Visiting the USS Olympia in Philadelphia

USS Olympia at dock.

USS Olympia at dock.

Pops had to go through the USS Becuna, a World War 2 submarine that had undergone a GUPPY conversion; interesting, but not the primary concern. It’s a refit of the old Balo design, and other than detail differences – the mess was laid out differently for instance – the maze of pipes, cable and boxes crammed into a small space – were familiar. Pops had visited many of the old World War Two submarines before, and since they were mass produced, one is very much like the next; and it was built in New London Connecticut, not at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard where our family worked. But he did listen in on an old sailor explaining the sub to the younger generation.

The Olympia was a gem though – here was a ship that was a hybrid of sailing vessels and the new steel navy that made the United States a world power.

He entered via a door in the aft of the vessel, and was struck by the white painted walls and the varnished wood apartments for the officers, each one nicely appointed with a proper built-in bed, chest of drawers and an early typewriter – among other things. Yet nearby were pipes in the open, curving back and forth into a multiple S shape to act as a heating radiator, and corrugated metal sheets to act as walls and dividers in the officer’s showers and bathrooms. In the center was a curious column, that he later found to be the shell hoist to the 8-inch turret above.

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