Renovated Pearl Harbor submarine museum uses history to teach STEM

Local News

HONOLULU (KHON2) — The USS Arizona may be what comes to mind for most when thinking about Pearl Harbor.

But how many are familiar with the USS Bowfin?

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Exactly one year after the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941, a submarine nicknamed “the Pearl Harbor Avenger” hit the open water as a World War II attack submarine.

Today, it resides in the Harbor as part of the Pacific Fleet Submarine Museum. KHON2 spoke with Chuck Merkel, the executive director at the Museum, to find out more.

“The Bowfin was a World War II fleet submarine,” Merkel said.  “She was commissioned in 1943, made 9 war patrols in the Pacific, and then all though she was scheduled to be scrapped in the ’70s, she was converted into a museum ship and put her on display here in 1981.  Later this year, we will celebrate our 10 millionth visitor here at the Bowfin.”

How can students benefit from coming here?

“Throughout the museum, we’ve added interactive exhibits so people can get a better understanding and feeling of what it’s like during those eras, to live and serve on our submarines, and to inspire people to serve going forward,” says Merkel.  “I think a submarine, from bow to stern, is a STEM laboratory, so there’s lots of various issues that can be learned about in the submarine: how does it surface, how does it submerge, chemistry, how the battery works, nuclear propulsion and how that applied to submarines and what that means to a submarine.  Just many, many examples of how STEM concepts can be brought to practical use.”

And this has been distinguished as a National Historic Landmark.

If people want to take the time to really care for this place and that this piece of history continues into the future, what are some opportunities that they may have?

“Well, we are always looking for people to help us maintain the grounds and our submarine, and with our real focus now on education, we’re looking to bring in more volunteers who can help us with education,” says Merkel.  “We really want to get the schools involved here.  So, those are the kinds of things we are always looking for and we greatly appreciate any help we can get.”

To volunteer or plan a visit to the museum, click here.

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