U-Boat Slumberparty

Remember the contest from a while back, where the winner got to spend a month living in Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry? Awesome as the idea is, I'll admit it kind of fell off my radar. Today, I discovered that the winner of that contest, Kate McGroarty, moved into the museum on October 20th and is down to her last few days.

They do seem to let her out occasionally—she's been to some grade schools and a Bulls game. Less appealingly, from my pov, she seems to spend a good chunk of her day in a giant, plexiglass cube. Like a gerbil. On the other hand, maybe that bit of surreality is worth it in order to fulfill the ultimate Midwestern childhood fantasy of having a sleepover in the U-Boat. The U-Boat, people.

Enjoy this all-access tour of the Museum of Science and Industry U-Boat, via flashlight. I know I did. It's not professional filming, but I think that's OK. It feels every bit as spooky and claustrophobic as I'd imagine being in the dark, alone, in the U-Boat ought to be. Plus, she got to out on top of it!

If you want to know more about what this experience has been like for McGroarty, Wired has an interview.



  1. up on the U-505 conning tower! schwing!
    just walking around on the deck of a captured german sub…

    We were at MSI this last summer and pre-booked the special sub tour. Very much worth it. Kids loved it! The sound and light show was pretty decent, very nice guide. Afterwards she bumped into us at various other sub-exhibits and gave us lots of interesting infobits. While the kids were gawking at all the merch in the gift shop, I looked at Kate’s plexi-cube. Sounded like fun to me! I only visit the MSI every decade or so and it has greatly improved over the years. They have a bunch of those insta-mold machines (we made a space shuttle, but the fin broke off on our way home)

    My kids and I have slept aboard the USS Hornet in Alameda with the YMCA. The boys still wax poetic about the terrific chow (actually pretty middlin, but probably better than the swabbies had it back in the day). We got to roam all over and there were several guided spots w knowledgable docents. Plus the deck and hangar is full of planes and history (like the Hornet launched Dolittle’s raid on Tokyo and recovered the astronauts from Apollo 11). Best part for me was we slept in the racks just the sailors did, after a short while there ensued a veritable ‘Symphony of Snores’ with nearly a hundred dads and kids sawing away.

  2. They have a U-Boat on display by us near Liverpool, England, before they cut it up into sections for display it was sat in the state it was found right by the road at the docks on six foot stands.
    I was riding home on my motorbike at 3am in thick fog
    and I came across it in the headlamps looming out of the dark.
    I sh*t a brick as it just looked like it was flying towards me all covered in barnacles, my mind hasn’t been the same since.

  3. What?!?!? no mention of the enigma machine?

    In capturing this sub, the allies got a functional enigma machine and coded maps 2 days before the D-Day invasion.

  4. When I went there, I (figuratively) made a bee-line for the sub (in reality you buy a ticket for a specific time so I did look at some other stuff first). I was miffed you have to pay extra to go inside it, but whatever, it’s a freaking German u-boat.

    Then I get to the sub at the time on my ticket, nearly jumping out of my pants in excitement, and I find out you can’t take photos inside. What a letdown! Give me a break!

    I sulked in the back of the tour group the whole time, and eventually snuck off a few photos out of spite. I felt like a spy making sure the guide didn’t know (not easy in a confined space with a DSLR’s loud shutter), so that was cool I guess.

  5. Who are theese people that want to sleep in submarines?! I don’t get it. I’m pretty partial to my king size bed.

  6. almost makes one want to grab some leftover military hardware when they are selling and start living it it.

  7. Back in the 50s my father was a tour guide at this museum. He says he used to nap in one of the U-505 torpedo tubes.

  8. I slept on the USS Cobia during my trip to Wisconsin. I forgot about the low ceiling in the NCOs quarters where I was sleeping on the top bunk and I fetched my head a good whack.

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