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Sorry for spending so much time on that, but I work for a company that builds steam turbines and I used to purchase bearings for them. Hence my fascination.
On a propeller-powered ship, the propeller generates thrust, which is transferred along the prop shaft and must somehow be then transferred to the hull of the ship. On a sailing ship, this is easy. The thrust is transferred down the masts and stay ropes, which are rigidly attache to the hull. On a prop-driven ship, things get a little more difficult. The propeller shaft has to transfer thrust to the hull of the ship while still spinning freely in relation to that hull. Thus the thrust bearing.
The piece which you see sitting out would be installed as part of the propeller shaft. The ridges on it (called thrust collars) push against the ridges that you can see in the hole in the deck surrounding the installed bearing. These ridges are mounted strongly on the frame of the ship and transfer the thrust to it.
Now, of course, you can’t have metal scraping directly on metal, or you’ll lose a ton of efficiency, build up heat, and grind away at the parts. Therefore, you need to have a film of oil between them that prevents this.
Modern thrust bearings are machined in such a way that they draw oil up out of the sump that they sit in (as does this one) and spread it evenly over their surfaces. How this one worked, I don’t know…. They must’ve just used an oil that was hella viscus and constantly poured new over the top.