Korky Vann, Hartford Courant'
4 May 2016
Crossing the Thames River on I-95, you can't miss a submarine-shaped billboard proclaiming Groton the "Submarine Capital of the World."
That's no hyperbole. Groton is home to the U.S. Naval Submarine Base New London, the Naval Submarine School, the Submarine Force Library and Museum; the world's first operational nuclear-powered submarine, the historic USS Nautilus; and the General Dynamics Electric Boat shipyard.
The state has so much sub history that Gov. Dannel P. Malloy designated October 2015 through October 2016 a yearlong observance of "Connecticut's Submarine Century," celebrating 100 years of submarine activity in Connecticut.
"Connecticut was the perfect location for our nation's first submarine base in 1916, and since that time our state has become the professional birthplace of every officer and crew members in the Navy's undersea profession," Malloy said in a press release. "The storied history of the Navy's submarine force is directly connected to the State of Connecticut, and we are proud of the critical asset this state has been able to provide for our nation over the last century."
Exploring that storied history makes for perfect family staycations. Groton and New London have planned a summer filled with submarine-related activities and surrounding shoreline areas feature museums, historic forts, parks and beaches, restaurants and ice cream shops to round out day trips.
Groton Mayor Marian Galbraith says the Submarine Century calendar includes lectures, films, concerts, community festivals, a submarine art trail and more.
Even better – most of the events are free.
A special feature of the Submarine Century celebration is the CT Sub Trail – a public art project showcasing a fleet of 20 fiberglass submarine sculptures painted by regional artists.
"The mini subs will be showcased in Groton's 4th of July parade, then delivered to outdoor locations along the trail," says Galbraith.
If you're planning a "Dive, Dive, Dive!" outing, you'll want to start at the United States Navy Submarine Force Museum, located on the Thames River, (pronounced THAYmes, not TEMes), in Groton. It's the only submarine museum managed exclusively by the Naval History & Heritage Command division of the U.S. Navy. The place is filled with interactive exhibits, periscopes, submarines and diving bells, including a replica of "The Turtle," one of the first combat submarines, built in 1775 by Old Saybrook resident David Bushnell.
Outside, at the museum's dock is the USS Nautilus, the world's first nuclear-powered submarine, which is open for tours. (If you're claustrophobic, you might want to skip the 45-minute tour through the boat's very close quarters.)
Norwich resident Gen Schies, who recently visited the museum for the first time with her 11-year-old twins Aubrey and Ben, and 9-year-old daughter Samantha, was surprised at how much it offered to do and see.
"This place is definitely a winner," says Schies. "The kids and I were fascinated with it all and the fact that it's free is amazing."
Eury Cantillo, the museum's director of education, says submarine-related events will include a new exhibit of submarine art, science activities for children, (including live broadcast feeds from explorer Bob Ballard's remote robot submarines), and a centennial celebration on June 23. All activities, admission and parking are free.
"We'll have a presentation of the history of the submarine base and special activities for submarine lovers of all ages," says Cantillo.