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Inspection scheduled for Cold War-era sub

| Saturday, Aug. 4, 2012, 11:14 p.m.
Tourists walk along the deck of the retired submarine USS Requin which is docked on the Ohio River behind the Carnegie Science Center in Pittsburgh.

A Pittsburgh landmark will receive a thorough inspection for the first time in more than two decades.

Charles C. Deroko, a marine inspector based in Brooklyn, N.Y., will begin scrutinizing the USS Requin, the Cold War-era submarine docked on the Ohio River outside of the Carnegie Science Center, from its water line to the top of its metal sail.

Beginning on Thursday, Deroko will spend 12 days inspecting the submarine. On Aug. 20, a dive team will arrive to check the hull underwater.

“This detailed inspection will tell us things that we have no way of knowing,” said Patty Rogers, curator of historical exhibits at the Science Center, which commissioned the examination.

“I always tell folks, ‘You don't know what you don't know.' You can have divers looking, and everything looks good.”

The inspection is being funded by a $125,000 grant received by the Science Center from the Redevelopment Authority of Allegheny County in January. The funding was approved after rust and several holes were discovered in the Requin's hull below the water level.

“At the end of the assessment, we'll be able to put figures to the preservation project itself,” Rogers said, adding that the sub at least would receive a new coat of paint.

About 160,000 visitors a year visit the Requin. The sub will remain open while the inspection occurs.

About a month after completing his inspection, Deroko will compile a 200- to 300-page report detailing his findings.

“The report starts off with a general assessment of the vessel, and then he starts to drill into specific areas that he recommends you look at closer,” Rogers said. “He'll heavily photo-document it, and the divers will videotape what they're doing.”

The Requin last got a comprehensive inspection when it was donated to the Science Center in 1990. The Science Center conducts regular walkthroughs and sends divers below the water line, but those are purely visual.

“With all the high water we get here, we want to make sure nothing hit it and maybe damaged it. Without opening all the tanks, you can't really see into it, and it hasn't been opened up for quite a few years,” said Brian Six of C&C Marine Maintenance, a Houston, Pa., company that has been hired to prepare the company for Deroko's arrival.

As part of its preparation, C&C is opening the Requin's 28 tanks, which were used primarily for ballast or fuel.

Those have not been opened since the submarine was dry-docked in Tampa more than two decades ago, and inspectors were pleased to find that they had been emptied before the sub was brought to Pittsburgh, preventing damage to the inside of the tanks.

“We're not finding any fuel, any product at all. They've done all that when it was on dock or before it went to dock. That is a very good thing,” Six said.

Adam Wagner is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7956 or adamwagner@tribweb.com.

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