Peril in the deep
May 17, 2005 7:44 PM   Subscribe

Adrift 500 Feet Down, a Minute Was an Eternity. A chain of error brings the U.S. Navy close to its own Kursk tragedy.
posted by stonerose (21 comments total)
posted by AlexReynolds at 7:54 PM on May 17, 2005


My father was in the Navy for almost thirty years before he retired. I didn't find out until after he got out that he had wanted to be a submariner earlier in his career.
One of my best friends was a 'sewerpipe sailor' on an old diesel boat. They called them sewerpipes because of all the b.o. that accumulated along with the diesel fumes and unwashed bodies that water rationing required on those older boats. He said that one time when they came into port some officer wanted to come aboard and congratulate them for a mission well done and as soon as the hatch opened to admit him he passed out from the smell . . .

Just a damn shame about the whole business of what happened with the crash. . .
posted by mk1gti at 8:11 PM on May 17, 2005

Summary Report from another Submariner.

In a Galaxy Far Far Away.... I was to be a Sonar Technician aboard Fast Attacks.

Things didn't turn out quite the way I'd planned.

I have always had a fascination with the machines and the men that make the choice to travel underneath the sea. I wanted to join that secretive and honorable society... dangerous as it is.

U.S.S Scorpion
U.S.S Thresher
H.M.C.S Chicotomi
U.S.S. San Francisco

The sea is harsh, and is unforgiving. Heroes are forged in the deep.

All the men of all the crews of every submarine to ever take sail, in times of war or peace, are made of such impressive mettle.

The men of the San Francisco are truly fortunate.
posted by PROD_TPSL at 8:28 PM on May 17, 2005

My apologies.....that should be H.M.C.S Chicoutimi.
posted by PROD_TPSL at 8:33 PM on May 17, 2005

wow. can't believe I didn't hear about it yet.
thanks for the information.
posted by Busithoth at 8:55 PM on May 17, 2005

One crewman was killed, 98 others were injured, and the captain and three other officers were relieved of their duties as a result of the Jan. 8 crash, one of the worst involving an American submarine since the 1960's.

Uh, except for the one 4 years ago in which nine people died, right?
posted by euphorb at 9:03 PM on May 17, 2005

We have lost I.N.T.E.L.L.I.G.E.N.C.E.... Repeat, we have no I.N.T.E.L.L.I.G.E.N.C.E.

'Merica! Fuck Yeah!
posted by blasdelf at 10:10 PM on May 17, 2005

The sea is harsh, and is unforgiving. Heroes are forged in the deep.

ROFL! you always talk like that, or did you just finish narrating a shipwreck documentary for PBS?
posted by quonsar at 2:52 AM on May 18, 2005

PROD_TPSL, to that list you could add USS Chopper.
posted by alumshubby at 3:48 AM on May 18, 2005

"Luckily, the thick inner hull protecting the nuclear reactor and the crew's quarters held"

"Petty Officer Ashley, 24, an unabashed country boy who loved motorcycles, Jeeps and the boat's diesel engine, which he cared for"

Nuclear diesel?
posted by I EAT TAPES at 6:32 AM on May 18, 2005

posted by I EAT TAPES at 6:44 AM on May 18, 2005

It hasn't been updated in 5 years, but here is a chronology of US peacetime submarine accidents.

I was a submariner for 6 years and my borther was on the Baton Rouge when the "incident" happened.

The closest I ever got to anything interesting was discovering a small uncharted "anomaly" which, fortunatley, wasn't as large as what the SF hit.
posted by Dillenger69 at 8:39 AM on May 18, 2005

Why don't people use something that will explode in water, such as sodium metal, rather then something that will explode in air, like diesel fule, for powering subs?
posted by delmoi at 8:49 AM on May 18, 2005

I bet that would be even more expensive than nuclear power, delmoi. For sure it would be dirtier: You'd wind up with a lot of sodium hydroxide, which is lye, basically.

Interestingly (or maybe not), the Soviets had a submarine which used liquid sodium as a reactor coolant.
posted by alumshubby at 10:42 AM on May 18, 2005

Maybe to clarify: The nuclear reactor produces steam, which provides the main propulsion of the sub. The Diesel Generators are used to provide back-up electrical power when near the surface, while the main source of back-up power is a very large battery. These are used to power electric motors when the steam plant is down.

As far as using liquid sodium, the U.S. tried it once too (U.S.S. Triton). It was decided that the nuclear properties of water in the Pressurized Water Reactor were worth the lower heat-capacity, the fact that sodium would become much more activated (contaminated) than the water, and the above-mentioned water/sodium combustion.

(Not a submariner, but I did train them for 3 years.)
posted by jawbreaker at 11:07 AM on May 18, 2005

Interestingly (or maybe not), the Soviets had a submarine which used liquid sodium as a reactor coolant.

That was the Alfa, the fastest submarine ever built. Something like 43 knots, top speed.
posted by BobFrapples at 11:18 AM on May 18, 2005

delmoi, the germans experimented with perhydrol in WWII which would have a similar energy to weight ratio to sodium metal (I'd think). Diesel gets you a lot more bang for your kilo.
posted by BrotherCaine at 11:27 AM on May 18, 2005

jawbreaker: Do you know if liquid sodium was more corrosive in the closed loop than pressurized water? I've always wondered about that.
posted by alumshubby at 11:40 AM on May 18, 2005

Honestly, I don't know if the liquid sodium coolant was more corrosive than water. We were taught that other types of plants operate differently than our PWR's (ie: graphite moderation, boiling water reactors, etc..), but they were not explored in detail. Given that most of the corrosion controls used in PWR plants are in regards to Oxygen control, it makes sense that minimal corrosion would be another benefit to the sodium, but I don't know enough about that for an informed answer.

As a correction, The U.S.S. Triton was the only US boat built with 2 reactors. The U.S.S. Seawolf (SSN-575 I think) was the liquid sodium plant. It was replaced with a PWR design after a couple years.
posted by jawbreaker at 11:59 AM on May 18, 2005

well, I've been turned on to some awesome links, and now I remember the story. (rather large picture of smashed bow)
For some reason I was reading Jan as May, thinking this whole thing happened just this month.
posted by Busithoth at 12:54 AM on May 19, 2005

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