Inside the world record deepest diving submarine!

The black sail of submarine USS Dolphin (AGSS-555). The retired research sub is docked next to steam ferry Berkeley of the Maritime Museum of San Diego.
The black sail of submarine USS Dolphin (AGSS-555). The retired research sub is docked next to steam ferry Berkeley of the Maritime Museum of San Diego.

Here come some photographs taken inside the USS Dolphin, the world record deepest diving submarine!

Anyone can tour the Dolphin when visiting the Maritime Museum of San Diego. The museum, located downtown on the waterfront, is home to a world-class collection of unique and historic ships.

I personally know very little about submarines. My descriptions come from various signs and a little searching performed on the internet. If you spot an error or would like to provide some info, please leave a comment at the bottom of this post!

The Maritime Museum of San Diego boasts two submarines in its world-class collection of ships. The USS Dolphin holds the world record for deep diving.
The Maritime Museum of San Diego boasts two submarines in its world-class collection of ships. The USS Dolphin holds the world record for deep diving.
Display inside the Berkeley, next to doorway which leads museum visitors outside to the Dolphin.
Display inside the Berkeley, next to doorway which leads museum visitors outside to the Dolphin.

The above Maritime Museum display includes the following information:

On November 24, 1968, barely two months after commissioning, the USS Dolphin dove to a depth in excess of three thousand feet to become the world’s deepest diving submarine…this record still stands today. The following year, in August 1969, the Dolphin achieved another world record by launching a torpedo from a depth never equaled by another submarine.

Built exclusively for research, Dolphin is responsible for many achievements. Most significant among these is her unique deep diving capability… Employed by both Navy and civilian researchers, she is equipped with an impressive array of instruments that can support multiple missions…. She is currently configured to conduct extensive deep water acoustic research, oceanic survey work, sensor trials, and engineering evaluations.

…With her decommissioning on January 15, 2007, the United States retired its last active diesel-electric submarine.

Second display contains info about the sub's design and it's numerous historic achievements.
Second display contains info about the sub’s design and it’s numerous historic achievements.

This second sign inside the Berkeley indicates:

SPECIFICATIONS

Length: 165 feet
Beam: 18 feet
Surface displacement: 860 tons
Submerged displacement: 950 tons

Propulsion: Diesel-electric
2 x GM V71 12-cylinder diesel engines, 425 hp
2 x electric main motors
2 x 126-cell main storage batteries

Submerged speed: 10 knots (short duration), 2-4 knots (sustained)

Scientific payload: 12 tons+

External mounting pads: 6 port, 6 starboard, forward and aft of sail

Crew compliment: 3 officers, 18 enlisted, 4 scientists (46 crew, all are not deployed)

Operational endurance: Over 15 days (for long deployments, Dolphin can be towed at 9-10 knots)

ACHIEVEMENTS AND CONTRIBUTIONS

First successful submarine-to-aircraft optical communication

Development of a Laser Imaging system of photographic clarity

Development of an Extreme Low Frequency (ELF) antenna

Evaluation of various non-acoustic Anti-Submarine Warfare techniques

Evaluation of various “low probability of interception” active sonars

First submarine launch of a mobile submarine simulator (MOSS) system

First successful submarine test of BQS-15 sonar system

Development of a highly accurate towed body position monitoring system

Development of a highly accurate target management system

Evaluation of a possible “fifth force of nature”

First successful submarine-to-aircraft two-way laser communication

A museum visitor gets ready to walk out to a very cool submarine.
A museum visitor gets ready to walk outside to a very cool submarine.
Walking along the deck to forward end of the submarine. The tower-like sail contains the bridge, periscope and communications masts.
Walking along the deck to forward end of the submarine. The tower-like sail contains the bridge, periscope and communications masts.
This forward hatch (and the rear one) were cut into the hull so museum visitors could easily walk through the sub's length. Originally there was one hatch, at the sail.
This forward hatch (and the rear one) were cut into the hull so museum visitors could easily walk through the sub’s length. Originally there was one hatch, at the sail.
An electrician volunteer, Ed, at work just inside the USS Dolphin. He told me several stories from his days serving on submarines.
An electrician volunteer, Ed, at work just inside the USS Dolphin. He told me several stories from his days serving on submarines.
A sign inside the underwater research vessel provides answers to a few common questions.
A sign inside the underwater research vessel provides answers to a few common questions.

This sign inside the submarine answers some common questions and includes the following fascinating facts:

Dolphin’s hull material is HY-80 steel…her hull is a ring-stiffened cylinder without pressure bulkheads (if she has a leak the whole boat will flood)…

When she had her torpedo tube installed, Dolphin could carry four torpedoes… After initial tests and the launch of a torpedo in 1969 from the deepest depth ever recorded, Dolphin was refitted for other research purposes, and never carried torpedoes again.

