Even though some of them are far from the ocean, the economic development zones of Washington are called “ports”.

The landlocked port of Benton has at least part of a boat on the ground. Passing through the business park, it appears that a submarine has partially surfaced between the buildings.

The sail of the USS Triton, which served as the vertical stabilizer for the submarine and contained the turret, an armored command center for the ship’s captain, serves as the centerpiece of the USS Triton Sail Park. The park pays homage to one of the first US Navy ships to use nuclear power and its role in demonstrating the potential of nuclear-powered submarines with a months-long submerged voyage in the footsteps of a famous explorer.

Triton was a descendant of the Manhattan Project, which developed the atomic bombs that were dropped on Japan. The Hanford Nuclear Reserve near the Tri-Cities was where nuclear reactors created the plutonium needed for the “Fat Man” bomb that was dropped on Nagasaki, as well as subsequent nuclear weapons.

But one naval officer thought reactors could do much more than produce weapons.

While at Oak Ridge National Laboratory where he was exploring the possibility of using nuclear reactors to generate electricity, the then-Captain. Hyman Rickover came up with the idea of ​​using nuclear reactors to power a submarine.

Until that time, submarines used diesel engines to navigate the surface and charge the batteries that powered the engines when submerged. This technology limited the amount of time a submarine could stay at sea, depending on fuel and underwater, as the diesel engines could only recharge the batteries if the boat was on the surface or close enough to lift a snorkel .

Nuclear reactors would circumvent these limits, allowing submarines to spend more time at sea and, importantly, underwater.

Rickover’s first submarine, the USS Nautilus, demonstrated the potential of nuclear power with the submarine submerged by the North Pole and setting other records. Rickover was later promoted to Admiral and is credited with creating the United States Navy’s nuclear ship program.

The Triton would demonstrate the advantage of the nuclear submarine in a more dramatic way.

Triton was commissioned on November 10, 1959, and was the largest submarine ever built at the time, at 448 feet long and with a submerged displacement of 7,780 tons. Its twin propellers were powered by two nuclear reactors – the only US Navy submarine to ever have so many – and could cruise at 30 knots – nearly 35 mph.

An undated photo shows the USS Triton, a nuclear-powered submarine, en route in the Atlantic Ocean. The submarine’s sail, which contained the boat’s conning tower, is on display at Benton Harbor in Richland. (Courtesy Photo/US Naval History and Heritage Command)

Triton is also the last submarine to have a conning tower in the sail of the submarine. From the turret, the captain could command the boat and had access to the periscopes.

The submarine cost over $100 million, or $963.2 million in today’s currency.

Triton departed New London, Connecticut on February 15, 1960, for a shakedown cruise where the crew put the submarine through its paces and checked systems. But her commanding officer, Captain Edward L. Beach Jr., had orders that greatly extended this usually short voyage.

“Operation Sandblast” involved the Triton circumnavigating the globe, following the course used by Ferdinand Magellan’s crew in 1519. Unlike Magellan, the Triton would do so underwater for the entire voyage.

Beach, who wrote the novel “Run Silent, Run Deep” about World War II submarine warfare, started the race at St. Peter and St. Paul Rocks nearly 500 miles off the coast of Brazil. From there, the Triton raced underwater around South America, across the Pacific to the Philippines, then sailed around Africa back to the submarine’s starting point.

National Geographic photographer Joseph B. Roberts, a commander in the U.S. Naval Reserve, joined the crew of the Triton to document the voyage for the magazine.

The mission not only demonstrated the potential of a nuclear submarine to operate submerged for an extended period of time, but also collected oceanographic data and provided insights into the psychological well-being of submarine crews during underwater missions. -prolonged marines.

A sick sailor prompted an emergency evacuation off the coast of Uruguay, but Beach only brought the submarine’s sail up to the surface, keeping the hull submerged for the duration of the voyage.

In the Philippines, off the island where Magellan was killed during his voyage (his crew would complete the circumnavigation of the globe), Roberts took a photo of a startled fisherman through the submarine’s periscope.

After completing the circumnavigation, Triton sailed to Cadiz, Spain, where Magellan began his journey. There the crew delivered a bronze plaque they carried with the years of both voyages and a Latin inscription reading “Hail noble captain, we have done it again”.

The plaque was added to Magellan’s memorial in the city.

Triton returned to New London on May 10, 1960, after being submerged for 83 days and 10 hours and traveling 36,014 miles underwater. Triton received a Presidential Unit Citation for the trip.

Originally designed as a radar scout submarine that scanned the skies for incoming enemy aircraft, Triton was refitted as an attack submarine in 1964, serving as the flagship for the force. Atlantic Fleet submarine until June 1967.

But there was one challenge Triton couldn’t overcome: government budget cuts. In 1969, Triton was decommissioned, becoming the first nuclear submarine to be removed from service.

Triton was struck off the Navy Ship Register in 1986 and remained in Norfolk, Virginia until 1993 when the submarine was towed to Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. Triton was dismantled in 2007, with her twin reactors being shipped to Hanford for dismantling and disposal.

The Port of Benton acquired Triton’s sail and installed it in the park in 2011. Alongside the sail are exhibits that highlight Triton’s story and her voyage. Benton Harbor also offers guided tours inside the sail.