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Mercy, that's a big ship!

Scott Docherty of Hammond takes photos of the massive Mercy ship as it passes by on the Columbia River. (Mary Docherty)
Thursday, April 1, 2021

The US Naval Ship Mercy attracted a crowd of onlookers in Clatsop County on Saturday as it made its way to the Pacific Ocean after eight months of repairs in Portland.

The massive 894-foot-long hospital ship received a major overhaul at Vigor Industrial Shipyard that included a flight deck upgrade, propulsion and structural work.

The ship now has a month of sea trials and other post-maintenance tests and training.

The Mercy was built in 1976 as an oil tanker, the SS Worth. One of its captains was Kell Aursland, who later became a Columbia River Bar Pilot.

The Worth was renamed and converted to a hospital ship in 1985, when it was purchased by the Navy.

The ship was activated in support of Operation Desert Shield in 1990, where it held 700 patients and doctors performed 300 surgeries on board.

The ship also helped support medical staff in Los Angeles during the early part of the pandemic last year.

The 80-bed hospital ship is divided into 15 medical specialty wards. Home port for the Mercy is San Diego. Its sister ship is the USNS Comfort. After sea trials, Mercy will be ready for active deployment anywhere within five days, Navy officials said.

The USNS Mercy heads toward the Columbia River Bar and the Pacific Ocean. (Scott Docherty)

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