20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Part II (And a Starting Line Too)

All week at work I have been eagerly awaiting this weekend. This is not, in any way, to disparage my current job! Rather, while I enjoy my occupation very much, this weekend is extra special. Last June, my father retired after forty-five years spent in a career as a minister. His work as a pastor has been a significant part of my own life, and so while I am happy for him in his retirement, since June there has been a feeling that something is missing, a natural sense of loss for something that has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. So when I found out that my dad would be guest preaching at a church near his home on Easter morning, I immediately made plans to drive the 300-plus miles back to New Jersey and spend the holiday with family and friends.

On the way down, however, I ended up in a bad traffic jam in Rhode Island, during which I narrowly avoided an accident. By the time I got through Providence, I was aggravated and stressed out. Despite wanting to press on and return to NJ as quickly as possible, my intuition told me it would be better to stop somewhere, get out of the car, walk around a bit, and mentally cool off. Out of the corner of my eye, I caught a roadside sign: “U.S.S. Nautilus & Sub Museum.” What better way to stretch my legs than to finish the story of the submarine U.S.S. Nautilus, which had been closed for cleaning the last time I had toured the Submarine Force Library and Museum in Groton, CT. After a quick stop at a gas station to fill DH’s tank for the ride home, I turned off I-95 and headed back to the museum for a very brief, but very cool, tour.

Photo of the USS Nautilus submarine, tied to its pier.
Back to the Nautilus!
Gangplank heading aboard the Nautilus.
Finally… ALL ABOARD!
Stairway leading into the Nautilus.
Unlike other vessels I have toured, the Nautilus has been fully converted into a museum ship. This entryway was cut into the bow of the ship, and a full staircase was installed for guests’ ease of access.
Torpedo room aboard the Nautilus.
The stairs lead you into the boat’s torpedo room.
Officers wardroom aboard the Nautilus.
The officer’s mess. Despite the cramped space, it is positively luxurious compared to other submarines I have visited.
Zirconium flatware set.
The Nautilus’s flatware set is made from zirconium (Zr, atomic number 40). This element has a far more critical use onboard a nuclear submarine: it encases the nuclear fuel in the reactor.
Captain's quarters aboard the Nautilus.
Space is always at a premium onboard a submarine. This is the captain’s quarters. The hall closet of my apartment is larger. In order to maximize space, even the sink in the room folds into the wall.
Nautical chart aboard the Nautilus.
The nautical chart that was used when the Nautilus sailed beneath the Arctic Circle.
Diving station aboard the Nautilus.
Diving station aboard the submarine. These three crew members were responsible for taking the ship beneath the waves. Nautilus could safely dive to approximately 700 feet. In comparison, while the true numbers are classified, the newest Virginia-class submarines in the US Navy are estimated to be able to dive to approximately 1,600 feet beneath the surface. Mannequins throughout the ship help provide a sense of scale. Honestly, I did not care for the use of mannequins. I thought they didn’t provide any information that a good imagination couldn’t do on its own.
Submarine battery, viewable through a hatch.
Peering through a hatch into the ship’s main battery. Responsible for providing power if an emergency disabled the nuclear reactor, the sub’s battery has 126 cells and weighs almost 1,000 pounds. Think about that fact the next time your car’s 6-cell battery needs to be replaced.
Damage repair tools.
Damage control tools. While the thought of having to repair a damaged ship at sea is frightening enough, imagine having to make repairs while several hundred feet under water, inside a giant steel tube that has the potential to drop all the way to the bottom.
Submarine's galley.
The ship’s galley. Compared to the tiny galleys on the WWII-era submarines I visited, this looked like a set from Top Chef or Chopped.
Bow of the USS Nautilus.
Looking out from the submarine’s bow toward the US Navy base. At the end of its career, the Nautilus had sailed a little over 500,000 miles total.
Sail of the USS Nautilus.
Standing atop the Nautilus. The tour does not take you into engineering. Despite the nuclear fuel having been removed from the vessel and the ship was thoroughly decontaminated, the US Navy wants to take no chance of any type of problem. Indeed, according to the docent at he museum, every week the ship is tested for radiation, despite it being de-fueled over 30 years ago!
 

