The USS Batfish moved about 20 feet closer to the ocean in May’s flooding along the Arkansas River, and those preserving the World War II submarine will likely make the new resting place permanent if the saturated ground beneath it will hold.
Muskogee War Memorial Park Director Brent Trout said engineers advised the park that it won’t make monetary sense to move the submarine back into the hole where it once sat. The mud- and rust-caked hull sits above the hole, which Trout said resembles “a chalk outline” in the ground.
Despite an obvious need to repair damage to the gangplank and flooded compartments inside, the bigger concern is how the sub sits. The submarine was stable in its hole, but Trout said a thin strip of iron running the length of the keel and the rudder bear most of the weight on unstable, saturated riverbed soil.
“The new area that it’s placed in isn’t awful; we can work with it,” Trout said. “The bow is completely on eroded ground, the stern is out of the ground and is basically sitting on the rudder. ... We’re just not sure how stable that is. As the soil is drying out, the Batfish is starting to shift and we’re having to do emergency actions to put tension on the starboard side so that it doesn’t roll on us.”
Although the floodwater is gone from around the sub, staff and volunteers have spent days pumping water out of two compartments near the bow that had about 8-10 feet of water inside, Trout said. It has required round-the-clock pumps to get this far, and Trout said staff and volunteers must bring fuel for the pumps every two hours.
If heavy rains don’t further destabilize the sub’s position, Trout was optimistic that they could possibly have half of the Batfish open for tours by the end of the summer. Getting there, however, will take a long road of donations and volunteer work, Trout said.
“We’re going to need some help, and we’re definitely going to need a lot of earth and dirt work going on,” Trout said. “It’s going to require so much effort and funding. We’re trying to take this one step at a time.”
The park’s GoFundMe campaign has raised $8,000 of its $150,000 goal as of Thursday, and Trout said individuals may also donate directly through the park’s website, warmemorialpark.org. There are tentative plans to hold a benefit concert in September, Trout said.