October 25, 2013

10/11/13 - Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum

When I think Arkansas, I think Hot Springs National Park.  I think Little Rock Crisis in 1957.  I even think Bill Clinton.  I do NOT think submarines.  It's a land-locked state--the Arkansas River does not flow straight into the Gulf of Mexico!
So there we were in North Little Rock at the Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum, home of the USS Razorback, (SS-394), a Balao-class submarine.  It was awarded five battle stars in WWII and four more during Vietnam.  Then in 1970, it was sold to the Turkish Navy (one of those Cold War political things) and conducted missions in the Black Sea until 2001, which makes it the longest-serving sub in the world.

The City of North Little Rock bought it and brought it to Arkansas.  If you're not from around here, you might not realize that Arkansas and Razorbacks go together.  The mascot of the University of Arkansas is a razorback--think wild hogs with sharp tusks and nasty temperaments.  This time of year there are flags with galloping red hogs flying everywhere!  However...the submarine was named after the "Razorback" whale, nickname of the Finback Whale, not the hog.  (I've learned such interesting things on this trip.)  I figure the people in North Little Rock just couldn't get past the name.
The only one that worried me was the door.  I got hung up on the "water tight" part.  Why does it matter?  Are we going to submerge?  Will we be underwater very long?  How deep?  It worried George too, but not for the same reason.  As you can see, he fits!  
(Note to George's daughter Judy:  I know you don't like me taking pictures of your dad's backside, but this is how he chose to go through these doors.  And since he made me go first, this is the view I got every time I took his picture coming through one.  Sorry.)
We wandered around in the museum until it was time for our tour to start, then gathered by the boat. We found out later that our guide (blue shirt/"Tour Guide" on the back) wasn't in the Navy.  He's active-duty Army Reserve.  He sure knows a lot about WWII subs though.  Go figure!
We climbed down the ladder to the Aft Torpedo Room. George wore a hat to cushion his head.  He's has experience going into caves--and this isn't a lot different.  His poor scalp gets scraped and bumped a lot.  It's hard to be 6'6".
I knew it was a tight fit in a sub, but I didn't know you had to sleep cuddled up next to a torpedo.  I wouldn't like that very much.
I think this is the Aft Battery Compartment. 
See all the wheels hanging all over?  Just in case the lights go out (yes, I'd scream!), the rim of each wheel is a slightly different shape so they can still do whatever they do by touch.  Except for the dark, and the underwater part, I think that's pretty clever. 
Our guide took off again, and we followed him through the Enlisted Men's Quarters and past the Galley.  I can't imagine trying to feed 80 or more people in a kitchen this size!
I must not have been paying attention because I don't have a clue what this area is.  I kinda like way those tubes or pipes fit together, but I don't remember what they're for.  I usually ask lots of questions but apparently I didn't here.  Whatever he's saying seems to be interesting. 
Eventually we got to the Control Room.
This is the submarine's WWII Battle Flag:  16 merchant vessels, 2 men of war, 5 American airmen rescued.
We went past the Commanding Officer's Stateroom.  Pretty big compared to what the other guys have, but I'd need to get promoted really fast!  
This is me swinging through a 38"x20" watertight door, just like I know what I'm doing.  It was fun.
Then we stopped for a little bit in the Forward Torpedo Room to learn more about subs...
...before we climbed up the hatch and outside again.  This is where we came up.  I've decided they make it look a lot easier in movies.  
Nice to be topside.  (That's sailor talk.)  There are two flags on the conning tower:  one's American, one's Turkish.  
The only other submarine I've been on was at Disneyland.  This was way better!  (And in case you're ever in North Little Rock, the Razorback is available for birthday parties and overnight stays.  Keep it in mind.)  

Click the link to see more pictures of the USS Razorback. 

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