Sunday, October 04, 2015

My day in Groton (again)

Did you ever have one of those days? Yesterday did it for me. I'd hand-crafted this beautiful post with tons of pics and links, and it was up for several hours. It was truly a god post, as such things are measured by me, so it figures that I would accidentally wipe the whole thing out yesterday while trying to correct one little typo that I spotted. Two hours' worth of work, undone by one ill-considered keystroke. Argh.

Anyway, to recap that day-I'll start over again with an abbreviated post, and that only because, after landing, I got to visit a true American treasure indeed.

(No, not Old Air Force Sarge...I'd be seeing him tomorrow.)

The day started back in West Virginia but it climaxed with an early afternoon landing at Groton's airport (KGON).
I set down on Runway 5 (above) and taxied over to Mystic Jet Center, my new favorite FBO in the northeast. In a flash, they had my aircraft parked and tied down. They refueled it at a pretty good price and then they loaned me this little Kia crew car to run into town.

I got down to the Navy Yard with no trouble and found myself at their Sub Force Museum just outside the gate. The museum houses some nifty exhibits about the sub force and it's history, from the early days of the World War 1 S-boats to today's nuclear boats. But time was short, so I zipped right through the building and made my way our onto the pier to look upon--and go aboard--the world's first nuclear-powered submarine, USS Nautilus, SSN-571.
Commissioned in 1954, Nautilus served for twenty-six years before being decommissioned in 1980. During that time, she set records for underwater endurance and she was the first submarine in the world to transit the North Pole beneath the ice. Nautilus was built at the very same Electric Boat Works that I'd just flown over, and she was christened on launching by Mamie Eisenhower, wife of President and retired General Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Going aboard. Unline most museum boats today, Nautilus is still overseen by the US Navy, and a sailor on deck welcomes you aboard and gives you a self-guided tour map. And because the Navy runs it and maintains it, everything is in pristine shape.
Alas, everything is also BEHIND PLEXIGLAS! (sob!) But here we are in the forward torpedo room. Plastic walls or not, I'm still aboard the very vessel that I'd loved since I was a kid. The very first plastic model I'd ever built was of Nautilus back when she was still an active-duty boat, and little did I know back then that one day I'd be walking aboard her like this.
Control room. The tours today are sadly limited to the two forward compartments, and even in these, you're pretty tightly penned in. Still...Nautlius!
This inviting hatch door to the compartments aft was actually unlocked. The sailor on deck said that these spaces had also been cleaned up and made ready for tour but that the Navy decided against letting people into this space for "safety reasons". Twice I cracked it open, contemplating embarking on one of my self-guided VIP tours of the space, but as this boat is still Navy property, I decided against it. I must be getting old.
Submarine armory. A Winchester 1897 trench gun (left), two M1 carbines (center) and two M1 Garands (right) make for some fine close-in defense. There were a couple of 1911 pistols in there too, but the plexiglass kept me from getting good shots of them just as well as it kept me from playing with them.
Stairs! This was the first staircase ever installed on a submarine. It goes from the upper deck to the lower. (duh!). Upper deck in this area contains Officers' berthing and their wardroom. Below is the actual kitchen, enlisted bunk space, and various compartments housing the subs' machine shop, damage control space and ships' stores.
Radio room, for Dr. Jim.
And just like that, I was back off. Hey look--ducks!
I had a few minutes left to try to take in the whole museum, and it wasn't enough time. I did get to see an exhibit dedicated to NR-1, the Navy's deep research submarine. Also decommissioned today, her sail is outside the museum. Pity that the whole boat wasn't kept.

Also outside and up on blocks is a World War Two Japanese midget sub. I believe that it's one of the ones that surrendered to Old NFO during the war, but I cannot prove that.

Inside, I thought that the Medal of Honor gallery was the best part. More than anything else, it shows what kind of men went to sea for America back in the day.

They closed and booted me before I was done, but I left happy. It was definitely worth the trip.
I then adjourned to a dinner of fried cams at a nifty little place called The Spot. The food was plentiful, cheap, tasty as all get-out, and it came to the table quickly and quite hot. Two thumbs up for The Spot!
Channeling my inner Brigid, here's a picture of my food. Yum!

Then it was off to the airport for my scheduled bird strike. Hopefully I don't erase this post again because I'l never got to the next day if I do, and that was an even better day.


  1. Thanks, Murph!

    I recognize some R-1051 receivers, and the two units with the itty-bitty "oscilloscopes" in them are "tuning units" for accurately tuning in RTTY signals.

  2. I got to tour her when I was at Sub School Jan-May 1977 and she was still "Active." Yeah, there's a lot of Cool Stuff behind that Water-tight Door. BTW, GENERAL Rule-of-Thumb: HATCHES provide VERTICAL Passage, DOORS provide HORIZONTAL Passage.

    It's a Squid Thing.

  3. Hey Murphy,

    You know that the Navy put the plexiglass up because they "knew" you were coming aboard to keep you from pushing switches and levers. The folks from "battleship Cove" probably warned them.....I thought Old NFO manned the gun on the U.S.S. Ward when she put the .37 mm hole in the conning tower of that sub trying to make a run into Pearl Harbor....? or did I get my fossils mixed up.

