The USS Albacore Submarine

Today, we visited our first submarine in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. But this wasn’t JUST a submarine, this was the USS Albacore.

The Albacore was the very first naval boat built specifically to operate underwater. Prior to the Albacore, at best the Navy had surface vessels that could submerge. But that’s not all, she was also the first Navy-designed vessel with a true cylindrically-shaped underwater hull that is now the standard for submarines worldwide.

For 19 years she served honorably, and historically, as a live-action test platform for evaluating systems and designing features prior to inclusion in future active classes of submarine.

After we purchased two $5 self-guided tour tickets we were directed outside to the first “audio” station which described the innovative one-propeller design that made her unique from the start. This single propeller design proved so successful that she once set a sea-speed record of nearly 40 miles per hour, which could outpace most of today’s nuclear subs.

Crossing the front gangplank and heading through an extremely small air-tight door into the crew’s berthing port, I was struck by my own girth and claustrophobia. How could these men spend weeks in these tight compartments? But then I remembered, for the last three months, Victoria and I have been operating in our own above-water submarine with similarly confining walls and we’re getting along just fine. Once I related the vessel to our own RV, it made it a lot easier to enjoy the tour.

This tour was amazingly well designed, leading you from the bow through the aft of the ship with audio stations in each section describing exactly what you’re seeing and featuring stories from the actual men who spent time within her belly. You could really feel the pride they had in being a part of such a historic mission, and even a little of the fear they must have felt when they climbed aboard.

There are very few areas of the submarine that are off limits, allowing you the chance to lay in the crewman’s bunks, stand at the fry station in the mess hall or try out the diving officer’s seat in the control room. Being so close to the inner workings of the vessel makes you appreciate the sacrifices of the crew.

For military, engineering or science buffs, the USS Albacore museum is a one-of-a-kind artifact that warrants a look-see if you’re in the area. For more information and a virtual tour, click here.