What’s left of the General H. S. Vandenberg
The 523-foot-long ship that once tracked spacecraft blastoffs from Cape Canaveral as well as Russian missile launches during the Cold War is in Key West Harbor undergoing final preparations to be scuttled.
In better days:
Bethlehem installed approximately 425,000 feet of cable on each ship. Some 540 “black boxes” containing the vital relays and electronic devices comprising the ship’s radar, data handling, telemetry, meteorological, timing and communications equipment also were installed. About 40,000 wiring connections were made to these boxes by the shipyard workers alone. Thousands of other connections were made by some of the suppliers of this sophisticated equipment.
The two ships — the GENERAL ARNOLD and the GENERAL VANDENBERG — have a length of 520 feet, a beam of 71 1/2 feet, and a sea speed of more than 17 knots. Each is a complete station for its two-hundred man crew, half of whom will devote their efforts solely to the ship’s instrumentation. Each vessel has been outfitted with 636 compartments, including staterooms, storerooms, offices, a hospital, dining and recreational areas, a theater, laundries, lounges, lockers, galley, pantries — virtually everything a land-based station has.
The decking for the GENERAL VANDENBERG alone required about 50,000 square feet of composition tile or rubber materials.
Some portions of the superstructure were completely removed. Later additions to the superstructure included a new house atop the pilot house.
All of the ship’s present masts are completely new. The old stack was removed, and this system relocated farther aft with a new and higher stack to minimize the possibility of fuel gases interfering with the telemetry antenna. A complete weather station and hangar for weather balloons were built.