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It’s not every day you see a submarine docked this far inland on the shore of a river. Unless you live in Pittsburgh, that is. Since 1990, a year before the opening of Carnegie Science Center, USS Requin (SS 481) has been moored on the Science Center’s Ohio River shoreline—a real-life lesson in history and technology that now attracts nearly 200,000 visitors a year. In active service from 1945 to 1968, in its heyday Requin had a crew of up to 80 sailors and supported both defensive and scientific missions, some of which are still classified. In protecting the East Coast, Requin never fired a single hostile shot.
The idea to have a submarine exhibit at the Science Center came from the late James Winokur, a Carnegie Museums trustee and WWII Navy veteran who spent time on a similar vessel. Joining forces with the late Josh Whetzel, another Carnegie Museums trustee, Winokur used their connections to find a sub for Pittsburgh.
It just so happened that as the Science Center was being constructed in 1990, the Navy was considering scuttling its USS Requin, which had been docked in Tampa as a tourist attraction since 1972. Winokur went to Washington, D.C., to meet with Navy representatives. The late Senator John Heinz would later step in to introduce the bill that would transfer Requin’s ownership to the Science Center.
After the Science Center recieved permission to move the submarine to Pittsburgh, Requin was towed from its location on the Hillsborough River on May 24, 1990, to dry dock for much-needed repairs. On August 7, 1990, the sub left Tampa for the final time as it was towed to Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Then the Requin began its three-week journey up the Mississippi River, gently cradled in slings towed by four barges. It arrived at its new home on September 4, 1990, and was dedicated on October 20.
In May 2018, the historic sub was inducted into the Submarine Hall of Fame at the Navy’s Submarine Learning Center in Norfolk, Virginia.
Today, says Patty Everly, the Science Center’s curator of historic exhibits, “Requin gives us a unique opportunity to learn about science and technology within the context of an important historical era. People come from all over the world to see it. Subs and ships in the interior of the country really touch people and provide unexpected learning experiences.”
She adds: “Keep your eyes open later this year for some new Requin displays and artifacts!”
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