There are no visual viewing ports in this submarine…. Dolphin did carry imaging electronics for observing the bottom.

Dolphin did not have any claws for picking items off the seafloor as she was restricted to a minimum altitude of fifty feet above the bottom. One experiment launched an ROV (remote operated vehicle) with power and communication cable attached to Dolphin while submerged…

Starting along the very narrow main hallway. This unusual sub contains no compartments. To the left one can see a reverse osmosis water filtration system.
Starting along the very narrow main hallway. This unusual sub contains no compartments. To the left one can see a reverse osmosis water filtration system.
Red pyro locker used to safely house signal flares.
Red pyro locker used to safely house signal flares.
Those crew bunks on the left don't look terribly spacious or comfortable.
Those crew bunks on the left don’t look terribly spacious or comfortable.
There are more pipes, wires, gauges, valves and gizmos than you can shake a stick at.
There are more pipes, wires, gauges, valves and gizmos than you can shake a stick at.
A group of visitors is entering the amazing Control Room, near the center of the USS Dolphin.
A group of curious visitors is entering the amazing Control Room, near the center of the USS Dolphin.
The periscope works and you can view San Diego Bay and downtown skyscrapers with perfect clarity.
The periscope works and tourists can view San Diego Bay and downtown buildings with perfect clarity.
Folks peer down through floor at Pump Room below the Control Room, where a hero defied death to save his crewmates.
Folks peer down through floor at Pump Room below the Control Room, where a hero defied death to save his crewmates.

On May 21, 2002, the room below was the center of heroic action to save the submarine and crew. On that day, Dolphin was conducting training exercises about 100 miles off the San Diego coastline when a torpedo shield door gasket failed, and water began to flood the submarine…

Chief Machinist’s Mate (SW) John D. Wise Jr., realizing what needed to be done, dove into the 57 degree water of the flooded pump room…with less than a foot of breathable space…he aligned the seawater valves and then remained in the pump room for more than 90 minutes…

For his courageous efforts, Chief Wise was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal.

A panel with many complicated switches. In the Control Room, one can monitor the main storage batteries, generators and propulsion system.
A panel with many complicated switches. In the Control Room, one can monitor the main storage batteries, generators and propulsion system.
The wheel used to pilot the Dolphin. One drove using only instruments, including gauges that display rise/dive, ordered depth, system depth, cavitation, turns, dummy log, depth to keel.
The wheel used to pilot the Dolphin. One drove using only instruments, including gauges that display rise/dive, ordered depth, system depth, cavitation, turns, dummy log, depth to keel.
Photo of tiny Officers' Quarters was through glass, producing some glare.
Photo of tiny Officers’ Quarters was through glass, which produced some glare.
This is the first toilet I've photographed for my blog. Hopefully the last!
This is the first toilet I’ve photographed for my blog. Hopefully the last!
Photos on wall of tiny mess area show what life was like aboard Dolphin.
Photos on wall of tiny mess area show what life was like aboard Dolphin.
This is where food was prepared.
This is where food was prepared.
This dining table was constantly in use. Not much to see in the way of decor.
This dining table was constantly in use. Not much to see in the way of decor.
Continuing down the main hallway toward the rear of the submarine. Don't ask me what all this stuff is.
Continuing down the main hallway toward the rear of the submarine. Don’t ask me what all this stuff is.
Apparently this is some sort of freezer.
Apparently this is some sort of freezer.
You get an idea of what it's like to carefully walk through the narrow submarine.
You get an idea of what it’s like to carefully walk through the narrow submarine.
High-Pressure Air Compressor Controllers among a jumble of pipes and valves.
High-Pressure Air Compressor Controllers among a jumble of pipes and valves.
Up a ladder and back outside into the bright San Diego sunshine!
Up a ladder and back outside into the bright San Diego sunshine!

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Published by

Richard Schulte

Downtown San Diego has been my home for many years. My online activities reflect my love for writing, blogging, walking and photography.

11 thoughts on “Inside the world record deepest diving submarine!”

      1. There must have so much great stuff to see in the submarine. What a great museum, bet it will be interesting to have a look around the Soviet submarine as well!

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      2. I visited the Soviet sub years ago and it was fascinating. It reminded me of many classic submarine movies. Ed, the retired submariner electrician I photographed, said he might have been tracking the exact same Soviet sub years ago, but one couldn’t tell for certain.

        Like

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