Now a free exploration museum that allows visitors to sit at its helm and haphazardly spin its knobs and dials, the U.S.S. Albacore was once the speediest sub in the sea, a Cold War vessel full of naval secrets.
The U.S.S. Albacore is currently beached on solid ground in Albacore Park, Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and has been since 1985. Retired since 1972, the 200 foot submarine spent the better part of two decades acting as a research sub during the Cold War race for the perfect underwater warship. Along with experiments in sonar, radar, code-breaking, and a variety of coatings for the hull, even the hull itself was an experimental tear-drop shape made of high-strength steel. It was a study in hydrodynamics and a success in maximum speed.
How fast could the Albacore go? The Navy isn’t telling, but it was found that its blimp-like shape was so stealthy and sleek it could operate at the same maximum speed as its predecessor, but with half the horsepower. While some of her operations were publicized, much of what the sub could do was kept classified. After an eventful 20 years of exciting submarine action, she was decommissioned in 1972 after repeated diesel engine failures. Standing true to her proud motto, “Praenuntius Futuri’ (Forerunner of the Future) the U.S.S. Albacore’s trial runs shaped every submarine used in today’s U.S. Navy roster.
After being decommissioned, the Albacore was welcomed back to Portsmouth, the city that built her. Her 300 tons of steel were being transported to her awaiting display location when her portly girth got stuck in the mud of Portsmouth Harbor. Without the means to move her any further, the Albacore remained there, and the Albacore Park was brought to her.
Along with the free-range exploration of the inside of the sub with audio options to learn more about her (unclassified) adventures, the Albacore is surrounded by a memorial garden that serves as a tribute to the brave submariners who have lost their lives at sea.