Saturday, June 25, 2011

It Came From Beneath The Sea

  The other day, there was a cheesy 50's creature feature involving a radioactive mutant octopus attacking a submarine.  I watched the first ten minutes or so just to see if they got anything right about life on a submarine.  First off, the sub was in the middle of the ocean and it still had its lifeline up.  Life lines are used to keep the crew from falling into the water when walking topside on the sub.  When the sub pulls up along side the pier, the crew erects stanchions in holes along the side of the sub.  A rope is threaded through holes in the stanchions creating a fence of sorts.  Anyway, it is dismantled before we pull away from the pier.
  The reasons to not have the life line up are many.  For one, it could get snagged on things in the water.  Because everyone on board the sub is inside once we've deployed, it is also unnecessary as a safety mechanism. It would create drag in the water.  One of the most important reasons to take it down is that it would create noise in the water.  Being a sonar technician, I know that any irregularities on the surface of the sub can create noise and if we can hear it, the enemy can hear it.
  For another thing, nobody in the crew was wearing coveralls.  Coveralls are worn for the ease of putting them on among other reasons.  During emergencies, we need to be able to dress quickly.  Also, the dialog did not sound military in any way.  There were no repeat backs, which are used to ensure the accuracy of the communication of messages back and forth.
  One of the most fun things about deploying was when we had to test how seaworthy the sub was.  This involved tipping the sub up and down at various angles to see if we would develop any leaks.  It's called "Angles and Dangles".  First thing that happens is everybody secures every item on board the sub.  Anything that can slide, fall, slip or move is tied down, put into a drawer or otherwise kept from being destroyed.  Then the fun begins.  The angles we must take are extreme so people have fun sliding down passageways, especially in the missile compartment where berthing is.  Invariably, someone will have forgotten to secure some item and it will go crashing or sliding into something.  I loved standing in one place and leaning against the tilt like Michael Jackson in the 'Smooth Criminal' video. When I was in that crazy angle, I would air guitar while jamming to my mp3.
  On a sub, the fresh food always runs out after the first few weeks.  After that, it's mostly stuff that's frozen, boxed, canned or bottled.  We get fed four times a day, every six hours.  The fourth meal is called midnight rations or "mid rats".  It usually consists of either leftovers from dinner or something simple for the CS's (Culinary Specialists) to cook like chicken nuggets.  They often put out a bowl of mixed nuts out.  Of course, some asshole always picks out all the Brazil nuts, which are my favorites.
  Another thing, understandably, there's little or no cell phone reception on a sub.  The only exceptions to this are if you're standing near an LET.  On a SSBN or "boomer" sub, there are three LET's, which are the openings through which you board the submarine.  When you're on the sub and near the LET, you can get some cell phone coverage.  Fortunately, the sonar room is right by the Forward LET so I can sometimes get reception in sonar while we're by the pier.
  One more favorite thing of mine on a sub was what they call the "steel beach".  Very rarely, we would surface while we're out in the middle of the ocean.  With special permission from the captain, we might be allowed to go out topside on the sub and look at the ocean with nothing but water as far as the eye can see in all directions.

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