MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. (WCBD) – Patriots Point on Friday announced that it will begin dismantling a World War II submarine after determining that the financial and environmental costs of repairing the deteriorating vessel are too great.
The USS Clamagore was commissioned in 1945 as a Balao-class submarine before being converted into a Guppy II then III configuration. After being decommissioned in 1975, it opened as a museum at Patriots Point in 1981.
Over its many decades at Patriots Point, the condition of the Clamagore has worsened.
A 2019 assessment estimated a minimum of $9 million in restorations was needed, and that does not include the repairs for a leaking ballast tank discovered in 2021.
Patriots Point Executive Director, Dr. Rorie Cartier, explained that while the situation is not ideal, limited funds would likely be better spent elsewhere:
“Unfortunately, we cannot financially sustain the maintenance of three historic vessels. The USS Yorktown and USS Laffey also need repair, and we are fighting a never-ending battle against the corrosion that comes from being submerged in saltwater.”
In addition to the damage saltwater does to the historic vessels, Cartier said that pollution from the eroding vessel poses a threat to the water in which it sits.
“There are increased environmental risks the longer the submarine remains at Patriots Point,” Cartier said. “Polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, are present throughout much of the vessel and exceed levels allowed by the EPA. There are also more than 500 lead batteries, weighing nearly one-and-a-half tons each, that need to be removed.”
Recycling the Clamagore seems to be less of a financial and ecological burden. The cost of dismantling the submarine is estimated to be around $2 million. Once dismantled, Patriots Point will sell the parts to be reused or recycled. Patriots Point said that “the vast majority of the steel will be used to make new products, lowering the demand for mined iron ore and reducing energy costs in the steelmaking process.”
Before dismantling the submarine, Patriots Point staff will remove artifacts — such as sonar equipment, torpedo hatches, and the periscope — for display on the Yorktown and in other institutions.
Patriots Point plans to hold a public farewell ceremony before the Clamagore leaves its current dock.