Granite State of Mind, #68: Albacore Park, Portsmouth
Updated: Feb 15, 2022
After World War II, the race was on to develop the next generation of submarines, and with it, supremacy of the seas. The US Navy created the nuclear-powered Nautilus engines and married them with a new innovate hull design, and the result was unprecedented speed and power. The USS Albacore was in the vanguard of these new submersibles, commissioned in 1953. She would serve until 1974, after which she would languish for a decade in the Philadelphia inactive ship yards until 1984, when the Portsmouth Submarine Memorial Association organized to bring her to New Hampshire. The full story is a long and fascinating one, including acquiring the property and digging the canal the sub needed for its last voyage to the new park. I can't do it justice. There's a great treatment of it here:
My father still talks about being on the police detail in Portsmouth that helped escort the Albacore to its final berth. In a box somewhere I think I still have one of the commemorative visors he brought home for us back in 1985. I was all of ten.
Since then, thousands have visited the park and toured that piece of living maritime history. We've brought the kids through, marveling at the complicated and yet seemingly primitive control systems, at the cramped living quarters for the crew, at the courage of those sailors who entrusted their lives to experimental technologies. It's well worth the visit, for anyone interested in submarines or naval history. Heck, for anyone, really.