Keeping the blogosphere posted on the goings on of the world of submarines since late 2004... and mocking and belittling general foolishness wherever it may be found. Idaho's first and foremost submarine blog. (If you don't like something on this blog, please E-mail me; don't call me at home.)

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

USS Virginia Commissioned

USS Virginia (SSN 774) was commissioned on Saturday. The almost six year gap since the commissioning of USS Connecticut (SSN 22) in December 1998 is by far the longest between submarine commissionings in the Submarine Force's history. The next commissioning will take place most likely early next year when the Jimmy Carter (SSN 23) formally enters the service. The Carter was placed in service earlier this month; historically, a submarine's initial sea trials occur fairly soon after the ship is placed "in service", so expect to see that news soon.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Parche Decommissioned

It seems ridiculous, but except for an article in The New Londay Day (which requires a free registration to see articles more than two days old), I can't find anything on the 'Net talking about the decommissioning of the last Sturgeon class submarine, USS Parche (SSN 683). This happened on Tuesday (see third article down in link) and marks the end of an era. I won't discuss that much about all the alleged exploits of the Parche, other than to say that the men who went to sea in her will always have my respect.

Update: Here's a more permanent link.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Chicoutimi "Conspiracy Theory"?

Well, it's finally happened. This article from The Toronto Star is the first attempt I've seen to try to show some big "cause and effect" linking a bunch of what really appear to be unrelated events to the deadly fire. Of special interest is the seeming slant of the article to blame the electrical ground that preceded the fire on seawater that entered the sub through the open bridge hatch earlier in the day. I can't say for sure, because I've never been on this class of submarine, but I would assume the electrical panel have "spray-tight panel covers" (in link, see last sentence of para. 320- that would keep water out under most any circumstance other that full immersion. From my perspective thousands of miles away, it seems that the force of the explosion that led to the fire was mostly likely due to a really hard zero ohm ground; seawater spray would probably not cause this. I still think they'll eventually determine that a bus bar had come loose.
One sentence from the article really jumped out at me. Near the bottom, and with no previous mention or attempt at justification, they say:

There is much speculation that the salt water that entered the Chicoutimi may have affected the batteries of the diesel-electric submarine.

Although they immediately have someone from the Navy deny this happened, I'm wondering what the reason could be for putting it in, other that to try to make the fire appear much more ominous than it was. When enough seawater gets in a submarine battery, you end up with the problem of chlorine gas generation. (This was one of the theories behind the death of the crew of the Chinese submarine [Ming Hull 361] last year.)

Going deep...

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Chicoutimi Update

Not much today; this article from has an expert who seems to agree with my thought below, that a loose bus bar (he says "wiring" in the article) was the most likely cause for the electrical fire.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Two Fires on Chicoutimi?

According to this article from The Scotsman, there were actually two fires on HMCS Chicoutimi; a major electrical fire near the Captain's stateroom, and another smaller fire near the oxygen generator. My experience has always been that any fire near the oxygen generator would be enough to make me soil my poopy suit (scroll down to "p" in the linked article); the thing isn't generally referred to as "The Bomb" for nothing. (Although the oxygen is bad enough, an oxygen generator works be electrolysis of water, so hydrogen gas is a by-product of the process...)

Update: Check out this story from the Toronto Star, detailing the amazing rescue of a Canadian submariner by a Brit diver while they were hooking up the tow rope.

New Update: This article in the Globe and Mail has the best report I've seen to date of the timeline of the casualty. (Not sure how long it will last before it requires a subscription to see.) It appears the 2nd fire didn't start until several hours after the initial fire was out, and was in a portable "oxygen generator". Also, it looks like the initial fire was due to a really bad electrical ground... possibly some electrical bus bar that hadn't been tightened carefully came loose due to the rocking of the ship as it traveled through the waves...

Before the dive could take place, there were lengthy checklists to complete. In the control room, Captain Luc Pelletier navigated the vessel into its allocated water, the submarine equivalent of air-traffic control. In the motor room, an instrument-filled chamber in the stern that houses the sub's twin electric motors, one of the crew noticed a warning light flashing. It was a ground fault, not an urgent concern, but it had to be resolved before the 57 men could head under water. It was 10:30 a.m. The dive was scheduled for 4 p.m.
"We were chatting in the mess, and I started hearing a loud noise -- a popping sound, like popping popcorn," MS Speirs said yesterday from his hotel room in Glasgow. He and his shipmates, back on land after their deadly five-day ordeal of fire, smoke, water and waves, spoke to reporters for the first time from the hotel in Glasgow where they are recuperating and awaiting an inquiry into the British-built subs.
"I looked at the other guys and said, 'What is that?' A second after that, an alarm went off and they said there's a fire in the commanding officer's room. And then I saw a guy running through, and there were sparks coming after him the size of golf balls."
Not far behind that panicked man was a rolling wave of thick, black smoke that rose to his knees, then his waist, and within seconds had engulfed the entire deck.

