sustained speed: 22+ knots
Crew: 360 sailors, 3 marines
Troop capacity: 699; 800 in surge mode
Weapons: MK 31 rolling airframe missile launchers
MK 46 30mm guns
MK 26 .50 caliber machine guns
Cost: $1.3 billion
Base: San Diego, Calif.
Reach Mike Dunham at firstname.lastname@example.org or 257-4332.
By MIKE DUNHAM