  4. Seriously Murph? A picture of fried clams? Now I'm hungry again...

    Man, but you guys are hard on Old NFO, be nice, I mean he survived Valley Forge and all that, he deserves better.

    1. Then clams was good too. But not as good as the fish at the place you took me to. And now I'm hungry too.

  5. In the control room photo, in the upper left side directly above the chart table and partially obscured in the overhead, is the bearing-time recorder (BTR) for the BQR-2 passive sonar receiver. This thing was the precursor to the waterfall displays used today. The way it worked is an electrically charged stylus was drawn across thermal sensitive paper left to right. 0 degrees was normally in the center and 180 on the edges. (This could be reversed with a flip of a switch.) When running, it was noisy and smelled bad.

    Just behind and to the left of the BTR is the BQH-1. That was a device used to measure the actual speed of sound in the water the boat happened to be in at the moment and record it on a chart. (...for finding sound layers etc.)

    The thing on the far right is an analog fire control computer used for calculating gyro angles etc. when firing torpedo's.

    It's sad, but you know you're getting old when stuff you used to work on in your yoot is now found in museums.

    1. Roy, thanks for the info. That's great. And yeah, I've been noticing lately that more and more stuff that I once worked with is now on display somewhere or being mocked by kids today who do what I did but can't imagine ever using such stuff. That's when I walk away, usually while warning then to stay off my lawn.

    2. It was my pleasure. The Nautilus is closer to the boats I qualified on than the WWII museum boats scattered around the country. I just wish I could have been there with you.

      Speaking of older museum boats... I have some good friends who live near Clarksburg WV and my wife and I visit quite often. A couple of years ago, the four of us decided to drive up to Pittsburgh and tour the USS Requin museum boat. The self guided tour starts in the forward torpedo room and moves aft. As we moved through the boat, I was pointing out a lot of different things and explaining what they were used for. (...and even showed them that the diving alarm was still operational. AhOOOOGaah!) Anyway, the further aft we got, the bigger the crowd of people following us. Finally, as we entered the after engine room, one of the museum docents - a young girl - came to me and told me "Sir. You have to move along. There is a crowd behind you and you are holding them up." Almost as one voice, the "crowd" said, "No he isn't. We're with him!"

      Touring the Nautilus is on my bucket list. Old diesel boats are one thing, but nuclear submarines have a different smell about them. I think it's the amine used in the atmosphere control systems. I would like to find out if it still smells the same after all these years.

    3. Seeing these photo's brought back more memories, so......a couple of more things...

      Again, in the control room photo. Sitting on a shelf above the chart table light is what we called the "bridge suitcase". It's like a portable ships information system. When running on the surface, this thing was taken up to the bridge and plugged in to a watertight receptacle. It gave information such as speed and heading as well as connections to the 7mc announcing system for communicating to the control room. It also had a push button for the collision alarm. (The red knob looking thing in the middle.) When the boat was submerged, the suitcase was disconnected and brought down. It is not part of the control room equipment. Indeed, it is usually stowed in a locker nearby until surfacing.

      And then there's the photo looking down that ladder. (stairs) As sailors, we almost ever went down those steps like normal people. Instead, we would grab both handrails, yell "down ladder!", pick your feet up off the deck and slide to the bottom. One of the pranks we would pull on each other, was to get your hands wet before going down. Because the handrails were now wet, the person coming behind you would slide down much faster than expected and likely as not wind up in a heap on the deck below.

      Yeah, I know. Bubbleheads.

    4. Roy, thanks for all the details. Keep those memories coming!

      Oh--and if you do a search on Requin usig the blog search bar in the upper left corner, there should be two Requin posts at least. I love that boat too. (And Cod in Cleveland).

  6. Hey now... And be glad you didn't go through that hatch. You wouldn't have liked where you ended up... Just sayin... :-) She's an interesting tour though a bit 'short'...

    1. I know. Usually when I deviate from the established tour areas on ships and such run by typical non-profits, I just get shown the door. But with the Navy, I think it could get worse, especially if caught closer to a nuclear reactor than they officially allow.

  7. I spent the good part of a day there 2 years ago. Great museum, just wish that the rest of the Nautilus was open!

  8. You do lead an interesting life. I had a model of Nautilus when I was a kid, too. I remember the box art had the submarine tower pushing up out of the ice.

    1. I had a model of the Ethan Allen, SSBN-608, that had one missile tube you could "fire".

      It had a spring mechanism in the base that would "launch" a Polaris missile several feet into the air.

      One thing that I remember about the kit was the amount of detail it had in certain areas, the enlisted berthing, in particular.

      Since I always painted as much as I could before I it, and I always carefully checked all the parts for proper fit, I spent a good deal of time looking at each part.

      On one of the bulkheads for the enlisted berthing, there were several "posters" engraved into the parts.

      They were all "Playboy Centerfolds", with an amazing amount of detail for such small parts!

  9. ML - I LOVE the sub pictures! Thank you!