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Submarine on display - The Intelligent Whale.

The Intelligent Whale: Ancient Submarine

Field review by the editors.

Sea Girt, New Jersey

"Intelligent Whale" is an experimental submarine that was built in Newark, New Jersey, during the Civil War. Powered by up to a dozen men turning a big crank, it's nearly 30 feet long, weighs 46 tons, and is made of bolted-together iron plates. The war was already history, however, before a crew could be found that was crazy enough to take it underwater.

Intelligent whale. July, 1915 - U.S. Naval Historical Center.

Intelligent Whale survived that late 1860s test in Newark Bay, and its crew successfully blew up a scow. In the years that followed, the submarine's owner, General Nathaniel Halstead, reportedly took his family for Passaic River cruises in Intelligent Whale -- until he was killed by his mistress's ex-lover. That was bad news for Intelligent Whale, for by then it had been bought by the U.S. Navy, which wanted to conduct its own tests. Without Halstead's expertise, however, the submarine leaked so badly that the Navy refused to pay the remainder of its bill. The sub was a flop, but at least it didn't kill any of its crews -- unlike other experimental submarines of that time.

Sub parked next to a tank.

For nearly a hundred years, Intelligent Whale was displayed outdoors, on dry land, at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Then in 1999 it was moved to the vehicle display building at the National Guard Militia Museum of New Jersey, where it occupies a back corner, flanked by a tank and some old Jeeps. It rests on an iron scaffold under a skylight, which helps to illuminate its black hulk (Try to visit on a sunny day). Steps have been built beneath Intelligent Whale so that you can stick your head up into it. However, a protective box has been built inside, and whoever built it didn't take into account anyone over five feet tall. You will bang your head on the roof of the box. But, hey, if you're over five feet tall, you shouldn't stick your head inside a submarine anyway.

And, yes, we know that whales are intelligent.

The Intelligent Whale: Ancient Submarine

National Guard Militia Museum of New Jersey

Camp Drive, Sea Girt, NJ
Garden State Pkwy exit 98. East on Hwy 138 to Hwy 35, then south for about 2.5 miles. Turn left onto Sea Girt Ave. for about 1.5 miles. Cross Hwy 71, cross the railroad tracks, bear right, then turn right into the National Guard Training Center. The National Guard Militia Museum of New Jersey is about a half-mile in, on the right.
Daily 10-3 (Call to verify) Local health policies may affect hours and access.
RA Rates:
Worth a Detour
Save to My Sights

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In the region:
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