The USS Kitty Hawk embarked on its final voyage to be broken down for scrap metal while veteran sailors wait for pieces of their beloved "Battle Cat" to begin showing up on EBay.
Chief Petty Officer Jason Chudy, one of the last 17 crew to serve on the warship under its final commander, Captain Todd Z Zecchin, watched alone from Seattle’s Discovery Park as the veteran warship was towed to a shipbreaking yard in the Gulf of Mexico.
"It was an extremely foggy day and at one point the ship just kind of materialized out of the fog, with the tugs, and it came by," Mr Chudy told The Independent. "It was really a sad day for a lot of people," he added.
The Kitty Hawk, along with the USS John F Kennedy, was sold to International Shipbreaking Limited in Texas for 1 cent. Both were launched in the 1960s before being decommissioned in 2009 and 2017 respectively, according to the Naval History and Heritage Command.
The deal was made after the Navy rejected a bid from the USS Kitty Hawk Veterans Association to convert the ship into a museum to be stationed at Long Beach, California, next to the retired ocean liner Queen Mary.
While the association raised $5m in donation pledges for the project, it was estimated to be about half the amount needed for decontamination, development and maintenance of the ship as a museum.
Navy Office of Information spokesman Lt Seth Clarke told The Kitsap Sun that only vessels pending decommission determined to be "historically significant" are considered for donation.
But Mr Chudy and the 1200 members of the Kitty Hawk’s veterans’ association were blindsided by the Navy’s sale for 1 cent while they were pushing for a museum.
"We understand, the ship had been around for a long time. It was built in the time of things like asbestos. The amount of chemicals and fuel that’s still probably there on the ship, it is hazardous so we do understand that the Navy probably did get the good end of the deal on that," Mr Chudy said.
Usually, the Navy pays the scrap metal dealer to haul away the giant ships, but International Shipbreaking Limited senior manager Chris Green told the Brownsville Herald it was financially viable to take the two aircraft carriers with essentially no payment.
The Navy previously paid ISL to have the company tow and dismantle the decommissioned vessels, including the USS Constellation and USS Independence. The USS Ranger was dismantled for essentially nothing, Mr Green added.
The 1 cent contract reflects the sale of scrap steel, iron and non-ferrous metal ores, while more sentimental pieces could end up on EBay.
Parts of previous ships scrapped by International Shipbreaking have been sold on eBay, including a USS Independence Brass Switch for $151.55, a USS Halsey Plate for $163.50, and a USS Ranger Armor Plate for $81.
"I believe the shipbreaking company will be offering pieces of the ship for sale on their eBay site, so there still is the opportunity for people to get their last piece of the ship before it’s gone," Mr Chundy said.
Kitty Hawk veterans will travel to Texas for one final look at the aircraft carrier as it pulls into the Port of Brownsville, before discussing its fate at their annual reunion in San Diego in June.
"It’s kind of mixed emotions, you kind of think, that was my home for three years. But, it’s also at that point it’s just a giant lump of steel," Mr Chundy said.
"They had taken the big number 63 off of the ship’s island. So a lot of the things that made Kitty Hawk the Kitty Hawk are gone."