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The stories of older generations are sometimes hard to believe. This doesn’t only apply to people but also to machinery. After the Key Bridge collapsed last month, dumping cars and people into the water, large machines were brought in to aid in the cleanup efforts. One of the machines that is assisting in these efforts is a large crane with an interesting history.

The Chesapeake 1000 started life under a different name

The Chesapeake 1000 is a massive crane with the ability to lift 1000 tons at a time. This massive machine will be necessary for cleanup efforts at the Key Bridge site once these efforts involve bridge pieces that weigh up to 1000 tons. This crane began life under a different name and for a unique purpose.

This massive crane began service more than 50 years ago as the Sun 800. The name comes from the Sun Shipbuilding and Drydock Company that built it, and its ability to lift 800 tons. This massive crane rode on a floating derrick. It was first made to lift heavy items onto the vessel for a specific Cold War mission.

The secret mission that wasn’t that secret

A Soviet nuclear submarine disappeared in the Pacific Ocean in 1968. This submarine, called K-129, was said to have at least one nuclear weapon abord, but that wasn’t the most interesting part of the sub. It was also supposed to have a code room with a working code machine that would explain how it worked.

Recovering this submarine would give officials insight into Soviet submarine manufacturing and could improve the ability to detect stealthy vessels in the water. The Sun 800’s mission was to bring the K-129 to the surface and recover this information.

Enter Howard Hughes

Howard Hughes, the billionaire aerospace engineer, and film producers played a role in keeping this CIA mission secret. The cover story involved Hughes building a 618-foot-long vessel for deep-sea mining. This story hid the cran’es true purpose from the Soviets.

The mission was a failure

Although some conspiracy theorists might not trust the CIA, all news indiated a failed mission. The submarine broke apart during the recovery process, and crews only brought about one-third of the K-129 to the surface.

The crew recovered six bodies of Soviet submariners, who received a formal military burial at sea.

Key Bridge Collapse over the cargo ship Dali
Key Bridge Collapse | NBC

Now, this crane waits its turn at the Key Bridge site

The site where the Francis Scott Key Bridge collapsed will take weeks to clean up, even with the help of the former Sun 800, now Chesapeake 1000 crane. Who would think that a crane used in a secret CIA Cold War mission involving Howard Hughes would also help clean up the Patapsco River?

Source: Smithsonian Magazine