Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Diving deep ....

It takes a special type of person to make submariner, space is very confined, the hull is surrounded by a hostile element and the atmosphere inside the hull not much better. Modern submarines can dive to depths in excess of 900 feet and crews are trained to escape, in emergency, from depths of 600 feet. With crews of over a hundred men these "boats" are capable of spending three months or more submerged on patrol and, as recent events have shown, are very hard to detect.

This picture was taken of the helm position on a preserved submarine and the similarity to an aircrafts control column is evident. The helmsman or "Coxswain" controls both the direction - port or starboard, and the "altitude" of the boat. While this Control Room is now obsolete, modern "boats" are very similar, although frequently a lot more spacious. HMS Ocelot was diesel/electric, though her diesels did not connect directly to her propellors but served only to drive the massive generators that kept her battery banks charged. Using a snorkel she could run silently submerged while charging her batteries.

Cramped as they are, these boats don't have room for luxury and carried only enough water for drinking and essential use. The atmosphere got pretty rank as clothes and bodies went unwashed for the duration of a patrol. Modern submariners have it a little better and more comfortably, even though it is still a little Spartan by civilian standards. This can be seen in the picture alongside of the Petty Officers Mess.

One more point, submarines are always refered to as "boats" and not as ships. This is historic and goes back to their original classification as "submersible boats".

Perhaps the old Admiral who declared submarines "Underhand, under water and damned un-British" had a point. But I would also have to admit that if I were selecting astronauts for a prolonged spaceflight - I would select submariners!


  1. We were always told that sub's were called boats because ships don't sink

  2. Probably the origin of the classification then!