The Grey Ghost:
Examining the Future of USS Clamagore
An American flag flies above the charcoal gray, decommissioned Cold War-era submarine, USS Clamagore (SS 343). The sub idly sits, sun-faded in the Charleston, South Carolina harbor as saltwater eats at it, causing orange rust and corrosion.
"Sometimes I'll be sitting on the battery and have flashbacks to 50 years ago," Busch said, reflecting on his service days. He is 70 years old with a chiseled jaw, a retired Navy senior chief and an experienced runner who has run more than 200 marathons.
Busch served on Clamagore from 1969 to 1972 as a sonar technician. He's been volunteering at Patriots Point, near downtown Charleston, for the past 10 years, giving tours of the boat he first boarded when he was 19. These days, he often incorporates personal stories into his detailed and impassioned tours. But Busch's days aboard his beloved Clamagore could be numbered.
The 320-foot submarine, which has called Patriots Point home since 1979, could become an artificial reef off the Florida coast. To remain a floating museum, she needs an expensive restoration, one that could cost about $6 million, according to Chris Hauff, a Patriots Point spokesman, and the lack of financial resources to fix Clamagore may one day sink the vessel.
Two decommissioned Navy ships at the maritime museum, USS Yorktown (CV 10) and USS Laffey (DD 724), also require repairs and maintenance that are deemed a higher priority. Museum officials are looking into the possibility of reefing - in other words, sinking - Clamagore so that she becomes a permanent underwater museum, Hauff said.