We all live in a… 153 year old… submarine.

The winter blahs. That time of the year after the holidays, but before the spring, when the weather tends toward the dreary. It limits road trip planning, leaving mostly destinations that will be indoors. With rain yesterday, cloudy and foggy weather today, and then three consecutive days of rain in the forecast beginning tomorrow, the choices of road destinations were few and far between. However, one location had been on my list for a while and I decided to cross it off: one of the first American submarines, now on display at the New Jersey National Guard Militia Museum in Sea Girt.

For thousands of years, wars fought at sea were conducted by ships sailing atop the waves. However, for almost as long, naval strategists envisioned an ability to attack their enemies using ships that could descend beneath the waves. Being able to submerge a vessel would make it difficult to detect, capable of attacking other ships with little or no warning. However, the technology to create such ships did not truly exist until the mid 19th-century. During the Civil War, several such vessels were designed and tested, including the Intelligent Whale, a 28-foot long submersible vessel powered by hand-crank (yes, you read that correctly). Construction began in 1863, and the vessel used compressed air to dive and surface, and had a hatch at the bottom of the boat to allow a diver to exit the submarine, place an explosive charge on an enemy ship, and then return to the submarine.

The US Navy decided not to purchase the Intelligent Whale after it was built, and so it languished for years, first at the Brooklyn Naval Yard, and then later at the Washington Navy Yard. In 2007 the vessel was moved to the New Jersey National Guard Militia Museum in Sea Girt. The museum was established in 1980 at a NJ National Guard training center, and displays the history of New Jersey citizen-soldiers who have fought to defend the nation. About an hour-and-fifteen minutes from my home, I departed at midday to check out this interesting exhibit.

Sea Girt, a New Jersey shore town that I had never visited.
The winter blahs.
My first time ever driving DH onto a military base. Probably the most secure parking spot I will ever have. Want to steal my car? You’ll have to get past some tanks first.
Inside the museum. The cannon pictured here is the same type that was used at the Battle of Gettysburg (which I detailed in this post).
The museum displays the changing uniforms and equipment of New Jersey soldiers, from the Colonial era until the modern day.
A New Jersey soldier’s Civil War uniform, and different types of weapons used during that conflict.
The Intelligent Whale. Approximately 28 feet long, it weights 46,000 pounds. It would have been crewed by 13 people, although it could operate with a minimum of 6.
The bottom is cut away to allow you access to the inside of the submarine. This is a panorama I quickly took while venturing into the compartment.
The propeller would be turned by four men rotating this crank by hand.
This compartment would have been filled with pressurized air to dive or surface the sub.
Can’t imagine volunteering to test this thing out back then. Or even today.
Across the street from the museum is a display of more modern fighting equipment. This arch commemorates New Jersey soldiers who died during the First World War.
The M60 Patton Main Battle Tank. This is 1 of 3 Patton tanks on display.
An F-4D Phantom fighter jet from the New Jersey Air National Guard.
The M4 Sherman, workhorse of the US, British, and Russian armies during WWII.
M110 self-propelled howitzer.
An M60 Patton that has been configured as a Combat Engineering Vehicle (CEV). A CEV is used to clear battlefield obstacles for other tanks. With the plow blade at the front, it would also make a pretty awesome snow plow. Imagine using this thing to clear your driveway after a snowstorm?
The Republic F-84F Thunderstreak, one of the earlier jet-engined fighters flown by the NJ Air Guard.
It’s a fairly large collection for a relatively small museum.
DH and I, about to get back on the road.

Now, if one thing is certain, it is that when I find myself near the shore, I go to the beach. Always. Finding myself near Sea Girt, a beach community incorporated in 1917, I thought I would stop by to spend a little time near the Atlantic Ocean (fun historical fact: former New York Giants head coach Bill Parcells is from Sea Girt). After walking along the beachfront, I was very impressed by the beautiful seascapes and unique houses. I doubt I would ever live here, however… the median house price is $1,135,184. I’ll stay with the southern Jersey shore towns, thank you very much!

Stopping by Sea Girt.
This boardwalk runs for several miles, allowing access to the beach in specific locations between the dunes.
This gate, and house, caught my eye.
Gloomy weather, as a potential Nor’Easter storm is forecast for tomorrow night, bringing the possibility of high winds and heavy rain.

The New Jersey National Guard Militia Museum is open every day from 10:00 am until 3:00 pm and is free (although donations are appreciated). The docent on staff took time to answer all of my questions, and gave me a tour of several unique museum pieces. If you are passing through Sea Girt, this small museum is definitely worth a stop. Thanks again for coming along on another Voyage of DH!

‘Til next time.

4 thoughts on “We all live in a… 153 year old… submarine.

  1. Now that is some heavy equipment. 46,000 lbs! How does that thing not just sink to the bottom of the ocean? I must say, as much fun as it sounds to be captaining a submarine, I’d get extremely claustrophobic. Great pics and adventure.


    1. A friend of mine from grad school was a nuclear engineer on a US Navy nuclear attack sub… imagine being under the sea, in a giant tin can, with a nuclear reactor on board?

      Glad you enjoyed the post!


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