USS Constitution sees huge spike in virtual tours

CHARLESTOWN, Mass. — The COVID-19 pandemic has shutdown museums and historical sites all over the world for public tours, including the USS Constitution.

More than 600,000 people visit the world’s oldest active warship in Charlestown every year, but business is still booming during the shutdown thanks to the internet.

The USS Constitution may have suspended public tours due to COVID-19, but the virus hasn’t stopped its sailors from showing off the famed warship.

“I think the best part of the virtual tours is that we are getting questions from kids all across the city, all across the country really, in the scroll down at the bottom and we’re able to interact with them with any questions they may have,” said Commander John Benda.

Every day at 10 a.m., the ship hosts a Facebook Live tour. So far, Old Ironsides has had more than 2 million views since the virtual tours started on March 14.

The online history lessons include several areas normally closed to the public.

“So we’ve given people the opportunity to see the aft magazine, which is really hard to crawl to where sailors would’ve the shot and the gunpowder so it’s a really cool. Unfortunately not many people get the opportunity to go there,” Benda said.

During each virtual tour, the ship’s active-duty sailors take viewers through the world’s oldest commissioned warship afloat.

Commander Benda said you won’t see the same tour twice.

“Each sailor tells a different story. Some are more historically accurate. Some are more theatrical and dramatic. But each one is fun and each one we get a kick out of it and doing it,” he said.

Commander Benda said none of his 85 sailor has contracted COVID-19.

During normal operations, the active-duty sailors stationed aboard USS Constitution provide free tours and offer public visitation to more than 600,000 people a year as they support the ship’s mission of promoting the Navy’s history and maritime heritage and raising awareness of the importance of a sustained naval presence.

USS Constitution was undefeated in battle and destroyed or captured 33 opponents.

The ship earned the nickname of Old Ironsides during the war of 1812 when British cannonballs were seen bouncing off the ship’s wooden hull.

You can donate to the USS Constitution Museum, which is always free to the public when open, on the website.

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