Former submariners guide special USS Requin tours at Carnegie Science Center
During a dive, the four-man watch on the USS Requin had 45 seconds to climb down the conning tower and close the hatch that kept the sea from following them into the submarine.
Having climbed the narrow ladders and through the hatch herself, Barb Cooper, 61, of Avonmore said that fact was one of several impressive things she learned during a special two-hour tour of the Cold War-era boat.
“It may be one of the better kept secrets in the area,” she said of the submarine docked in the Ohio River outside Carnegie Science Center.
The North Side center is offering guided, behind-the-scenes Tech Tours of the submarine on select Sunday mornings through the rest of the summer. The tours cost $15 for center members and $20 for nonmembers. Because of the confined spaces, each tour is limited to 12 people.
Two former submariners — John Stewart, who is also a former Requin crew member, and Carl Stigers — conduct the tours.
Calvin Evans, 17, of Cleveland, Ohio, said touring the boat with a former crewmember was “fantastic.”
“It was more than I expected,” he said.
Stewart, 73, of Bellwood served on the Requin from 1961 to 1963 and said he loves showing people around the submarine. The tour focuses mainly on how the crew did things but also touches on why they did it.
“There are so many people that want the knowledge of what submariners were all about,” he said.
His tour includes amusing details, such as the fact that the submarine crews would often remove valve handles to create more room for storing items in the confined space. Many of the handles would be lost, so every time a boat pulled into port they had to order more.
Stigers, 56, of Dormont said experienced crew members kept a crescent wrench in their pockets so they could turn the valves that were missing their handles.
Stigers said one point he tries to get across is how every member of the crew depended on every other member because there was little margin for error.
“The most junior guy could kill everybody on the boat if he didn't know what he was doing,” he said.
About two-thirds of the way through the tour, Stewart paused at the crew's mess area to describe the certification process that he and every other submariner goes through to earn their “dolphins,” the insignia that shows they've learned all the boat's systems and emergency procedures.
Cooper said that having seen first-hand all the valves and pipes they had to memorize gives her “a new respect for submariners.”
Brian Bowling is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-325-4301 or firstname.lastname@example.org.