We All Live in a Soviet Submarine B-427, a Soviet Submarine B-427

It was just past four when we went up to Passenger Information on the Promenade deck to get our tour vouchers. The only tour we really cared about what the Soviet submarine that is now docked alongside the Queen Mary, partially because it's a Russian sub, but also because its tour is self-guided. Neither one of us is really the guided tour type, and the one time we went against our nature (Innoventions, at Epcot), we regretted it deeply.

It's a good thing we didn't want to do one of the hour-long guided tours - they were all sold out for the day. So again, if you're staying at the QM and your package includes a tour, hopefully you'll be sticking around the next day. Still, we got vouchers for the next day and vouchers for "Ghosts and Legends" (which runs twice an hour on a first come-first served basis) anyway, and of course vouchers for the submarine. (For the museum, you just show your room key.)

The tour begins in the hangar-like gift shop, full of odd mechanical bits, nesting dolls, funny hats, and a pressed penny machine. I longed for the furry caps, but not at $50.

Scorpion Submarine Gift Shop

Gift Shop Goods

I had a giggle over these two "Yes! We have" signs, although by the time we left I did find myself humming the Russian marching songs with genuine feeling. (So, that's how they get you. Ha!)

Yes! We Have...

Inside the gift shop is a line that tells you whether you will bump your head or not. I cleared it; Mike didn't. Guess who ended up bumping their head? Me, when a family with several children decided to enter the submarine from the wrong direction and then, inexplicably, continue their tour against the tide of squished bodies. (People are not smart. I don't care what that car insurance ad says.)

Know Before You Go

After briefly taking in the gift shop, we stood at a door that led to a gangplank. There, one of the clerks came from around the corner and jovially explained that we walk down the ramp, walk the length of the sub, and enter at the far side. We were invited to take as long as we wanted and to take all the photos we liked. Off you go! Enjoy!

Sub and Bow

(Oh, and no jumping on the gangway.)

No Jumping


It was really fun to be standing on a submarine. "Can you believe we're standing on top of a submarine?! A Soviet submarine?! Here?! Standing on it?! Us?!" That probably doesn't mean much to you post-perestroika punks, but it was thrilling to us old folks.

Just Mike Again

Old? Mike is a year younger than the B-427, aka the "Scorpion" (strictly a marketing name). I'm about two years older. The sub was in Australia for a few years before coming to Long Beach 10 years ago. You can read the rest of its (rather mild) history (despite the upcoming torpedos) for yourself at its Wikipedia article or at its own website.

Even though it's not a WW II sub, we can pretend it is through over-Photoshopping:

Up on the Subtop

(Truthfully, I just took a bad photo and am trying to cover that up with PS effects.)

Standing on the sub (which, again, is thrilling, like James Bond having a last laugh) allowed for some good perspectives on the Queen Mary.

Measuring Lines

The Anchor

And Long Beach:

Yet Another View of Long Beach

And the sub, that we were standing on top of, thrilled:

Looking Back

Then it was time to go below. This is not a handicapped-accessible attraction. (But there is a movie in the gift shop... sorry, that's a little in-joke about the subs at Disneyland, about which I'll have more to say later.) It all starts with a ladder:

Down the Entrance Ladder

Then, you might want to look at the torpedos:


But be careful! This is an "operational" sub - the signs say so. You don't want to bomb the Chili's across the water, do you? (Yes, but again, that's another post.)

Please Don't Fire the Torpedos

I say you might want to look at the torpedos... or you might want to just fixate on the hole you have to crawl through next.  At first glance, it's hard to tell how high up the hole is.

The Ladder and the Hole

Maybe we should just go back up and stand on top of the sub some more?

Down Below

Nah, it can be done!

Maybe It's a Rabbit Hole

Here, Mike demonstrates his (eventually) perfected "head first, then grab something and crawl up" move:

There We Go

I, not shown, went with a "leg in, straddle, pull through" kind of motion. I feel that it is very attractive and dainty in practice - too beautiful to be photographed, really.

Here things get blurry, what with me being too lazy to ever actually carry the travel-tripod. (I did tote it around the empty decks the next morning at sunrise like a magician's staff, but - once more - that's another post.) At first I thought this officer's room was cramped:

Officer's Quarters

Then I saw what the regular folks got.

Regular Quarters

There's another bunk underneath. And no, you're not really missing much out of frame.

We sat in a little sitting/dining/something area for a bit, wondering about this RCA television and the padlocked refrigerator underneath:

With the Original RCA Television

Eventually the passage-holes got to be rather fun. I kept trying to get hiney-shots of Mike, but he's always (literally) a step ahead of the shutter.

This Never Gets Old

There were so many things that looked cool just because of the Cyrillic characters on them. (Alas, almost all of those pictures came out as conceptual art pieces. I'm also too lazy to carry the external flash. I was carrying a remote shutter release, but couldn't be bothered to, you know, unzip the bag and stuff.)

Old Russian Typewriter

Things in Russian

I can't believe the sub had a crew of 75+ men. Look how tiny the galley is:


This toilet - the only one I noticed - doesn't invite a leisurely visit:


We reached the end and it was kind of sad; I'd grown attached to the lighthearted Russian narration that skillfully accompanies you from room to room. (Also, we didn't get to look through the periscope as it was a flustercluck to queue up in the small space.)

More Bunks and Exit Ladder

I'd happily walk through the sub again; periscope aside, with a little patience, it's not too cramped inside to enjoy, there's more to look at than you can appreciate in one visit, and the temperature was fine. A little while later I heard someone warning a friend to NEVER go in the sub, that it was not only boring with nothing worthwhile to see, but that when she went it was soooo hot and miserable inside.

So, experiences vary - perhaps it's no fun in August. We had a really good time, and I definitely recommend standing on top, barking out commands, looking grimly satisfied while stroking your chin.

Soviet Submarine B-427

As we left, I looked at the time stamp on the last photo (off by an hour because DST makes me cross) and said, "Look, the 'Ghosts and Legends' tour starts in a few minutes. I know it's a tour, but it's only 35 minutes, and we'll feel mighty for having notched it." As mighty as standing on top of a submarine? We'll find out!

22 March 2008 |


 We built a house. 

 Rabbits tolerate us. 

  We play modern board games.  

 I hunt the dead.