Brace! Brace! Brace!
June 18, 2019 8:58 AM   Subscribe

Youtuber Tom Scott and friends has a go in the Royal Navy's Damage Repair Instructional Unit, also known as the HMS Excellent. While water is pouring in and the unit is listing, they are trying to apply damage control procedures that the Royal Navy would use in a real situation (SLYT).
posted by Harald74 (25 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
Interesting. I don't think it would have occurred to me that on a modern warship they're still just hammering bits of wood into hull breeches.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 9:19 AM on June 18 [6 favorites]

Inexpensive, relatively easy to cut to size, stores well, tough, and expands when soaked in water, I could see why it would still be in use for small holes.
posted by tavella at 9:24 AM on June 18 [8 favorites]

There's an interesting BBC documentary from the 1980s on "The Perisher," the Royal Navy submarine command course.
posted by exogenous at 9:29 AM on June 18 [5 favorites]

I remember the first time I opened up a "damage control kit" bag in the Coast Guard and it was just a big green canvas bag full of wooden wedges and blocks and some hammers.

"Wait, this is really how we...? Oh. Okay, I guess that does make some sense."

I wound up with that particular thought many times in those first couple years. It's a thing I've tried to carry into my sf books. You think everything is supposed to be high-tech and precise and practiced, but that's all advertising hype and fiction. The reality is much of the job is really a matter of improvisation and figuring out how to wedge imperfect tools into an imperfect situation.

And then you get older and you realize that's most jobs.

Thank you for posting this. It's great.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 9:49 AM on June 18 [31 favorites]

Fascinating and frightening - I got claustrophobic and panicky just watching. I remain confident that I made the right decision not to follow in my father's footsteps and join the Navy.
posted by Greg_Ace at 9:56 AM on June 18 [2 favorites]

I did this class many times in the Royal Canadian Navy many years (ok 25 or so) ago. It's quite astonishing how low tech you need to get sometimes.
posted by cirhosis at 10:05 AM on June 18 [3 favorites]

A good damage repair kit includes, along with the wooden wedges, a bag of fast-setting concrete mix of the type usually used to install fence posts, a bunch of other miscellaneous wood, and some plastic sheeting.

Once you have stemmed the worst of the flow with the wedges, you can use these materials to build a box around the damaged area and fill it with concrete. Once set it will completely seal the breach.
posted by automatronic at 10:45 AM on June 18 [7 favorites]

It all seems very WWII. Don't they have some sort of scheme involving glue or expanding foam by now? Maybe insert something narrow into a hole, pull a ripcord, chemicals meet each other (or the water), and the thing expands explosively to fill the hole with super-strong foam.
posted by pracowity at 10:58 AM on June 18 [1 favorite]

It's highly unlikely that any foam would have time to set while it is being blasted by a high powered jet of water. Trying to fancy things up just to *look* more advanced is bad design. Sometimes low tech and usable by all personnel with relatively brief training is what you want in a temporary fix.
posted by tavella at 11:09 AM on June 18 [15 favorites]

tavella, flagged as fantastic.
posted by runincircles at 11:27 AM on June 18

My fuzzy recollection of damage control training during my brief stint in the U.S. Navy is that in our initial response to a massive leak we were encouraged to stuff *anything* into the hole to begin to stem the flow of water. Cloth - rags, unused uniforms, sheets, etc. - were a common example.

If you've never dealt with high pressure water, it's difficult to imagine how hard it is to deal with it. During this kind of training, one of the things we had to look out for was flying debris particularly things that we tried to stuff into the various holes and gashes spewing out (very cold) water. Ruptured pipes were especially challenging to deal with given their shape and the very high pressures they can generate (one of the few things I remember: Don't try to apply a patch directly to the rupture; wrap it around the pipe near the rupture and slide it over the rupture.)

Although it was often terrifying when I placed it into the broader context ("I hope I never have to use this!"), I remember having a lot of fun during my 2-day training. I don't recall the training facility that I attended in Norfolk being able to move or having multiple decks and compartments; it seemed to be a lot more rudimentary. Maybe there are much fancier facilities that are used by people in ratings and billets who really need to know how to do this?

(Somewhat off-topic, this brings to mind one of my favorite pessimistic-but-silly sayings in the U.S. Navy: "Don't worry about the fire; the flooding will put it out!")
posted by ElKevbo at 11:39 AM on June 18 [13 favorites]

A good damage repair kit includes, along with the wooden wedges, a bag of fast-setting concrete mix of the type usually used to install fence posts, a bunch of other miscellaneous wood, and some plastic sheeting.

And, if you can acquire one, a small Dutch child.
posted by Naberius at 11:49 AM on June 18 [20 favorites]

That is an impressive training facility. And scary.
posted by Bee'sWing at 12:11 PM on June 18 [1 favorite]

And, if you can acquire one, a small Dutch child.