After touring the submarine, I was ready to get back on the road when a small exhibit in the museum caught my eye: the story of the U.S.S. Squalas, a World War II submarine that sunk during testing in 243 feet of water near Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Quick thinking by the crew kept the sub from flooding completely, but they were still trapped on the bottom of the ocean with no way of raising the ship. Deploying the new McCann Submarine Rescue Chamber, divers managed to rescue the surviving 33 crew members (26 had perished in the initial accident). This also marked the first operational use of a helium and oxygen blend of air for the divers to prevent nitrogen narcosis, a form of altered consciousness that occurs from too much nitrogen entering the bloodstream during diving (via Wikipedia).

Bronze diving helmet
Bronze diving helmet. The guys who wore these things 243 feet beneath the waves to rescue the crew of the Squalas redefined the word “brave.”
McCann Rescue Chamber.
The red and white vessel is the McCann Rescue Chamber. The McCann would cover the submarine’s forward hatch and create a water-tight seal, allowing 8 crew members at a time to be raised to the surface.
Painting of the rescue of the Squalas crew by Rescue Chamber and diver.
An artist’s rendition of the rescue.
Honda Accord in foreground, USS Nautilus in background.
DH and Nautilus, chilling out together once again.
New and Old Tappan Zee Bridges, from street-level.
Refreshed, I jumped back on the road. Work continues on the new Tappan Zee Bridge.
NJ Turnpike and road signs.
Back in good old New Jersey…
Photo of car odometer.
The miles keep piling up!
 

To quote the late Steve Jobs: “There’s on more thing.” This Monday is Patriots Day, the observed anniversary of the battles of Lexington and Concord which started the American Revolution against England in 1775. It is also the day of one of the most famous sporting events in the world:the Boston Marathon. First held in 1897, this 26.2 mile race averages 30,000 participants and over 500,000 spectators per year. This year, I have a rooting interest, as my new friend Tia, who runs the very cool fitness blog Fit Over 50, will be running the marathon. The race begins in Hopkinton, Massachusetts and ends on Boylston Street in Boston. Runners proceed along Routes 135, 16, and 30 before racing into Boston itself. For work on Wednesday, I was in the town of Hopkinton, and thought I would swing by to take some photos. Good luck to all the participants on Monday!

Map of Boston Marathon
The Boston Marathon. Trace your finger from the starting line along 135, to 16, to 30, to the finish line. That’s the race route!
Boston Marathon Starting Line on Route 135 in Hopkinton.
Approaching the starting line- it is the blue and yellow line on the road. The stands for the officials monitoring the race start are on the right.
Town Green of Hopkinton.
Parking DH by the town common, which might look quiet now, but Monday will be filled with officials, vendors, food and beverages for the runners, and about 30,000 people.
Doughboy statue in Hopkinton.
Beside the starting line is this statue of a “doughboy,” an American soldier from WWI, to honor those who served their country during that war.
Boston Marathon Starting Line
On your mark… get set… GO!!!
 

The trip to the Nautilus was a wonderful break from driving, and a very cool, informative place to visit that is totally free! Despite having attended several Boston Marathons over the years, this was my first time ever seeing the starting line, and I was glad I made the detour to check it out. I am looking forward to the rest of this weekend, and I hope you have a great one as well, whether that is celebrating the holidays, spending time with family and friends, or running 26.2 miles!

Thanks for coming along on another Voyage of DH.!

‘Til next time.

2 thoughts on “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Part II (And a Starting Line Too)

  1. The flatware in that submarine looks nicer than at any restaurant I’ve ever visited! Luxurious without a doubt. It’s cool that they also use mannequins onboard to make things really feel legit. Thanks very much for taking the time to help Mama Tia with her Boston trip planning. She is having a great time out there – she and Todd did a “duck tour” yesterday, and last I heard they’re planning on hitting up a Red Sox game tonight. Happy Easter to you and your family — hope your travels are going well!

    Like

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