- Associated Press - Friday, October 3, 2014

KEYPORT, Wash. (AP) - Naval Undersea Museum added a submarine rescue vehicle to its collection this week.

Mystic becomes the third deep submergence vessel displayed outside the museum, joining Trieste II and Deep Quest.

Mystic could descend to 5,000 feet, substantially less than Trieste II (20,000 feet) and Deep Quest (8,000). But only Mystic could pluck sailors out of sunken subs.

Neither it nor sister ship Avalon ever had to perform a rescue. They were developed in 1963 in response to the loss of USS Thresher and its 129-man crew and launched in 1970. They served as the Navy’s primary submarine rescue system from 1977, when they became fully operational, to 2008. They could dive, latch onto the disabled vessel’s hatch and bring up 24 sailors at a time.

“That’s a good thing. That’s how we look at it,” museum curator Mary Ryan said. “They were always standing by, always vigilant, but the United States has not lost a submarine since they entered service.”

Mystic, built by Lockheed for the Navy for $41 million, was replaced by a new system in 2008. It remained in a warehouse at North Island Naval Station in San Diego until now.

“These were designed back in the 1970s. But even today, they’re two of the most sophisticated submersibles in the world,” Ryan said.

The sub is 49 feet long, 8 feet wide and weighs 600,000 pounds. Electric motors pushed it along at 4 knots (4.6 mph).

The acquisition was considered an internal transfer, from the Navy to one of 10 Navy museums, so it didn’t cost the Keyport facility anything, Ryan said, though there were other expenses.

Mystic was supposed to arrive last week, but the truck designed specifically to haul it broke down in California.

One of the rescue subs had been on the museum’s wish list for a couple of years, said director Lindy Dosher. It’s now a reality. It was accompanied by 80 boxes of Mystic artifacts. It’ll probably take three years to go through them all.

Museum officials hope to someday bring all three submersibles inside, where they wouldn’t need as much maintenance, she said.

On Oct. 30, the museum is scheduled to open a related exhibit - The Thresher Legacy: A Better, Safer Navy. It will look at how the tragic loss produced positive results. Museum hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. every day except Tuesdays, when it’s closed. Admission is free.

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Information from: Kitsap Sun, http://www.kitsapsun.com/

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