Author Topic: Cobia and the Wisconsin Maritime Museum  (Read 2935 times)

Offline FER

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Cobia and the Wisconsin Maritime Museum
« on: October 26, 2009, 10:30:30 PM »
As I said when I introduced myself, I worked for some years at a major maritime museum, so I'm interested both in submarines as the fascinating vessels they are and also in their presentation and interpretation in museums.

I visited the Wisconsin Maritime Museum in Manitowoc, WI in late August this year. It was cold and foggy with light rain (what an odd summer it was in the upper Midwest). My original plan was to pay a quick visit to the USS Cobia, run through the museum quickly, and then go have a nice hot lunch somewhere. Instead, the museum was rather busy and there were no openings for tours for an hour and a half, so I "decided" I would spend more time exploring the museum. And what a fine museum it is! It tells the story of Manitowoc's submarine building days before and during the Second World War, but it's much more than that. It is a comprehensive display of the history of boating and shipping on the Great Lakes. It features an impressive steam engine, around 15 feet tall from the vessel "Chief Wawatam" (built in 1911, the steam engine was added to the museum in a significant expansion which opened in 2003). The engine is rigged to operate hydraulically in various modes at the push of a button. In the next room, there's a replica of the twelve-foot propeller which turns slowly as the engine runs. Other displays cover 19th century (and earlier) ship-building with beautiful models and artifacts tastefully displayed. There are numerous small boats on display inside the building. There are plenty of activities for kids including a fishing simulator, which I really wanted to try. Displays cover maritime history from every angle: commercial, military, recreational, scientific, and so on. There's a small display on celestial navigation (which was never terribly important on the lakes, so I can forgive the glaring error in its descriptive text --the only error I saw in the museum). The museum's exhibits are well-designed and well-executed. It's one of the best maritime museums I've ever seen. The scale is just about right. A family could spend a pleasant two or three hours here seeing almost everything at a normal pace. Oh, did I mention they have a submarine??

The USS Cobia was apparently the original center of the Wisconsin Maritime Museum, it's raison d'etre. Much to the credit of its planners, the fine museum has grown up around it. The Cobia itself is beautifully restored and the tour was informative and enjoyable, occasionally funny without being corny. My only complaint was that the tour was perhaps a touch too long but I think that's because the interpreter that day was new on the job --and maybe tired after a long full day of tours. The sub looks just great inside and out, and of the thirteen museum subs I've visited in the past few months, only the marvelous USS Cod in Cleveland beats it for presentation. Cobia, however, beats Cod since there is no museum to support the Cleveland sub.

The Wisconsin Maritime Museum and the USS Cobia are a "must-see" for anyone interested in submarines and maritime history generally. It's a long way to go for most people, but anyone in Chicago should consider adding it to a trip to Door County or other points "up north". It could also easily be combined with a trip to Oshkosh if you're heading out for the annual EAA aviation spectacular. The museum is well-advertised by highway signs and easy to reach just a few minutes off Interstate 43.

Highly recommended. Grade A. Five stars. I will certainly go back.


Offline Paul Farace

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Re: Cobia and the Wisconsin Maritime Museum
« Reply #1 on: November 02, 2009, 03:37:11 AM »
We truly appreciate the high marks at COD.  The folks at COBIA do a wonderful job too! And we wouldn't be in half as good a shape today without their help!  :smitten:

Paul Farace,
COD curator
Johnny Cash's third cousin, twice removed

Offline Karen D.

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Re: Cobia and the Wisconsin Maritime Museum
« Reply #2 on: November 04, 2009, 12:51:30 PM »
Thanks for the great review! Cobia is our star next year...40 years in Manitowoc! Should be exciting!