The World’s Oldest Commissioned Naval Vessel Still Afloat Is The?
Answer: USS Constitution
While you’ll find no shortage of old ships around the world, including old decommissioned naval ships, when it comes to very old ships still under commission, the list shrinks. When it comes to old ships still under commission and afloat—as opposed to preserved in a naval museum somewhere—the list shrinks even faster.
In fact, once you dip back into 18th century era ships, you will find there are only two surviving commissioned naval vessels at all: the HMS Victory and the USS Constitution. The HMS Victory was launched in 1765 and had a long and storied service in the Royal Navy, but was eventually taken into dry dock in 1922 where she was eventually preserved as a museum that currently attracts around 350,000 visitors a year.
The USS Constitution, on the other hand, was launched in 1797, and has remained commissioned and afloat ever since. The storied ship was one of the original six (and the only one surviving) frigate-class warships authorized by the Naval Act of 1794. The ship’s pivotal role in early American history and conflicts, including exemplary service in the War of 1812, endeared the ship to the American public and despite attempts over the years to retire the vessel, public outcry over the matter of national pride put to rest any threats against the ship. Since the ship was retired from active service in 1881, it has served as a receiving ship, a living and floating museum, conducted a three year 90-port tour of the United States, and continues to serve important roles in U.S. Navy ceremony and history.
Image courtesy of the U.S. Navy.