I’ve driven to and through Portsmouth, New Hampshire many times, and I’ve gone past a small sign saying “Albacore Museum”, with a small picture of a submarine. If you peer over the grassy berm behind it, you can see the top sail of a sub a hundred yards up a side road. I’ve never taken the time to stop in and see what’s to be seen until this weekend. Man, I wish I hadn’t waited that long, because here’s what you can’t see from the road:
After buying a ticket for five bucks, you can climb around inside the sub (I even squeezed into one of the bunks, which is just as cozy as you’d expect, if by “cozy” you mean “that steam pipe above you isn’t technically touching your face.”
The Albacore was a prototype of what we think of as “modern” submarines — subs in WWII were basically surface boats that occasionally went under the water — and modern submarine hulls are called “albacore hulls” as a result. It didn’t carry any weapons because it was run through committee approval as a target for battleship sub-detecting operations. That was a neat piece of bureaucratic sleight-of-hand — without stuffing the design committees with ordnance members, the designers were able to make a sub that was a giant failure as a target. Because it was so fast and maneuverable, the ships just couldn’t find it. Of course, the SEKRIT PURPOSE was to give rise to a whole new class of subs, which it did.
You can read lots more about the Albacore at ussalbacore.org. I loved climbing through the sub — I was the only one in there, and so got to spend as much time as I wanted sitting in the pilot’s seat, twiddling the controls that were made in the days when a knurled dial was a KNURLED DIAL, man. I think Harold Ross would have a GREAT time photographing the inside. And I think Kenn Munk would have fun with the tail section.
The armchair marketer in me wants to go back out to the road — the one with the demure “Albacore” sign, and put a giant neon arrow above it: “THIS WAY TO THE X-WING SUBMARINE!” Which would earn an Atomic Wedgie from submarine veterans, who are uniquely qualified to deliver an Atomic Wedgie. But still, man: wow! coo-o-o-ol! I highly recommend that you go check it out if you are driving up I-95 through New Hampshire to Maine.
UPDATE: I just noticed that Official Guerilla Drive-In Projectionist and ex-submariner Subewl has been adding really interesting notes to the Albacore shots. Check out the photoset and look for his notes on the photos. Say, current submariner N. T., are there still underwater backgammon boards on the mess tables?