Paul Harling and Jack Munro, right, of the Diving Locker donated a Paul Revere ship spike to the USS New Hampshire. The spike was recovered from the original USS New Hampshire, a battleship built in the mid-1800s, and was given to the Navy’s newest submarine with the same name. Munro is wearing an antique dive helmet, part of the collection at the Diving Locker at the Maritime Heritage Center.

1In the Diving Locker, the two-room museum beneath the Gloucester Marine Heritage Center on 23 Harbor Loop, local divers have collected an assortment of artifacts from the original USS New Hampshire, a 74-gun, mid-19th century battleship lying on the bottom, 20 feet beneath the surface near Graves Island in Manchester.

"It's a tradition to incorporate some part of the old ship with the new," said Jack Munro of the Diving Locker yesterday. "Knowing that on a submarine space is at a premium, we all decided that a 7-inch spike was the thing."

After learning that the new New Hampshire, a Virginia-class attack submarine, was slated to be commissioned at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, Maine, Munro, a longtime commercial diver and contributor to the Diving Locker, called the Navy and offered them a 7-inch spike collected from the original New Hampshire by fellow local diver Arnie Petiglio. The copper fastenings of the ship, including the 7-inch spike, were believed to have come from Paul Revere's foundry in Boston.

When the Navy said yes to the offer, Munro, Petiglio and Diving Locker curator Paul Harling headed north to Maine with the spike mounted on an engraved plaque for the Oct. 25 commissioning.

"We would have been happy if they had just accepted it and put it in a drawer," Munro said from the Diving Locker last week. "But they put it right up in the midships near the mess, and gave us a tour of the whole submarine."

Although its collection of New Hampshire artifacts is drawing attention, it makes up just a small fraction of the items packed into the small museum by Harling over a lifetime in diving and collecting.

Located in the Heritage Center's old basement-level "mug-up room," the area where workers in the old shipyard would take breaks and fill their mugs with coffee, Harling has traced the history of human deep-sea diving through equipment such as helmets, tanks and dry suits.

The shining brass and metal helmets greeting the visitor from the front of the museum, from the Mark 5 to the Helium Hat, bring to mind an antiquarian future world like that of Jules Verne.

A whole wardrobe full of wet suits and dry suits hang on racks around the edge of the space in styles stretching back through the 20th century.

With no admission fee and no endowment, the Diving Locker, which has been in the mug-up room since the Heritage Center opened eight years ago, serves as collective memory bank for divers, who have been a crucial part of the Gloucester's commercial waterfront for decades.

Recreational divers are drawn to Cape Ann for its rocky topography and easy access to deep water, while a number of famous wrecks in the area have provided platforms for professional divers. The steamship Portland, which sank 14 miles from Gloucester in 1898, was recently visited by a group of friends of the Diving Locker, the first to reach the wreck, which sits at the imposing depth of 460 feet. Some 13 miles to the north, near the Isle of Shoals, the submarine USS Squalus sank at a depth of 240 feet in 1939 and resulted in one of the most famous undersea rescues by Navy divers in history.

Harling, a former Gloucester fifth- and sixthgrade science teacher, made his first dive using homemade equipment in the Annisquam River in 1949 and visited the original New Hampshire for the first time in 1976. His homemade rig is part of the collection at the Locker.

Munro, a former Navy submariner, worked as a commercial diver with Atlantic Diving in Gloucester and for the town of Rockport's Department of Public Works.

Petiglio, of Woburn, has made more than 300 dives to the New Hampshire and is described by Harling as the group's "maintenance man."

After 86 years on the bottom, Munro said not much remains of the original New Hampshire that hasn't been taken, eaten by shipworm, or buried beneath the sediments on the sea floor.

First named the Alabama when it was commissioned as a 74-gun ship in 1918, the ship took 46 years to build at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard and was named the New Hampshire after the secession of the southern states during the Civil War. It was renamed the Granite State in 1904 so that a new battleship could be named New Hampshire.

On its way to Portsmouth for decommissioning in 1922, the original New Hampshire caught fire off Manchester and sank near Graves Island, where it remains.

Patrick Anderson can be reached at panderson@gloucestertimes.com


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