115. Into the Deep

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Level: Pier 86

Read directions to Growler and the exhibition tent


How is life on a submarine different from life on a surface ship? Some Growler crew members served on both. Hear them compare their experience on ships to life in the deep.

Video: Into the Deep

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For an audio-described version, use the video below

Collection Connection

Hand-drawn schematic of the top surface of the submarine USS Growler. Shapes are outlined from a bird’s-eye view and labeled.
Hand-drawn schematic of the top surface of the submarine USS Growler. Shapes are outlined from a bird’s-eye view and labeled.

Topside Arrangement Qualifications Drawing 

Shaun O’Shaughnessy, missile technician third class, drew this diagram of Growler as part of his submarine qualification process. In order to qualify, O’Shaughnessy had to demonstrate that he could operate the submarine’s essential systems during a crisis. This drawing depicts the many features and fixtures on the top surface of Growler. Look for another qualification drawing in the exhibition A View from the Deep.

Collection of the Intrepid Museum. Gift of Shaun G. O’Shaughnessy. A2018.51

Learn More: What makes submarine service different?

Officially, there are two significant differences between the crew of submarines and surface ships. First, everyone who serves in the submarine force has volunteered to be there. Second, every member of the crew is expected to “qualify,” which means they must complete a rigorous process to learn all the systems on the submarine well enough to operate them in an emergency. On a surface ship, sailors primarily work in their assigned roles. In contrast, submariners are competent to perform a wide array of technically demanding work beyond their own job. Qualified submariners trust and respect one another deeply.

Growler crew members often observe that differences between surface ships and submarines go deeper. Tight quarters aboard submarines contribute to closer bonds between crew members. For example, relations between officers and enlisted personnel are more casual than on other ships because everyone works so closely together. 

To survive with little privacy for many months, a good submariner must be able to control their emotions. According to Growler crew members, submariners frequently tease and prank their crew mates to let off steam and pass the time. A submariner who can brush off repeated jokes at their expense, the logic goes, can be trusted to react appropriately in a crisis.

Learn more about Growler and the Regulus Missile program at Mobile Guide Stop 105: Submarine Growler: https://maps.intrepidmuseum.org/main-page/pier-86/105-submarine-growler/.

Congress lifted restrictions on women in combat in 1993, but the Navy continued to bar women from submarine service due to concerns about privacy and relationships in close quarters. The Navy lifted those restrictions in 2010. By 2011, women were serving as officers aboard the submarine USS Ohio

The first women to serve on submarines were officers for one practical reason: it was easier to ensure their privacy in officers’ berthing (living quarters). The Navy later retrofitted several submarines to accommodate women in enlisted berthing. 

In the future, submarines will be designed and built to better accommodate men and women—and that means more than just berthing and bathrooms. Engineers at Electric Boat are designing a new class of submarines that will accommodate the height, reach and strength of all who serve. Changes like lowering overhead valves or moving emergency air masks may seem small, but they make the submarine a more efficient and inclusive workplace for a wider range of people.


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