Naval Undersea Museum
Two Naval museums within a 20-minute drive of each other on the Kitsap Peninsula, South Puget Sound, Washington, are the Naval Undersea Museum and the Naval Museum of the Pacific (January ’09, pg 18).
The Naval Undersea Museum collects, preserves and interprets naval undersea heritage, science and operations. It reveals life on submarines, a little known aspect of the Navy. Two tall concrete pillars straddle the museum’s entrance to the enormous square concrete building. The sail from the USS Sturgeon stands outside the entrance and you can’t miss walking alongside the undersea submersibles Trieste and Deep Quest, across the parking lot.
Once inside visitors enter the galleries through a subterranean cave, guarded by Neptune, starting with an undersea time line providing a concise history of the development of submarines for war and research.
The gallery entitled “The Trident Family: Service and Sacrifice” is interesting for kids. Children can fill out a Familygram to their father who is serving on a Trident submarine somewhere out there beneath the seas. They’ll learn about the lives of submariners on patrol and life at home for their families during patrol. You can read and listen to stories by these people. A “Service and Sacrifice” handout tells how wives cared for the household by themselves while their husbands were out on patrol for months at a time. Some submarine bunks show how cramped life was for these undersea sailors — they’re stacked only about 18 inches above each other.
Another gallery tells about the ocean environment in a high tech, almost science-fiction designed nature/ecology exhibit. The Undersea Weapons Technology gallery informs visitors about the history and technology of torpedoes, mines and other weapons. Examples of torpedoes are lined up along this gallery, tracing their development from the 19th century.
In the Submarine Technology gallery a Rescue Chamber and a transplanted Control Room are on display. A submarine hatchway shows how cramped and claustrophobic submarine life was, and a rescue chamber shows how trapped submariners were brought to the surface.
The Diving Technology gallery displays dive suits, diving bells and WWII submarines. Several generations of diving suits of show the evolution of this dangerous aspect of Naval life and work.
An impressive display about the early women Navy divers and what they had to go through to get accepted as divers explores this little-known aspect of the Navy. Elsewhere in the museum a list of U.S. submarines lost in action provides a sobering reminder of these gallant and unsung sailors who met their demise as they were depth-charged by Japanese and German anti-submarine destroyers.
This museum pays fitting tribute to these brave undersea sailors and their hazardous work. The museum’s friendly volunteers will gladly tell you stories behind the displays.
There’s a children’s area with activities and the bookstore is packed with all manner of naval artifacts and memorabilia, books, DVDs and souvenirs.
Naval Undersea Museum (1 Garnett Way, Keyport, WA 98345; phone 360/396-4148, www.history.navy.mil/museums/keyport/index1.htm) is open daily June through September from 10 a.m.-4 p.m.; October through May, 10 a.m.- 4 p.m., Wednesday through Monday. Admission and parking are free. Allow about 1½ to 2 hours.