Going deep...

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Chicoutimi Back in Port

HMCS Chicoutimi made it to port, according to this CTV article. That's good news for all concerned.

Update 12Oct: This article from the New Zealand Herald has a description of the fire. Submariners practice fighting fires with "vision-impairment" (normally, black nylons or fast-food style green hairnets) because of the possibility that smoke could rapidly fill the compartment. The fire must have happened while the boat was surfaced (which I suppose is normal for a diesel boat making a long transit), since it mentions fighting 30 degree rolls while fighting the fire.

Saturday, October 09, 2004

American Tug Towing HMCS Chicoutimi

This article from indicates that the Carolyn Chouest, an American support vessel, has taken over the tow of the Chicoutimi, which means that they'll arrive in Faslane, Scotland, as early as Sunday. The Carolyn Chouest is the support vessel for the American submarine NR-1, the small nuclear-powered research submarine stationed at Submarine Base New London in Groton, Connecticut. As a result, she's the most experienced ship in the world at towing submarines through open ocean water. If Carolyn Chouest wasn't out to sea when the fire occurred, she must have gotten underway right after the fire to render assistance. BZ to the skilled (mostly civilian) crew of the Carolyn Chouest, and hopefully the remainder of the transit will go off without further incident.

New Nobel Laureate Turns Out to Be Loony

This article from the Australian Broadcasting Company on the new Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Wangari Maathai, is sad. She has apparently done a lot of good work on reducing deforestation in Africa, but she apparently also believes that HIV was created in the laboratory for the purpose of "mass extermination". According to Snopes, this conspiracy theory has gained a following among a number of tin-foil hatters. Since the first AIDS case was found before 1960, I guess those scientists back then were ahead of their time in genetic manipulation to create new diseases \sarcasm off\.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Chicoutimi Update

This article from discusses the difficulties involved in getting a tow line over to the stricken sub. I'm not exactly sure how the tow line works on the Upholder class, but I assume they hook on to the cleats on deck. The danger of this method, of course, is that going on deck in heavy seas is inherently dangerous. Some subs have a connection for a tow line built into the sail, which eliminates this danger. I'm still surprised at the "worsening" condition of one of the smoke inhalation casualties who was evacuated yesterday. I'm wondering the personnel transfer didn't go horribly wrong, and we'll get more information later. Until then, we can only pray for the safety of the remainder of the crew.

Update: According to this article, she's now under tow and heading towards port at about 3 knots... should be in port on Sunday.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Rough Seas Hamper Rescue

This article in The Scotsman has some in-depth guesses about the potential cause of the fire. One thing they mention that I hadn't considered was "drill errors"; in this case, it means errors while conducting casualty exercises for training (as opposed to making a hole in the side of an electrical switchboard with an electric drill, although I suppose that could give a similar result). One thing that surprises me is that they haven't been able to restore at least part of the electric plant yet. If I were designing a submarine, I think I would like to include some redundancy, and maybe some electrical disconnects that could isolate the undamaged portion of the electrical plant in the event of a fire...

Update: From CNN, three injured crewmembers evacuated by helicopter.

New Update: CBC reports one Sailor from the submarine died. It doesn't say if the injuries may have been exacerbated by the personnel transfer; however, they are risky even in the best of circumstances. My thoughts are with this brave submariner's family and crewmates. Sailor, rest your oar...

Going deep...

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Another Update on HMCS Chicoutimi Fire

CNN has a fairly decent article providing updates on the Canadian submarine fire. As I had guessed below, it looks like it was an electrical fire that will keep them from running the diesels. This article raises the number of injured to nine; hopefully, no one was injured too badly. And, as expected, the opponents of submarines are out in force explaining how they are too dangerous/expensive to operate.

In other submarine news, there is an article on Foster's Online about the politics involved in submarine shipyard work. The article is fairly self-explanatory (I think the "private shipyard" they're referring to is Electric Boat in Groton, CT), but it does have one glaring mistake. The opening sentence talks about refueling the submarine; however, the Hartford is not due for refueling for several years. The article says later that the contract in question is for a DMP (Depot Modernization Period) as opposed to an ERO (Engineered Refueling Overhaul). Conclusion: The reporter got confused from all the acronyms being thrown around, and the editor didn't know enough about the subject either...

