Civil War, History Class, Life, Memorials, Photos, Uncategorized, World War 2, Writer's Life

Exploring the Naval Undersea Museum

As my family and I prepare to move across the country this summer, we’ve started making our “must visit” list. What places do we need to explore again while we have the chance?

This museum is a definite maybe—it was always a favorite and might be even better now that the kids have had four years to grow. They were all under 8 for this visit. Maybe now I could get some better photos…

In any case, I hope you enjoy this re-visiting of our 2018 visit to the Naval Undersea Museum!

Photo by Filip Zrnzević on Unsplash

A trip into Washington State’s Olympic peninsula offers opportunities for adventure. From temperate rainforests to snowy mountain peaks to ocean beaches, and from herds of elk to the occasional trespassing mountain goat, the nature-lover doesn’t lack for options.

Of course, most of these options aren’t particularly accessible to those who visit during Washington’s long, gray, chilly, rainy season. (The natives call the rain ‘liquid sunshine.’ I don’t buy it.)

It’s especially tricky for those of us with small children, SO, the Clare brood went looking for somewhere indoors to explore.

The kids kept looking for the rest of the sub over to the left. It took some repeating to convince them that we weren’t actually GOING underwater.

The Naval Undersea Museum is located just past the signs for Keyport, Washington.

It met our criteria for an adventure: indoors, kid-friendly, and free. (The last is essential. Nothing’s worse than an outing that has to last long enough to be ‘worth it.’ Inevitably, someone will melt down, vomit, and/or soak their clothes with something.)

On top of these basic requirements, the exhibits were fascinating.

The museum begins in the parking lot.DSCN2560 The Trieste II

The Trieste II may look good-sized, but do you see the bit of the sphere showing between the two ‘legs’ to the left? That sphere housed the entire crew of two.

Talk about close quarters- I hope they got along well!

Trieste II was the U.S. Navy’s first deep-submergence vehicle. Its deepest dive was 20,236 feet in 1977 in the Cayman Trough south of Cuba.

The deep submergence rescue vehicle (DSRV) Mystic was our next stop.

After all hands were lost in the 1963 sinking of the USS Thresher, the Navy took a long, hard look at their underwater rescue operations, and found them wanting.

Thresher and its counterpart Avalon were built to take on this complicated task. While they ran many successful test trials, mercifully, they never had to be used.

Naturally, once we made our way inside I had to check out the World War 2 exhibit.


The display memorialized all of the U.S. submarines that contributed to Allied victory, highlighting in red the 52 that didn’t make it home.

It also included a display of some of the sub-tech of the 40’s…


…and “battle flags” from the era.


Sorry that it’s a bit blurred. The kids didn’t find this section quite as interesting as I did. Moving on…

Wasn’t he in ‘Forbidden Planet’ ?

We all enjoyed learning about the Navy’s training of marine mammals. I found it particularly fascinating to see how dolphins have been trained to find and mark old, unexploded mines so that they can be disposed of safely. (I was also pleased to see how carefully the handlers provided for the safety of the animals.)

Of course, the kids love exhibits that they are allowed to touch. The museum’s rebuilt control room of the USS Greenling was their favorite part. (And yes, of course, I checked out the periscopes and all of the knobs and buttons too!)

Again, I was really the only one interested in the American Civil War era ‘frame torpedo’…

“C’mon guys…hold on so I can get the shot…ack!”

…but they could have spent all day with the interactive displays on water pressure and buoyancy.

There were other exhibits, but the littles were about done.

Our last stop was a sobering one.


They were quiet for a moment, looking at the artifacts from the sunken sub. Enough of their little friends have dads serving under the waves that the Thresher display, simple as it was, made an impression.


The little ones have found me, so in closing I’ll ask then what they liked best about our museum visit.

Child 1: “I liked the periscopes, and the little screens and the things where you can push buttons and the spinny things, and the periscoes.”

Child 2: “They’re called periscopes.”

Child 1: “No, periscoes…”

Child 2: “PeriSCOPES!”

The conversation is still going on, so I’ll sign off for today.

For those of you still in the inhospitable grip of winter cold or rain, I hope you find your own interesting indoor adventures!

Thanks, as always, for visiting.

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17 thoughts on “Exploring the Naval Undersea Museum”

      1. I love themed museums, a lot to see what are the highlights of that topic. My daughter had the opportunity to serve on a sub–passed for a variety of reasons. They are amazing instruments of peace, aren’t they?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Yes! Wow- that’s a pretty amazing opportunity, but I can imagine a number of good reasons for passing. We toured a Sea Wolf class with our school secretary’s hubby (a sub mariner) a few years back and it was just kind of mind blowing – the complexity and practicality, not to mention compactness of all of the systems!

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    1. What a neat family connection Ari- tons of respect for the folks in the ‘silent service!’ It seems like a profession with some unique challenges. Our former school secretary’s husband took us on a tour of his sub before he retired, and I just find the complexity of all of the systems and living spaces fascinating. Also, I’m very glad I don’t have to live on one 🙂

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      1. There was actually a 2-part documentary where a camera crew were allowed onto the submarine my family member is serving on. So I got to see a bit of what it is like where he works. He’s on a Hunter Killer sub and seeing what they do and how they handle the pressure is impressive.

        Did you find the submarine you toured to be claustraphobic? Just from the documentary I was disturbed by how cramped it was.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Oh nice! I’ll bet that was such an interesting peek into that workplace!

        Yes and no- I was impressed with how efficiently the space was used. Nothing was uncomfortably narrow, at least where we toured. HOWEVER, it was in drydock, so there wasn’t a full crew around, and there wasn’t that knowledge of being submerged- I think in those circumstances it could be! The submariners I’ve talked to are pretty matter-of-fact about it, though. (I’d like to write on subs in WWII and I keep thinking I need to use my time to ask those guys more questions. Though it’s a different era, there’d be SOME similarities perhaps…)

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  1. A lovely account, the historical interest enlivened by the kids’ input! Sobering indeed; I don’t think I could handle being in a submarine – or a tank, actually. There’s a fascinating submarine museum at Gosport, near Portsmouth, in the UK – part of the national museum of the Royal Navy. I keep meaning to write about it, but you know how it is…

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  2. HA! Yeah, museum visits can be so tricky with tiny ones, but they do seem to improve–at least a little–with age. The Milwaukee Public Museum is still a challenge with our kids, but not nearly as challenging as it was four years ago. 🙂 Hope you’re able to get some of these stops in before The Big Day! xxxxxxx

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