A little too much celebration of Thanksgiving meant I needed to burn off a few extra calories. I figured a bike ride would be a good option and decided to check out the Burke Gilman Trail. This runs around Lake Washington on the alignment of an old railroad. Not too many hills to deal with then! I wasn’t sure how far I would go but I headed towards Magnuson Park. This sits on the eastern shore of Lake Washington on the site of a former naval base. It was once a Naval Air Station but was progressively pared back until it was deactivated and returned to the city.
One of the things I was curious to see in the park is a sculpture installation called the Fin project. This takes a bunch of fins from decommissioned nuclear subs and arranges them in patterns that are reminiscent of the fins of pods of orcas. The Navy donated the fins and private subscriptions paid for the rest of the installation. The result is an interesting exhibit with varying sizes of fin at different positions and angles.
The meaning of the sculpture varies depending on who is checking it out. It represents the naval station and the service of those based there, it draws parallels with the wildlife in the area, it represents recycling of material and it has a swords to plowshares aspect to it too. Each fin has a plaque that notes the vessel it came from, the name of an orca from a local pod and the names of those who donated to fund the installation.
I was there on a pretty overcast day and only had my phone with me to get shots. I think that the cloudy sky was actually a pretty appropriate backdrop as the darkness of the fins and the hint of their life in the deep would be a little offset on a bright and sunny day.
The Royal Navy’s submarine fleet is entirely nuclear powered. In the 80s, though, this was not the case. The Navy then still had a substantial fleet of diesel subs. The Oberon Class of subs was available in numbers along with the remaining Porpoise Class that preceded them and these were due to be replaced by the Upholders. Only four of those were built and they were sold to Canada when the decision was made to get rid of the diesel fleet despite their outstanding stealth qualities. When I went to Navy Days in Portsmouth in the 80s, you could see the subs on display. HMS Dolphin was just across the harbor and was the headquarters of the sub operations. One visit included the chance to see a sub in dry dock – something I suspect would not be left on view these days.
There weren’t just sailing ships along the harbor front. A couple of submarines were also there. One was an old Russian sub while the other was far smaller but was a research submarine. The Russian sub is a Foxtrot class diesel-electric sub and it is moored a further out on a pier away from the shore. The USS Dolphin was a test and research sub for the US Navy and was involved in much deep diving research and test programs to support the fleet subs. She has a very simple hull shape compared to operational subs. She was only retired in the last ten years and was the longest serving sub in the Navy.