The Navigation Bridge

By Patrick McSherry

Exiting OLYMPIA's conning tower through the curved, narrow passage to port and moving slightly aft, the visitor will find the ladder leading up to the navigation bridge. The word "navigation" is used to denote its difference  from the signal bridge, aft. The navigation bridge consists of the "open bridge" (the area open to the weather, surrounded by a railing) and the pilot house (the enclosed building on the bridge). The roof of the pilot house is part of the open bridge.  This area is the nerve center of the ship. From this area, the ship was steered, orders given to control the engines, ranges determined and fire control maintained.

The open navigation bridge, with its surrounding railing as seen from the fo'clse of the OLYMPIA

Climbing up and walking just forward of the pilot house, the visitor will overlook the fo’csle. On either side of the visitor will be an engine order telegraph, one to relay orders for engine speed to either of the OLYMPIA's two engine rooms. In front of him will be a ship’s magnetic compass, and then the roof of the conning tower. A marking on the deck just beside the starboard engine order telegraph indicates where Commodore Dewey stood when he made the immortal statement “You may fire when ready, Gridley,” opening the Battle of Manila Bay.

This view, believed to be taken while the vessel was in action at Manila Bay, shows the canvas-draped bridge. The canvas allowed for the men on the bridge to be somewhat hidden, and not a target for the enemy marksmen.

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