Want to hear something really cool? About 10 days ago, we traveled to Groton, Connecticut. This is where the Groton Submarine Force Museum is located. In addition, it is home to the USS Nautilus, the very first nuclear powered submarine. Here’s the cool part. The Nomads were able to board the Nautilus and take a tour! More on that in a bit.
We drove through Groton before and saw the sign that said, “Submarine Capital of the World.” As many of you know, that is enough to pique our interests and want to explore further. Mama Nomad looked up submarines in Groton and came across the Groton Submarine Force Museum. The day was cold, rainy and windy; a perfect day for a trip to a museum. So, we loaded up and headed in that direction. It is located at on the bank of the Thames River at 1 Crystal Lake Rd, Groton, CT; right next to the Naval Submarine Base New London.
When we arrived, there was plenty of parking. The parking and the admission to the museum are both free. Which was awesome because after we explored, this was actually a museum worth paying for. The museum has smaller submarines and submarine sections located out front. There is also a huge ring to show the difference between the first submarine ever purchased by the US Navy, the USS Holland, and the largest one ever built, the USS Ohio. Wow have submarines come a long way.
We went straight through the museum and out the other side as we wanted to check out the USS Nautilus first. The museum stays open an hour longer than the last time available to check out the submarine itself. We headed down the walkway, up the gangplank and were greeted by a member of the US Navy. They actually fitted the USS Nautilus with an audio tour and props in different sections. The man who greeted us gave us our listening device and we headed down to the first stop, the torpedo room.
We were not even part of the way through the audio tour for that room and a voice came over the loudspeaker. I could not hear everything he said. But I did catch the part that a submarine was returning from a tour in the ocean and we could see it as it reached the surface. So, we promptly headed back up the stairs, relinquished our listening devices and went back on deck of the USS Nautilus. Sure enough! Just down the river was a submarine that surfaced and was surrounded on all sides by patrol boats with machine guns mounted on the bow. It was a sight to see.
After the submarine passed on by, we reentered the USS Nautilus, grabbed our listening devices and started our self guided tour over again. The tour brought us through the entire vessel. We were able to see the torpedo room, sleeping quarters, navigation, kitchen, dining, and more. It was like an underwater city. It was truly a treat to see what made this vessel tick and learn some of its history; like it being the first nuclear powered submarine and the first submarine to navigate under the polar ice cap (north pole).
Once we concluded the tour, we disembarked the USS Nautilus and headed back into the museum. This museum tells the entire story of submarines within the US Navy. The first one was the USS Holland, purchased in 1900 from John P. Holland for $150,000. It describes a timeline all the way to the USS Ohio, the largest submarine built in the west in 1981. Fun fact, the USS Nautilus Memorial, Submarine Force Library and Museum opened on April 11, 1986. This was 86 years, to the day, since the beginning of the US Submarine Force.
The museum didn’t just tell the stories of the history of submarines, you also were able to see some of the oldest that were in use back in the Revolutionary War, check out the controls used to steer a submarine as well as some periscopes. The periscopes were one of Trevor’s favorites because they actually had 3 periscopes, in a room, that actually worked! They ran from the room, through the roof of the building and you could see 360 degrees around through them. It was neat.
A trip to the Groton Submarine Force Museum was a lot more interesting than I thought it would be. This place is well organized and well ran. As I stated, this free little jewel of a place should charge admission. It would be worth it! If you are anywhere near Groton, Connecticut, even if you are driving through, take some time and stop off at this place. After all, how many people can say they have been aboard a nuclear submarine? Safe travels.