Here you will find the Long Poem The Ballad of the Squalus of poet John Perreault
I ran into an old time sailor, up on Market Street; We had a cup of coffee, his last name was McLees; He fought in the Pacific, on Portsmouth submarines; I asked about the Squalus, this is what he told me. "Squalus was a diesel sub, built at Portsmouth Yard; Gearing up for WWII, our crew was pressing hard; Running her through sea trials, May 23rd, 1939. In a whipping wind we went out again, with 59 men inside." Yes my friend, 59 men, only 33 survived; How many thousands broke their backs just to make this ship a prize? I could tell you of the Stickleback, and how the Thresher died; Two hundred years we built the boats, Portsmouth paid the price; Ah, the Porstmouth Yard; Down at Portsmouth Yard. Just outside the Isles of Shoals, Ollie Naquin in command; I see him now up on the bridge, 'Stand by to dive all hands;' Bow planes swing out from the hull, klaxons wail and whine; Tanks for ballast open up Squalus makes her dive. Battery engines take us down, intake valves are closed Board lights green means everything is steady as she goes; Now this jolt! A yeoman jumps, happens all on a sudden; Rips his earphones off and cries: 'The engine room is flooding!' 'Blow the ballast! Blow the tanks! Blow the bow and turn her!' The bow comes up just a little way, but there's too much weight asternship; She tips back on an angle, tilting ten degrees to forty; Slipping down, she's going down, shorting out the batteries. 'Dog down the doors!' Naquin shouts, and a seaman grabs the bulkhead; 'For God's sake wait!' a sailor cries, and seven men scramble forward; There's water up around our knees, before the bulkhead closes; Twenty-six men on the other side I can still hear their voices. Silence at the bottom of 240 feet of water; Darkness cold and icy calm Naquin gives the order: 'Men, still yourselves, try to rest, save the oxygen; We'll float a marker up to spot us, but for now the wait begins.' 'Listen -- I hear something, like a rumble in a fog; Men take hammers bang the hull, bang like hell by God; They're up there looking for us, I know It in my bones; Those guys will risk their lives to get us out and bring us home.' Searchers grab the orange buoy, now they're dragging grapnel; A diver's boots land on the hatch, they're lowering down the life Bell; 33 men brought up above, after 39 hours of dying: Four months later 25 men towed in for identifying.* September 15 1939 people lined up at the gates; Waiting for those shiny hearses, carrying their mates; Wives and lovers, sons and daughters, standing in the Kittery rain; They've stood out there like this before, and they'll be standing out here again. McLees he sipped his coffee, stared out at the rain; "I don't get out so much today" he said, "this town has really changed; guess I just lost touch of time, 'bout that time to go; Why 26 men, and not 59? That I'll never know. Squalus sat in drydock rebuilt and recommissioned; Engine room they called the tomb, well that's all superstition; They rechristened her the Sailfish, but she's the Squalus in my dreams; Every night I go back down, inside that submarine.