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The Rescue of the USS Squalus (SS-192)

The submarine the USS Squalus (SS-192) suffered a catastrophic valve failure during a test dive off the Isle of Shoals at 0740 on 23 May 1939. The partially flooded submarine sank and came to rest keel down in 240 feet of water. The 32 surviving crewmembers and one civilian were trapped in the forward section. Rescue operations began the next day. The USS Falcon (ASR-2) lowered the newly developed McCann rescue chamber, which was designed for the purpose of rescuing crewmen trapped in a submarine. Over the course of the day all 33 surviving crewmen where brought to the surface alive.

The works contained in this exhibit were painted in 1966 for the Navy and are the artist's conception of the event.

For more information about the Squalus's history and the rescue, see the Naval Historical Center's FAQ, which contains a more detailed description of the event as well as links to extensive resources about the submarine.

Moment of Impact
John Groth #1
Watercolor & ink, 1966


The Squalus hits the bottom of the ocean stern first off the coast of Portsmouth New Hampshire to rest in 240 feet of water. Thirty-three of the 59 crew members survived in the forward chambers of the submarine. This picture depicts the control room of the submarine and crew members desperately closing off water leaks.


Moment of Impact
John Groth #5
Watercolor & ink, 1966


Study for "Moment of Impact"


Sweating It Out (Torpedo Room)
John Groth #2
Watercolor & ink, 1966


Crewmembers huddle around a lamp in the forward torpedo room awaiting rescue in cold conditions which resulted in some survivors suffering from exposure. However, no permanent adverse health effects were noted in survivors after the rescue.


USS Squalus Sweating It Out
John Groth #6
Watercolor & ink, 1966


Study for "Sweating It Out"


USS Squalus and Diver
John Groth #4
Watercolor & ink, 1966


The rescue divers were indispensable in the rescue and subsequent salvage operation, making a total of 648 deep-water tethered dives. They dived first to the wreck, where they anchored guide wires for the rescue bell to the escape hatch on the submarine. When the rescue bell became fouled on the 4th rescue trip, they attempted to unfoul the lines and get it to the surface. Each dive entailed considerable risk for the divers due to risk from the bends and "narcosis of the deep," a hallucinatory condition.


USS Squalus and Diving Bell
John Groth #7
Watercolor & ink, 1966


On the 4th rescue dive of the McCann diving bell, the steel wire used to raise the bell to the surface became fouled. The bell was lowered to the ocean floor and divers sent down in an unsuccessful attempt to unfoul the wire. The bell was subsequently raised through the manipulation of bouyancy in the ballast tanks, and manual hauling to the surface.


Diving Bell
John Groth #3
Watercolor & ink, 1966


Study for "USS Squalus and Diving Bell"

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4 August 2005