Going deep....

Update: Here's an article from the BBC, which includes a map. This is a nasty area in the autumn to try to do any personnel transfers in...

Update on Canadian Sub Fire

This article from seems to have the most up-to-date information. It confirms that the fire came from an electrical panel, and says "several" crew members were treated for smoke inhalation. It also says that they'll have to deal with 20 foot waves tonight while waiting for a tow... should be a tough night for the crew. (For the uninitiated, since submarines don't have keels, they tend to roll quite a bit in the waves if you're on the surface; can be quite tough on those with "delicate constitutions", i.e. those who get seasick easily...)
This is becoming a big story; CNN even posted an article. Also, those lovable loonies at the Democratic Underground have a discussion thread on the fire. I admit I'm a little disappointed with this discussion, though; most of them seem somewhat reasonable, and no one suggests that Karl Rove caused the fire in order to deflect attention from the VP debate tonight, as they normally do whenever anything happens. For those who haven't visited the Democratic Underground before, it's quite instructive as far as what can happen if you don't follow the doctor's prescribed dosages... The best analogy (simile?) I have heard for them is that they are like the inmates at an insane asylum, staring out through the bars of their cells, wondering why everyone doesn't think like they do. Now before you just think that I only make fun of liberal loonies, have no fear. I also monitor The Free Republic, and will discuss any idiocies I see there from the right...

Going deep...

Fire on Canadian Submarine

This article from CBC News indicates that a fire onboard HMCS Chicoutimi is out, but the submarine needs a tug to return to port. As I discussed below, this sub is the ex-HMS Upholder, which was transferred to Canada this weekend. Since they need a tug even though the fire is out, my uneducated guess is that it was some sort of electrical-related fire having to do with the propulsion complex... or, it could have been a lube oil fire. For now, I just hope that everyone aboard is safe. More as I hear about it.
Staying at PD...

Update: Here's an article from the National Post. Luckily, it looks like no one's hurt seriously. Recent articles say they're "dead in the water" but still have some electrical power; unsure if they're snorkling or not, so they may just be on battery power. Will continue to monitor...

Monday, October 04, 2004

Funny Anti-matter "Weapon" Story

Those hilarious guys at the San Francisco Chronicle are at it again! This article, on the possibility of anti-matter weapons, is quite funny; it attempts to make it seem that the Air Force is trying to ban discussion of anti-matter weapons, particularly after some Air Force guy (no rank given, so may be a civilian) "spilled the beans" over the possibility of positron weapons. The writer of the article, Keay Davidson, does a pretty good job handling the science, but gets confused around the fourteenth paragraph and says: "When large numbers of positrons and antielectrons collide, the primary product is an invisible but extremely dangerous burst of gamma radiation." (Actually, I just noticed he made a similar mistake two paragraphs earlier as well.) The mistake, of course, is that positrons and antielectrons are the same thing, as Davidson himself says earlier. I can understand, though, how a poor science writer for a major newspaper would have problems with this sort of thing. (Disclaimer: Yes, I realize how big of a geek I am for bringing up this discrepancy.) My generalization from this is that it seems to me that the more liberal the paper, the less they are likely to have someone who actually understands real science. Do I have any data to back this up? No, but if you'd like, I can find lots of unverified anecdotes...
Another main problem with the story, other than of course its attempt to imply some great conspiracy, is the continuing misunderstanding by the media on the differences between radiation and radioactive contamination. I don't have time to go into this as much as I'd like (MXC is coming on, and I have to write an essay for Frank J.) but trust me, lots of high-energy gammas going around willie-nillie are NOT going to leave the area free of radioactive contamination.... (look up "capture gammas" if you disbelieve me for right now...) [On edit: I just looked at that search, and it's pretty boring; basically, if gammas are introduced into the presence of some elements, it is possible for them to become radioactive. Also, I realized I forgot to mention the main problem with the story -- it does not make any sense! We don't have any way to store anti-matter! Probably won't for centuries! Or at least until we get a Grand Unified Theory! Star Trek isn't real!)

Going deep....

Edited to correct misspellings.

Friday, October 01, 2004

Canada Commissions "New" Submarine

The last of the four Victoria-class submarines will be accepted into the Canadian Navy this weekend. HMCS Chicoutimi is the last of the four Royal Navy Upholder-class boats to be transferred from Great Britain to Canada for return to active service. These boats are a definite upgrade from the Oberon-class boats the Canadian Navy had used up through 2000. The thing that saddens me about this deal was that the original name of HMCS Victoria was HMS Unseen, which has to be the coolest submarine name I've ever heard...
Going deep...