Soviet submarine at Maritime Museum nears end of life.

A sign posted on San Diego’s Embarcadero near the Maritime Museum of San Diego indicates their Russian Foxtrot Class attack submarine B-39 has continued to rust, causing the historic vessel to near the end of its life.

A storm this winter that tore away sections of the outer metal skin has accelerated the submarine’s degradation. I believe it was the storm that I recorded back in January here. You can see waves in usually calm San Diego Bay breaking against the submarine.

It’s hoped that as the COVID-19 pandemic subsides, museum visitors will have one more chance to take a look inside the B-39. I learned that once the submarine has reached the end of its life, it will likely be taken to a shipyard to recover whatever might be salvageable. I also learned the Maritime Museum has thoroughly recorded the interior of the vessel, to preserve a very important part of Cold War history.

Learn more about this submarine by checking out the museum web page concerning it here.

I enjoyed a self-guided tour inside the Foxtrot-class submarine nearly five years ago, and posted some interesting photographs. If you’d like to see them, click here.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

Cold War history: How one man stopped World War III.

To the Brink of WAR. A sound and light exhibit at the Maritime Museum of San Diego based on true Cold War events during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
To the Brink of WAR. A sound and light exhibit at the Maritime Museum of San Diego based on a true Cold War event during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

A fantastic exhibit recently opened at the Maritime Museum of San Diego. You’ll find it aboard their B-39 Foxtrot-class Soviet submarine. The exhibit, using videos, a light show and other exciting effects, tells the story of how one man likely saved the world.

At the height of the Cold War, during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, a Soviet commander on the B-59, another Foxtrot-class submarine, spoke a few cautious words. Those words might have averted World War III and worldwide nuclear destruction.

The B-59 was one of four Soviet submarines that were sent to the Caribbean Sea to support ships delivering arms to Cuba. In October of 1962 the B-59 was detected by the United States, and Navy destroyers began dropping the sort of depth charges that are used for training–practice depth charges with very little explosive impact. It was the US Navy’s intention to have the sub surface in order to gain positive identification.

Aboard the B-59, however, batteries were running critically low, the air-conditioning had ceased working, and if the submarine didn’t surface eventually the crew would perish. They hadn’t had radio communication with Moscow for several days. The captain of the submarine, Valentin Grigorievitch Savitsky, believed that war had probably begun. He wanted to launch their T-5 nuclear torpedo at the USS Randolph aircraft carrier.

The exhibit inside the Maritime Museum of San Diego’s Foxtrot-class Soviet submarine allows visitors to relive those tense moments. They’ll hear how sub-flotilla commander Vasili Arkhipov, also on the B-59, reasoned that a conflict might not have started, and that firing their “Special Weapon” nuclear torpedo would certainly result in World War III. His calm words of council prevailed, the sub surfaced peacefully, and today visitors to the museum can appreciate his level-headed wisdom, and the extreme pressure that the crew of the B-59 felt on that fateful day.

Anyone visiting the exhibit should be prepared for very close quarters. Ducking and engaging in a variety of pretzel-like contortions while moving along the length of the submarine, one can appreciate how life must have been as a crewmember, even under normal circumstances. It’s definitely not a place for those who have claustrophobia!

Here are a few photos that give you a taste of what you’ll experience. Of course, enjoying the exhibit in person is a thousand times more interesting!

This man might have literally saved the world. Vasili Arkhipov argued against the B-59 captain's wishes to fire a nuclear torpedo against the U.S. aircraft carrier USS Randolph.
This man might have literally saved the world. Vasili Arkhipov argued against the B-59 captain’s determination to fire a nuclear torpedo against the U.S. aircraft carrier USS Randolph.

Today, the Maritime Museum of San Diego's B-39 Foxtrot-class Soviet submarine allows visitors to see what sub warfare was like during the Cold War, and to relive the crisis.
Today, the Maritime Museum of San Diego’s B-39 Foxtrot-class Soviet submarine allows visitors to see what sub warfare was like during the Cold War, and to relive the crisis.

Many signs containing interesting info can be read before boarding the B-39.
Many signs containing interesting info can be read before boarding the B-39.

Sign provides some details about the B-39. It could cruise 20,000 miles on diesel-electric power. It was built in Leningrad. It's design was generally based on late World War II German u-boats.
Sign provides some details about the B-39. It could cruise 20,000 miles on diesel-electric power. It was built in Leningrad. It’s design was generally based on late World War II German u-boats.

Life aboard a Foxtrot-class Soviet submarine is briefly described. Duty aboard a Foxtrot was not considered bad, but was often quite boring.
Life aboard a Foxtrot-class Soviet submarine is briefly described. Duty aboard a Foxtrot was not considered bad, but was often quite boring.

Sign shows main parts of the museum's current Cuban Missile Crisis exhibit. Inside the sub, one must nimbly climb through small circular openings!
Sign shows main parts of the museum’s current Cuban Missile Crisis exhibit. Inside the sub, one must nimbly climb through rather small circular openings!

I've ascended the gangway and I'm standing forward of the submarine's sail. I'll enter the forward torpedo room via some steps behind me.
I’ve ascended the gangway and I’m standing forward of the submarine’s sail (or fin). I’ll enter the forward torpedo room via some steps behind me.

Enter Here! And prepare to relive a tense moment in history, when the future of humankind teetered on the brink.
Enter Here! And prepare to relive a tense moment in history, when the future of humankind teetered on the brink.

Just inside the old Soviet sub. There's a video explaining the Cold War and beginning of the Cuban Missile Crisis, and many signs nearby. The B-59 was armed with a Special Weapon--one nuclear torpedo.
Just inside the old Soviet sub. There’s a video explaining the Cold War and beginning of the Cuban Missile Crisis, and many signs nearby. The B-59 was armed with a Special Weapon: one nuclear torpedo.

This museum torpedo represents what the B-59 Foxtrot carried back in 1962. A purple tip meant a particular torpedo had a nuclear warhead.
This museum torpedo represents what the B-59 Foxtrot carried back in 1962. A purple tip meant a particular torpedo had a nuclear warhead.

You might note this torpedo has a purple tip! To fire a nuclear weapon during the Cuban Missile Crisis would have certainly resulted in World War III.
You might note this torpedo has a purple tip! To fire a nuclear weapon during the Cuban Missile Crisis would have certainly resulted in World War III.

A Hair's Breadth from Nuclear War. President John F. Kennedy dealt with an extremely difficult crisis. Common sense, decisive action--and possibly some luck--helped the world avoid catastrophe.
A Hair’s Breadth from Nuclear War. President John F. Kennedy dealt with an extremely difficult crisis. Common sense, decisive action–and possibly some luck–helped the world avoid catastrophe.

It's no easy feat going from one section of the sub to another! A visitor is about to head into a narrow corridor enroute to the Control Room.
It’s no easy feat going from one section of the sub to another! A visitor is about to head into a narrow corridor en route to the Control Room.

Heading through the Foxtrot-class Soviet submarine. Tiny rooms on either side include the Captain's Cabin, the Officer's Wardroom, and Medical Exam Room.
Heading through the Foxtrot-class Soviet submarine. Tiny rooms on either side include the Captain’s Cabin, the Officer’s Wardroom, and Medical Exam Room.

A look into the Electronic Officer Cabin.
A look into the Electronic Officer Cabin.

The sonar room was critical to the safety of the submarine. Without sonar, the underwater vessel had no eyes.
The sonar room was critical to the safety of the submarine. Without sonar, the underwater vessel had no eyes.

A photo of equipment in one corner of the sonar room.
A photo of equipment in one corner of the sonar room.

Into the Main Control Room we go, the scene of a sound and light show reenacting those tense minutes before the B-59 chose to surface peacefully without firing their nuclear torpedo.
Into the Main Control Room we go, the scene of a sound and light show reenacting those tense minutes before the B-59 chose to surface peacefully without firing their nuclear torpedo.

Signs throughout the Maritime Museum of San Diego's Cuban Missile Crisis exhibit help visitors understand their position in the Foxtrot submarine.
Signs throughout the Maritime Museum of San Diego’s Cuban Missile Crisis exhibit help visitors understand their position in the Foxtrot submarine.

Photo includes the Foxtrot's helm, where a Soviet sailor steered the submarine by moving a lever left and right.
Photo includes the Foxtrot’s helm, where a Soviet sailor steered the submarine by moving a lever left and right.

Visitor inside the Maritime Museum of San Diego's B-39 submarine looks through the periscope. Red lights come on as depth charges are heard. A fateful decision must be quickly made.
Visitor inside the Maritime Museum of San Diego’s B-39 submarine looks through the periscope. Red lights come on as depth charges are heard. A fateful decision must be quickly made.

Voices from nearby speakers reenact tense discussions, then orders to the crew. The submarine captain wished to fire a nuclear torpedo; the level-headed flotilla commander convinced him not to.
Voices from nearby speakers reenact tense discussions, then orders to the crew. The submarine captain wished to fire a nuclear torpedo; the level-headed flotilla commander convinced him not to.

We've left the Control Room and are continuing along the center of the submarine. Here's part of the galley. The crew ate well by Soviet standards.
We’ve left the Control Room and are continuing along the center of the submarine. Here’s part of the galley. The crew ate well by Soviet standards–better than most ordinary citizens.

More knobs, switches, levers, buttons, dials, gauges and whatnot on the way to the Engine Room.
More knobs, switches, levers, buttons, dials, gauges and whatnot on the way to the Engine Room.

The engine room contains three turbo diesel engines that each put out 2000 horsepower. They drove three shafts connected to six-blade propellers.
The engine room contains three turbo diesel engines that each put out 2000 horsepower. They drove three shafts connected to six-blade propellers.

Another photo inside the museum's B-39 engine room. During the 1962 events, the B-59's batteries were low and the air conditioning had failed. Their hot engine room must have been intolerable.
Another photo inside the museum’s B-39 engine room. During the 1962 events, the B-59’s batteries were low and the air conditioning had failed. Their hot engine room must have been intolerable.

Now we're heading to the Motor Control Room.
Now we’re heading to the Motor Control Room.

Bunks for Enlisted Ratings line the corridor. These were shared by the crew and in constant use. No room to spare!
Bunks for Enlisted Ratings line the corridor. These were shared by the crew and in constant use. No room to spare!

A very tight squeeze!
A very tight squeeze!

And finally we've made our way into the After Torpedo Room, where visitors can watch a concluding video documentary. After surfacing peacefully, the B-59 eventually resubmerged and vanished.
And finally we’ve made our way into the After Torpedo Room, where visitors can watch a concluding video documentary. After surfacing peacefully, the B-59 eventually re-submerged and vanished.

School students left notes. It seems most really liked the tour! It's not every day one can see the interior of a Cold War Soviet submarine!
School students left notes. It seems most really liked the tour! It’s not every day one can see the interior of a Cold War Soviet submarine!

Climbing back out of the B-39 Foxtrot-class Soviet submarine, one of many vessels that are part of the Maritime Museum of San Diego.
Climbing back out of the B-39 Foxtrot-class Soviet submarine, one of many historic vessels that are part of the Maritime Museum of San Diego.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

You can easily explore Cool San Diego Sights by using the search box on my blog’s sidebar. Or click a tag! There are thousands upon thousands of fun photos for you to enjoy!

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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52 Boats Memorial at NTC Liberty Station.

52 Boats Memorial at NTC Liberty Station.
52 Boats Memorial at NTC Liberty Station.

52 U.S. Navy submarines were lost at sea during World War II.  3,505 submariners lost their lives.

At NTC Liberty Station, the 52 Boats Memorial remembers the sacrifice of these men.

The unique memorial runs along two beautiful walkways, and consists of 52 American Liberty Elm trees, 52 flags and 52 black granite markers.  The history of each submarine and the names of lost crew members are recounted for future generations to remember.

USS Grayling (SS-209) on eternal patrol.
USS Grayling (SS-209)  sunk in World War II is on eternal patrol.

American flag shelters one of the solemn black marble markers.
American flag shelters one of the solemn black marble markers.

USS Pompano (SS-181) on eternal patrol.
USS Pompano (SS-181) and crew remain on eternal patrol.

Beautiful bird of paradise flowers along pathway through 52 Boats Memorial.
Beautiful bird of paradise flowers along pathway through 52 Boats Memorial.

USS Runner (SS-275) on eternal patrol.
USS Runner (SS-275) remembered over half a century later.

Submariners who lost their lives in World War II in incidents that did not involve the loss of a boat.
Submariners who lost their lives in World War II in incidents that did not involve the loss of a boat.

A new plaque respectfully recounts those Boats and Men Lost at Times Other Than WWII. A faded, identical plaque has been replaced in this photo, which I took at a later time.
A new plaque respectfully recounts those Boats and Men Lost at Times Other Than WWII. A faded, identical plaque used to stand here.

Someone honors submariner heroes by leaving flowers beside a black granite marker that remembers the USS Pickerel (SS-177).
Someone honors submariner heroes by leaving flowers beside a black granite marker that remembers the USS Pickerel (SS-177).

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

You can easily explore Cool San Diego Sights by using the search box on my blog’s sidebar. Or click a tag! There are thousands upon thousands of photos for you to enjoy!