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  • Submariners

    “We Are Submarine Sailors” by Mike Hemming

    "We are not the first of them and we will not be the last. Our heritage runs back to the first submarine. This heritage line continues forward into an unseen future. Each generation is trained by the one before. This will remain so until there is no more use for submarines, which will be never.

    If one of us goes aboard a new or old submarine, we are comfortable with the men there. For they are us and we are them. Stand us in a line in all our dress uniforms or naked in our coffins, we are the same. We are and forever will be submarine sailors. We are one.
    We can have everything taken from us, uniforms, medals, our sanity and our lives, but we will always be recognized by others and ourselves as a submariner. This status cannot be removed from us. Our Dolphins worn on our chests then, hung on our walls now, or later pinned on moldering uniforms in our graves mark us forever. We are first, last, and always men that stepped forward and worked long and hard to become what we are. We are unique among sailors for we sail down deep into dark and always dangerous waters. We do this not with foolhardy go-to-hell bravery, but with cool calculation and care. We challenge the dangers with training and practice. We know that the time for bravery will come when two shipmates close themselves in a flooding compartment, knowing that the whole boat and crew depends on them to control the flooding.

    We believe in each other, because we must. Alone at sea, the crew and a pressure hull are all we have to reach the surface again. Men with confidence in each other dive and surface submarines countless times. Each man trained by others holds the lives of those shipmates in his hands.

    Dolphins are the symbol of this tradition. Submarine hulls have numbers and men have hearts and souls. We carry those numbers in our hearts in life, and they mark our souls in death. Silver or Gold, Dolphins are the symbol of this.

    To us Dolphins are it, no other symbol matters or means anything as important as they do. "

    Take care Joop
    Dutch Submarine Hr.Ms.Potvis from the Royal Netherlands Navy 1965-1992
    (3-cylinder hull class)
    There are more airplanes at the bottom of the ocean than there are submarines in the sky;

  • #2
    Truly a Submarine Reality Story

    Because we are surrounded by it, I guess we take for granted how truly awful a submarine is. Not that I'd trade it for another specialty (except aviation, those clowns have it good) but when you think about it, we put up with a lot of shit. Who lives, literally, only feet from equipment that would kill you and everyone else on board?

    Torpedoes...a few dozen of these packed in and some of the crew sleeps amongst them. Don't mind the warhead that can split a ship in half, but the fuel, if ignited, makes hydrogen cyanide as a by-product.

    Battery...essentially a giant car battery. Makes hydrogen as a by-product, and if mixed with salt-water generates chlorine gas. Stores enough energy that if released all at once could lift the ship (all 7000 tons of it) one mile into the air. Good stuff.

    Oxygen generator...makes oxygen (and hydrogen) by passing high! voltages through water. Ingenious. Lets put a few thousand volts next to pure oxygen and hydrogen. Lovingly referred to as "the bomb."

    Nuclear reactor...aka "the Magic Hot Rock." Probably the safest nuclear power plant in the world, operated by any agency, civilian or military, foreign or domestic. But you still have several million curies of radioactive material stored in there. Also, the associated steam plant, if released to the confines of the engine room, could boil everyone in it alive.

    The 688 class submarine was built first and foremost to fight Russians during the cold war. Crew comfort was a secondary thought. 150 men (average age 24, maybe only 3 onboard over the age of 40) live in a steel can 300' by 30'. There isn't enough bunk space, so a portion of the crew "hot racks," i.e. three men are assigned to two racks. When he a hot-racker gets off watch, he should have a rack open, still warm and smelly from the last guy.

    There are! less than a half dozen showers onboard. Small, stainless steel close ts. Water is conserved, so you get wet, so you only turn it on to get wet and rinse off. No standing under the shower head to wake up in the morning. Food is cooked in a galley smaller than most public bathrooms you've been in. The crew's mess is the only place for the's a mess hall, a lecture hall, and occasionally, a movie theater. Trash is compacted into steel cans, 50 lbs ea. Seven are loaded into a tube (the trash disposal unit, or TDU) and jettisoned when the water is deep enough (don't worry, it's deeper than YOU can swim). Human waste is stored in sanitary tanks (san tanks) and is pumped or blown over the side when far enough from land.

    It takes a special bunch of guys to volunteer for this kind of duty, and even then any psychologist would be entertained by the antics of these young men while underway...their strange ability to remain sane despite conditions we don't subject hardened criminals to.

    Lets get to the meat of the story...
    The name shave been changed to protect my ass from reprisal.

    So there we were off the coast of Oahu. I was sleeping the sleep of the man happy to be in his bunk. Senior enough that I didn't have to hot rack...but also a "rider." I didn't belong to this crew, I was riding as a favor to my Captain so I could work on qualifications (my ship wasn't going anywhere for a while, and I had deadlines to meet).

