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Celebrating WisKy’s Birthday with A Gift for Our Visitors

By: Megan Roche

Photographer: Sean Kuhn

It’s almost big WisKy’s 78th birthday and to celebrate, you can explore more areas throughout the ship! Thanks to funds raised through Winterfest on the Wisconsin, visitors have access to new spaces onboard her decks.

Guests are welcome to self-tour the ship, with stops along the way including the missile decks, post office, library, laundry facilities, sleeping quarters, and more. Thanks to your support for WinterFest, guests are now able to explore the newly renovated Senior Officer’s Country.

“We will be better interpreting Senior Officer’s Country to help visitors understand how the department heads and specialty officers on the ship lived.” Battleship Operations Manager Keith Nitka revealed.  

Because these are Senior Officers on the ship, they typically lived in their own stateroom, not having to share with other officers. You’ll be transported back in time as you listen to audio by previous officers who have occupied these staterooms, like the Weapons and Chief Engineering officers, as well as the ship’s Chaplin and Administration.

Since April 16, 1944, the Battleship Wisconsin has served as a testament to the strength of the United States Navy. On April 16, 2022, she will turn 78.

“We will have former Wisconsin sailors onboard to speak with visitors and answer questions they may have about the battleship and life as a sailor,” Nitka said. “The battleship willalso be hosting World War II reenactors on the ship to help better explain the duties of Wisconsin during WWII.”

To view the full list of events on April 16, click here.

In addition to the new spaces, the Life in the Engine Room tour is returning. On this 60-minute-long tour, visitors can travel down seven levels to explore lowest areas of the ship. As you journey below her decks, you’ll learn how the eight massive boilers are used to generate steam power. The boilers are responsible for not only moving the ship, but her electricity and cooking power.

According to Nitka, opening new spaces is not just a job for Nauticus staff and volunteers. Groups from around the world provide their help to make the ship readily accessible for its visitors. The work isn’t only physical – talking with those who called her home is important to make sure the new spaces are exactly as they should be.

“We spoke with former crewmembers about the spaces they worked and lived in and collected donations of individuals private items to better interpret the rooms and spaces,” Nitka said. “There were also numerous upon numerous volunteer hours from local Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard members in cleaning and painting and staging items for interpretation,”

While these new spaces are debuting for the 78th birthday, there are many more projects in the pipeline. For Nitka, an ultimate goal is to open one of the turrets.

“When Turret 2 will be open to the public, they will see the massive optical range finder that sailors used to shoot at their targets by visual range finding,” Nitka shared. “As well as the three guns of Turret 2 named “Huey, Dewey and Louie” in WWII and “The Big, The Bad and The Ugly” during the Gulf War.”

The end goal of that project is to show guests the immense firepower of the 16-inch guns and how they are operated from where the gun powder is loaded, to the process of firing. Other potential projects include opening the reefer decks, where the walk-in refrigerators are housed. While the refrigerators were mainly for food, bodies of deceased sailors would also be stored here before being buried at sea or taken off in port.

Celebrate the Battleship Wisconsin’s birthday with Nauticus on April 16. Programs and tickets can be found here.