the museum building, visitors pass through an interesting
archway. A ring 40 feet in diameter represents the hull diameter
of an Ohio-class SSBN. Suspended inside is a 9-foot
ring marking the diameter of USS Holland (SS-1),
the Navy’s first submarine. This provides a striking
reminder of the dramatic advances achieved in submarine technology
since 1900, when Holland was commissioned.
the first thing a visitor sees is an earlier Nautilus
– not a real submarine, but the version imagined by
Jules Verne in his novel Twenty Thousand Leagues Under
the Sea. A model of the submarine created for the 1954
Walt Disney movie of Verne’s classic hangs in the entryway.
Nearby there are two hands-on exhibits ideal for younger visitors
– a replica of a World War II submarine attack center,
complete with functioning periscopes, and a submarine control
of the museum deals primarily with modern submarines. Exhibits
focus on the strategic deterrence program, including Polaris,
the former submarine base at Holy Loch, Scotland, and similar
aspects. There is also a cutaway model of a USS Los Angeles
(SSN-688)-class submarine and a display on submarine contributions
to Operation Desert Storm and other recent conflicts.
wing houses several large-scale historical displays, beginning
with a replica of the first combat submersible, Turtle,
from the Revolutionary War. Associated exhibits describe the
evolution of submarines over the centuries. The contrast between
the crude hand-cranked Turtle and modern submarines
is striking, yet both had the same goal – to seek out
and destroy the nation’s enemies.
to Turtle, a McCann Rescue Bell dominates this section
of the museum, and there is also a small exhibit on the 1939
rescue of crewmembers from the stricken USS Squalus
(SS-192), which made the McCann bell famous.
the remaining space is dedicated to Submarine Force achievements
in World War II. A cutaway model of a USS Gato (SS-212)-class
submarine hangs over the area, helping visitors to appreciate
how little space was available onboard these vessels. (It
is interesting to compare this wartime submarine with Nautilus,
only a decade later. While the basic configuration is much
the same, nuclear power was clearly a great improvement for
crew habitability, as well as submarine performance.) Other
exhibits describe both combat operations and life onboard
wartime submarines. Rotating displays of historical artifacts
from the museum’s archives honor individual boats. These
displays are often arranged to coincide with crew reunions
or other events at the museum.
one wall is dedicated to submarine armament. There are a number
of torpedoes and other submarine weapons, ranging from a 1918
Whitehead design to the modern Mk 48 and a SUBROC rocket-
propelled nuclear depth charge. As an adjunct to the many
other displays on SSBNs and strategic deterrence, there is
a demilitarized Polaris missile on hand, sectioned to show
the complexity of its internal workings.
head out of the museum building toward Nautilus,
they pass a wall of models, representing every class of U.S.
submarines from Holland to USS Seawolf (SSN-