Navy Blue & Gold.

As I have mentioned before, sometimes the best trips do not involve hours upon hours of driving, but can be found close to home. And sometimes, attractions are so close to home that you always tell yourself that you will get to it “sometime.” Unfortunately, saying you will visit that interesting location “sometime” is a convenient way of procrastinating. This weekend, after driving past an awesome location more times than I can count, I decided to finally pull off the highway and pay a visit to a very cool spot in Philadelphia along the Delaware River: Penn’s Landing, where I stepped aboard the cruiser USS Olympia and the submarine USS Becuna.

First, however, I spent the morning giving DH a thorough wash and wax. For much of the past month, I have been busy during the weekends, and the Accord has accumulated more than its share of dirt. While the paint color hides most of the filth, up close the car looked grimy. Several hours of washing, waxing, and polishing, and DH once again looked in tip-top shape.

Dirty car? Meguiar’s Gold Class Carnauba Plus to the rescue.
DH really does clean up nicely.

Built in the 1960’s, Penn’s Landing is a waterfront attraction in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, along the Delaware River. The area that was chosen was reputedly the site where William Penn, founder of both the city of Philadelphia and the Pennsylvania colony, landed upon arrival from England. The site later became the city’s primary port during the 18th and 19th centuries, where ferries, passenger ships, and cargo vessels would routinely stop to load and unload passengers, produce, and textiles. The major docks in Philadelphia are now more to the south, and Penn’s Landing functions as a tourist attraction. In addition to the Independence Seaport Museum and several museum ships, there are also many restaurants, harbor cruises, food stands, and beautiful parks. Penn’s Landing is a great place to visit on a beautiful Autumn day!

A beautiful day for a walk at Penn’s Landing.
The Independence Seaport Museum.
The museum chronicles the history of shipping along the Delaware River, and has lots of cool interactive exhibits for kids of all ages!

My reason for stopping by Penn’s Landing, however, was to finally step aboard the two major museum ships along the river: the Olympia and the Becuna. The USS Becuna (SS-319) is a WWII-era submarine which served in the Pacific Theater, sinking Japanese supply ships. It later continued service in the Pacific during the late 1940’s and early 1950’s, at the beginning of the Cold War. The crew of 10 officers and 72 enlisted men lived in very cramped quarters. Privacy is nonexistent on board a submarine, and the submarines would spend months at sea, with little in the way of creature comforts or personal space.

An aft view of the USS Olympia (left) and USS Becuna (right).
All aboard!
You really have to squeeze through the bulkheads. I imagine that living aboard the submarine would be an unpleasant experience for tall people.
The control room of the sub. These gauges are for diving the submarine. Red light is used during periscope operation to minimize enemy ships spotting the periscope during night operations.
The galley. Doesn’t seem so bad, until you remember that the cook has to prepare food for 82 people in this tiny space.
Senior Officer’s “Stateroom.” The biggest luxury here? The curtain you can draw across your bunk to cut down on noise.
The crew’s mess, which also functions as a game room.
No Honda VTEC here. “Huff,” one of the four 16-cylinder diesel engines (which work in sets of 2) that powered the boat. “Huff’s” twin is “Puff,” which is located on the opposite side of the hull.
Forward torpedo room. The Becuna has 8 torpedo tubes- four forward and four aft.

After leaving the Becuna, I headed across the gangway to the USS Olympia. Commissioned in 1895, the Olympia is a protected cruiser that served as the flagship of Admiral Dewey during the Battle of Manila Bay in the Spanish-American war. Equipped with guns ranging from firing 8″ shells to 37 mm bullets, as well as torpedoes, the Olympia was a heavily armed, and armored, war machine. She served through World War I, and was then retired. The only ship of her class, Olympia was outdated before her construction was even completed, as a new type of warship, the battleship, was emerging. Stepping on board the Olympia was like boarding a time machine to life over 100 years ago.

The Olympia, moored beside the Becuna.
The officer’s deck, where most of the officers had their quarters. The opulence of this deck was in stark contrast to the more spartan living quarters of the enlisted crew.
An officer’s quarters. Your own bed, your own desk, a dresser and a wardrobe- life was very different on the Olympia than on the Becuna.
The galley. A bit more space to work than on board the submarine.
Part II of the galley. It was huge.
The officer’s mess hall.
The captain’s stateroom.
Despite the opulence, this vessel is still a weapon of war. Unlike modern US Navy warships where most weapon systems are hidden from view, the Olympia bristles with guns throughout the ship. This one is in the mess hall.
2 steam engines are powered by these boilers. And boilers mean…
…coal. Lots of coal. The job of the “firemen” was to feed the insatiable appetite of the boilers around the clock.
The firemen, who shoveled coal for hours at a time, had their own washrooms. They were mandated to wash their bodies and clothes before they ate or went to sleep.
The crew’s head. Not much in the way of privacy when you need a bathroom break.
A scuttlebutt, which was where the crew could come for fresh water, and to share the latest gossip. Next time someone at work asks you if you’ve heard the latest “scuttlebutt,” you now know where the term originated.
Yet more guns. This one is taking aim at the USS New Jersey battleship, which is permanently docked across the river in Camden, NJ.
View of the forward 8″ gun turret from the bridge.
A view of the Delaware River, and the Camden waterfront, from Penn’s Landing.
About to head home, but taking a few more shots of clean DH.
DH, with the Ben Franklin Bridge in the background.

After having driven past the Olympia and Becuna countless times, I am very glad I finally took the opportunity to stop and visit these great ships. For $16, you gain admission to both ships, as well as the Independence Seaport Museum. If you are visiting the Philadelphia area, Penn’s Landing is a must-see destination. Thanks for coming along on yet another Voyage of DH!

‘Til next time.

3 thoughts on “Navy Blue & Gold.

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