    I was awakened to the cries of "It's flooding the whole galley!" Flooding is one of those key words on a submarine that gets EVERYONES attention. For a ship that makes it's living going under the water, we like to make sure we can get up again. But the smell affronting me was wrong, not sea water, but worse. Human waste. It seems the Auxilliaryman of the Watch, when ordered to line up to blow sanitaries overboard, line up wrong. When the #1 san tank was pressurized, it flowed not to sea, but into san 2. San 2 wasn't lined up for this, so the shit ! went the only place it could. A tornado of offal was reported to have b lown out the garbage grinder (think trash disposal, but bigger) in the galley. It filled up the galley, ran over the door jambs and flowed into the crew's mess. It came up the deck drains in the wardroom pantry and athwartship passage way and flowed into the dry storeroom (where bread, pasta and the like are stored). It blasted up the deck drain in the lower level shower. The doc was in there at the time and was coated from his waist down in the processed meals of his shipmates.

    After flowing about the galley and crew's mess it ran down the outboards (the frames of the ship) into the Auxiliary Machinery Room. The AMR is where we keep the atmosphere handling gear, refrigeration, and the diesel generator. It managed to leak from the pantry into 21 man berthing and filled up some poor guy's rack (he wasn't in there at the time). He lost everything in his rack...his clothes, his laptop, books and magazines. It flowed into the aux tank, where we keep canned good! s, fruits and vegetables.

    The ship came to periscope depth, and lined up to ventilate, the air was thick, the smell inhuman. Or more accurately, all too human. An estimated 500 gallons of human waste was blown into the ship.

    Think of where you work. What would your company do if the sewer backed up 500 gallons of waste into your workplace? Shut down, call in the professionals? Well, we are the professionals, and where are we gonna go? This is our workplace and our home. We started cleaning up immediately.

    Now, we stand 6 hour watches. Offgoing guys had to cleanup. On hands and knees scooping up the mess, bagging it and shuttling it off to the heads to put it back in the san tanks and anything that can't be cleaned loaded into the TDU. For the next 18 hours, offgoing watches had to grab rubber gloves, paper towels, Simple Green and Orange Muscle and "get down with the brown." Now you need to realize, the galley and crew's mess is contaminate! d. We can't use it to make meals. The only messing space not contami nated is the officer's wardroom. The whole crew had to cycle through the wardroom (only 10 seats) for the next three meals. And what meals they were.

    Breakfast...Graham crackers and cereal (with milk).
    Lunch...Graham crackers, cereal (with milk) and PB&J sandwiches.
    Dinner...Graham crackers, cereal (with milk), PB&J sandwiches, and soup.


    For 18 hours the crew cleaned up shit, ventilated and shot trash from the TDU. The contaminated mattress was too large to shoot, so it was bagged up and put in the freezer for disposal later. The doc ran out of wiscodyne (disinfectant), but only after giving the galley and crew's mess a clean bill of health. We ran out of paper towels and "cleaning juice." Over $10,000 worth of food was contaminated and had to be jettisoned. Spaghetti, bread, canned food, vegetables, fruit...all shot from the TDU. Weeks later, the crew was still finding little pockets of poop in the AMR on weekly field days (al! l hands deep cleanup of the ship). The smell lasted longer.

    Ah, the call of the sea!

    Avast, Matey!
    Dutch Submarine Hr.Ms.Potvis from the Royal Netherlands Navy 1965-1992
    (3-cylinder hull class)
    There are more airplanes at the bottom of the ocean than there are submarines in the sky;


    • #3
      "The Trade"
      Rudyard Kipling

      THEY bear, in place of classic names,
      Letters and numbers on their skin.
      They play their grisly blindfold games
      In little boxes made of tin.
      Sometimes they stalk the Zeppelin,
      Sometimes they learn where mines are laid
      Or where the Baltic ice is thin.
      That is the custom of "The Trade."

      Few prize-courts sit upon their claims.
      They seldom tow their targets in.
      They follow certain secret aims
      Down under, far from strife or din.
      When they are ready to begin
      No flag is flown, no fuss is made
      More than the shearing of a pin.
      That is the custom of "The Trade."

      The Scout's quadruple funnel flames
      A mark from Sweden to the Swin,
      The Cruiser's thundrous screw proclaims
      Her comings out and goings in:
      But only whiffs of paraffin
      Or creamy rings that fizz and fade
      Show where the one-eyed Death has been.
      That is the custom of "The Trade."

      Their feats, their fortunes and their fames
      Are hidden from their nearest kin;
      No eager public backs or blames,
      No journal prints the yarns they spin
      (The Censor would not let it in!)
      When they return from run or raid.
      Unheard they work, unseen they win.
      That is the custom of "The Trade."