For some reason, in my head I heard this in Phill Jupitus' voice...
posted by Greg_Ace at 12:12 PM on June 18 [2 favorites]

I was irritated by the presenters' clownish jocularity till it became obvious that this could be physically unpleasant and frightening and that they were doing their best to make it fun and entertaining. That must have required considerable fortitude.
posted by ckridge at 12:16 PM on June 18 [1 favorite]

Throw in arc flash / electrocution concerns as well as potential for ruptured steam or chemical lines and you have a straight up nightmare fuel situation on top of an already shitty-to-say-the-least situation there.
posted by RolandOfEld at 12:21 PM on June 18 [1 favorite]

The damage control kits I've seen also contain several rolls of duct tape. I suspect that's not so much because duct tape is useful for a high pressure water leak than the fact that it's presence is reassuring in a crisis.
posted by thatwhichfalls at 1:28 PM on June 18 [9 favorites]

The Royal Navy learned a lot of hard lessons about damage control on modern ships at the Battle of Jutland in 1916 and, so I understand, has been obsessive about it ever since. The value of this can be seen from the report into the grounding of the destroyer HMS Nottingham in 2002; although highly critical of the senior command staff for the errors that led to the ship being seriously damaged, the report notes the excellent response of the crew and the value of damage control training - see paragraphs 29-36, 60-65 and the whole of Annex C.

Interestingly, given some of the comments above, one of the recommendations of the report was 'more wood'; it's noted that Nottingham's crew had to urgently obtain and bring aboard extra supplies and ended up using half a kilometre of shoring timber!
posted by Major Clanger at 1:54 PM on June 18 [7 favorites]

"Wait, this is really how we...? Oh. Okay, I guess that does make some sense."

I read a lot of manuals, and I had bookmarked this one way back when I came across it:

Handbook of Damage Control, NAVPERS 16191, 1945, was created near the end of World War II and represents best practices in WW II damage control.
posted by mikelieman at 2:44 PM on June 18 [2 favorites]

Remember the old Heinlein story where the main character plugged a small atmosphere leak in a dome on the Moon with one of his own ass cheeks?

Until now, that wasn't a story I would have said we owed to Heinlein's stint in the Navy.
posted by jamjam at 5:19 PM on June 18 [1 favorite]

I suspect that's not so much because duct tape is useful for a high pressure water leak than the fact that it's presence is reassuring in a crisis.

I could see duct tape working for pipe leaks? Double over the tape to make a non-sticky base, wrap it around the pipe above the leak then wrap layers on top to make a strong sleeve to slide into place. Maybe stick a pencil or something in the sleeve to keep it loose enough to move once you've removed the object, and then tighten it down with more wraps of tape once it is over the leak.

I think there was a mention that rope is useful for pipe leaks, which I could also see.
posted by tavella at 5:39 PM on June 18 [1 favorite]

I'm reminded of stories my dad told from his submarine training days, where they had to do simulator drills in the US Navy's equivalent facility to the Royal Navy's trainer featured in the FPP. While flooding on any seacraft is a bad day, it's especially bad on submarines, because at operating depth, the pressures are that much greater, and any lost buoyancy is going to push the boat deeper, making the pressure even worse.
posted by radwolf76 at 9:35 PM on June 18

My dad was a naval aviator, and more than once confessed to me the most frightened he'd ever been in his career wasn't a night carrier landing, but was rather during damage control training on the USS Buttercup.

It was all well and good to deal with incoming water in a confined space, but it was the setting it all on fire that put it over the top.
posted by higginba at 11:14 PM on June 18 [1 favorite]

So the holes in the hull are permanent? Like there's some sort of slider on the outside that is triggered to uncover it? Also, the cabin was bare except for the built-in furniture, how much more chaotic is it with books and papers and clothing floating around, getting in the way?
posted by TWinbrook8 at 5:41 AM on June 19

I have heard that damage control training for submarines is more for comfort than a skill used in emergency. The draft of a destroyer is just about 10 meters, so the water pressure would be about 3 atmospheres, or almost exactly your typical household water supply. Anyone who's ever had a half-inch supply pipe open up while fixing a toilet or faucet knows how the quantity and force of the water are just bonkers. But a U-Boat could get down to 300 meters, with a pressure of 30 atmospheres. That's a significant fraction of an electric pressure washer, and those have a teeny 1mm nozzle. Imagine the spray from even a 1cm finger-sized hole in the proverbial dike. 500 liters a minute! That would fill a small room in 30 minutes. A fist-size hole would fill that same room in closer to 15 seconds. Scary.
posted by wnissen at 11:28 AM on June 19

« Older “When you're accustomed to privilege, equality...   |   You Built a Time Machine... Out of a DeLorean? Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments