Passing test depth, sir. 10

Passing test depth, sir.

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A shipmate asked the other night about handling demons.

It’s a simple question that anyone who has been in a submerged submarine can understand. Years after you have left the boat, many still have dreams about what they did. The dreams can be so real sometimes. The feel of the boat sharply turning (even when you subconsciously know you are in your bed in the middle of the country). The claustrophobic surroundings of a dimly lit passageway surrounded by stainless steel covered bulkheads. The sound of the four hundred cycle hum and fan noises that suddenly go quiet. Periscope depth on a winter’s night in some remote sea lane surrounded by passing ships. A relief valve that lifts off its seat shouting its high pressure screams for all to hear.

And test depth.

The designed depth where the hull and all of the equipment are supposed to be able to operate with impunity to the dangers of the deep. Somewhere below, the real demon lives. Crush depth. Your training is filled with stories about the few boats that found where that monster waits to hold you in its death grasp. The sounds of the hull creaking and groaning under the pressure can be felt as you get closer to the test depth. The sound as you get closer to crush depth can only be heard in nightmares.

How do you handle the demons?

The answers are many and as diverse as the men and now women who ride submarines.

Some did their tours and went home in one piece. Some did careers and never look back at all. Others have not fared so well. Broken lives, divorces, substance abuse, isolation from others… all are part of a pattern repeated too many times. Maybe someday someone will be able to explain why some carry the demons with them and some bury them at sea.

Fifty years ago, a submarine named Scorpion was lost.

The legends and stories are many but I only think of the men who went with her to her grave. They were brave men who were performing a mission in defense of this country. They were all relatively young, many had families, and all had expectations of coming home. This crew and ship joined the ill-fated Gato Class submarine named Scorpion that was lost with all hands in 1944. They all gave their lives for our country.

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I am sure that for the next few decades after the second Scorpion was lost, many submariners would go to sea and think about the “What if?” She was a sturdy boat with a good crew. I know I did from time to time. It is easy to do when you know that the boat you are riding was the original Scorpion, repurposed to fulfill another mission. Although she was not lost, the boat she became tested her crew more than once in typhoons and a collision.

My demons? I write about them. Sometimes I go out and do presentations to civic groups and others that have a curiosity about the life. Alcohol never seemed to help. Took me a long time to figure that one out. Prayer works too but so many people put barriers between themselves and God, it is not something that should be taken lightly.

The demons we all faced are familiar to many who have never even submerged on a boat: they are the demons that remind us of our fragile and temporary existence. Accepting that truth is a pretty big step in keeping them in their place.

We will all pass through test depth on our way down one last time… until then, try to be a good shipmate and enjoy the ride.

Mister Mac

 

Submarine Documentary 1971 2

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My, how quickly the past 44 years have gone by. This documentary shows a bit about nuclear submarines during the middle of the Cold War.

Description from the You Tube site:

“This outstanding U.S. Navy film from 1971 — “The Submarine Part II: Backgrounds, Characteristics and Missions of Nuclear Powered Submarines” focuses on the nuclear submarines of the 1970s. The film shows how the nuclear attack submarine and the fleet ballistic missile submarines, with their sophisticated technologies and nuclear weapons capability, can provide enormous deterrent power for the United States and its allies. Both SSN nuclear attack submarines and SSBN nuclear missile submarines are shown, including Polaris missile submarines firing the A-3 missile and Poseidon. The film also traces the history of the nuclear submarine in the U.S. Navy starting in the 1950s, including the USS Nautilus and the USS George Washington (see 18 minute mark). The USS Albacore is shown at the 5 minute mark, a boat with a unique hull design that ended up becoming standard for the Navy, including with the USS Skipjack. Some of the submarines featured include the USS Sturgeon, SSN-637, USS Greenling SSN-614, fleet ballistic missile submarines, and more. The Polaris A-1 and Polaris A-2 are also shown, as well as the Polaris A-3.

The SUBROC submarine rocket is shown at the 14 minute mark — predecessor to the submarine-launched Tomahawk cruise missile.

Also shown in this film is the DSRV-1 (27 minute mark) deep submergence rescue vehicle and the Alvin (27:30) miniature submarine and AUTEC 1 and 2, as well as the Dolphin and NR-1 research vehicle.

The Polaris missile was a two-stage Solid-fuel rocket nuclear-armed submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) built during the Cold War by Lockheed Corporation of California for the United States Navy.

It was designed to be used for second strike countervalue (CEP not good enough for first strike counterforce) as part of the Navy’s contribution to the United States arsenal of nuclear weapons, replacing the Regulus cruise missile. Known as a Fleet Ballistic Missile (FBM), the Polaris was first launched from the Cape Canaveral, Florida, missile test base on January 7, 1960.

Following the Polaris Sales Agreement in 1963, Polaris missiles were also carried on British Royal Navy submarines between 1968 and the mid-1990s.

Plans to equip the Italian Navy with the missile ended in the mid-60s, after several successful test launches carried out on board the Italian cruiser Giuseppe Garibaldi. Despite the successful launching tests, the US never provided the missiles, due to political convenience. Instead the Italian Government set to develop an indigenous missile, called Alfa, with a successful program, officially halted by Italian Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty ratification and failure of the NATO Multilateral Force.

The Polaris missile was gradually replaced on 31 of the 41 original SSBNs in the US Navy by the MIRV-capable Poseidon missile beginning in 1972. During the 1980s, these missiles were replaced on twelve of these submarines by the Trident I missile. The ten George Washington- and Ethan Allen-class SSBNs retained Polaris A-3 until 1980 because their missile tubes were not large enough to accommodate Poseidon. With USS Ohio commencing sea trials in 1980, these submarines were disarmed and redesignated as attack submarines to avoid exceeding the SALT II strategic arms treaty limits.

Many new project management techniques were introduced during the development of the Polaris missile program, to deal with the inherent system complexity. This includes the use of the Program Evaluation and Review Technique (PERT). This technique replaced the simpler Gantt chart methodology which was largely employed prior to this program.”