Can You Escape From Pittsburgh’s USS Requin? New Adventure Tests Visitors

The Carnegie Science Center exhibit, which will return in the spring, brings the submarine's history alive with war artifacts and Pittsburgh-themed clues.
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If you’re a fan of puzzles, war history and submarines, you just might enjoy the newest escape room at the USS Requin, a Cold War-era submarine that’s been moored in the Ohio River for 33 years. While the Carnegie Science Center experience is immersive, don’t worry — the sub is no longer fully functional so it always remains above the water’s surface.

The goal of the escape room is to make it through the various compartments on the 311-foot-long vessel, solving clues and puzzles that allow you to open locked doors along the way. 

“We have things broken into zones,” says Katie Schulze, assistant manager of the USS Requin. “Part of the puzzle is to move to the next room.”

“We’ve learned how to make it pretty clear what’s a puzzle and what isn’t a puzzle,” says the the sub’s manager, Maria Renzelli. “There is always a traveling companion going through with a group as well.”   

1452108 10152061170023291 344717652 N 10152061170023291You begin in the Forward Torpedo Room, which used to hold up to 18 torpedoes, perhaps one of the biggest weighing 3,000 pounds. You’ll find the mess decks, where the crew used to eat meals and spend free time. Continue unlocking doors, and you’ll find your way into the engine room, where temperatures used to peak at 132 degrees Fahrenheit, and the crew would hang their clothes out to dry.

“We take these chains off and you can go into the compartments, which you can’t do on a regular basis,” says Schulze.

“Escape USS Requin: Pittsburgh Legends” is currently sold out through the end of October, when the sub closes for the winter because of the cold weather. The experience, however, will return in the spring. Because of the sub’s cramped quarters, groups of four to six go through the hourlong experience together. Cost is $175 for groups who are members of the museum; $200 for groups of nonmembers.          

The escape room was the brainchild of Renzelli,  who wanted to bring  new perspective and fun to an exhibit that’s been docked longer here in Pittsburgh than the sub was in service. It was permanently loaned to the Science Center by the Navy.

Development of the escape room “never really got off the ground until about two years ago, when luckily Katie came on board and she had escape room experience,” says Renzelli. “We’re really excited to be bringing a fresh look at the submarine.”

The escape room also is a uniquely Pittsburgh experience. And as far as they know, the USS Requin hosts the only escape room on a historical vessel. “We’ve tied in a lot of yinzers and Pittsburgh staples and landmarks and things like that,” says Schulze.

Renzelli adds, “but everything is still somehow related to some aspects of submarine life or equipment.”    

Children must be 13 or older and accompanied by an adult. If they are frightened by the sub’s interior, the team created a wholesome solution by placing rubber duckies randomly throughout the vessel for children to look for.

It’s “a little scavenger hunt to slow them down,” says Schulze. “And then of course the adults come through and they’re like, ‘How many ducks are there? I want to find them all.’”

General tours of the submarine are still available. The 20-minute tours, which are included with general admission to the museum, are self-guided and require full mobility. Timed tickets are required and can be obtained on the day of your visit at the Requin Gateway on the ground floor.

The USS Requin is a fascinating place. Ham radio operators have talked to all 50 states and 142 countries using the ship’s technology. The sub is also a research trove, full to the brim with artifacts from the past. And just recently, a couple even snapped their wedding photos on the vessel.

The sub was commissioned at the end of World War II. “It was literally on its way to Guam in August of ’45 when they got word on the radio the war was over.” Renzelli says.

After the war, the sub traveled the globe and patrolled the East Coast in search of Soviet subs, helped train South American navies and was bound for Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis. It held crews of up to 90 men, staying out to sea for 75 days at a time. It was decommissioned in 1968, became a training submarine and later a museum in Tampa, Florida. It arrived in Pittsburgh in 1990, a year before the science center opened, and typically draws 200,000 visitors a year.

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