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Tour the USS Albacore, the prototype for the Navy's submarine force

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See underwater history inside the USS Albacore

The USS Albacore was built on the Seacoast during the Cold War to test new capabilities under water. It was an experiment using size, shape and battery power to increase speeds while submerged.

PORTSMOUTH — Families can hear from crew members of the USS Albacore research submarine, participate in hands-on activities sponsored by Portsmouth Naval Shipyard and meet local authors who have written books about undersea craft this season at Albacore Park Museum.

The museum, located at 600 Market St. near the Sarah Mildred Long Bridge, begins its tour and event season Sunday.

“It’s not just for kids. We get 3-year-olds and even younger children coming in to tour the museum, but we’re really try to step it up and cater to all family members,” Executive Director and Curator Patricia Violette said.

Designed, built and maintained Portsmouth Naval Shipyard engineers and craftsmen, the USS Albacore served as a sea-going test platform from 1953 to 1972, and its teardrop-shaped hull was the prototype for the Navy’s nuclear-powered submarine force.

Albacore was the first sub built to operate exclusively underwater, according to ussalbacore.org. Built during the Cold War Era, the Albacore was an experiment in the use of size, shape and battery power to increase speeds while submerged.

The exprimental sub never carried any weapons, Violette said in a NH Heritage Museum Trail press release that listed last year’s visitation at the Albacore at 42,000 people. “Most of our visitors are stunned to learn that the Albacore never held torpedoes.”

Violette said visitors can hear about testing the top-secret features that led to the high-speed silent operation of modern submarines from some of the men who served on the USS Albacore. Former crew members will be on site every Saturday from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.

“They hang out around the periscope and they tell all kinds of stories about the submarine,” Violette said.

Every Wednesday morning, hands-on activities will focus on learning about buoyancy and different types of submarines. Ed Cormier, the Shipyard’s engineering recruiter and STEM outreach coordinator, has a number of different things for children to do, Violette said.

Denise Brown, who wrote “USS Albacore Submarine: Welcome Aboard” will join “Zombie Sub-920” author Michael Mitchell for book readings. Those monthly events are planned for Saturday mornings.

In addition to special activities, there are self-guided tours when the museum is open. Visitors can look through the periscope, explore the control room, check out the engineering spaces and see the bunk rooms.

“People can see how efficiently run it was and how much storage there was, and then we tell them how many men were on the submarine, and they are astounded,” Violette said.

The museum is open from 9:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. every day starting tomorrow through Columbus Day. In the summer months, the museum stays open until 5:30 p.m.

Admission is $8 for adults, $3 for children under 17, $4 for retired military members and free for active duty military members and their immediate family.

For more details, visit ussalbacoreorg.

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