The Signal Bridge

By Patrick McSherry

Proceeding slightly forward the visitor will find himself at the ladder leading to OLYMPIA's Superstructure Deck. Here the visitor emerges into the light of day.

Moving aft, the visitor will pass under the signal bridge, a raised structure with the mainmast protruding from it. The signal bridge was the ship's communications center. Here, signals were raised via the International Code of Signals flag system (shown at left, flying the signal for "Remember the MAINE" or "R-N-Q-T-H-G-B-Q-K-J") or sent via "single flag wigwag" (Myer signaling). The OLYMPIA was also equipped with ardois light signaling for use at night, though none of this system remains today. It was on the signal bridge here where the halyards being held by Flag Lieutenant Brumby during the Battle of Manila Bay were cut by a Spanish shell in a near miss.

Atop the signal bridge was the access to the fighting top, the round structure shown in the image above. The fighting top was so named because, during battle, it was manned by U.S. Marines who operated the Gatling-type guns located here and also who acted as sharpshooters helping to clear the enemy's decks. Also, at time, contagious members of the crew were kept in temporary quarantine in the fighting tops.

Under the raised signal bridge, to both port and starboard, is a six-pounder gun. These guns comprised part of the the OLYMPIA's secondary or defensive battery. These guns were primarily to be used against torpedo boats, but at the Battle of Manila Bay, the range to the Spanish vessels was so short that these guns were used for offensive purposes. Today they are fired for ceremonial and demonstration purposes.
 

Two members of the Living History Crew of the OLYMPIA man the port six-pounder, in the shade of the signal bridge.

 

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