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.)

Saturday, August 27, 2005

How USS Narwhal Rode Out Hugo

With word that two Pascagoula-based frigates sortied in the face of Hurricane Katrina, I'm reminded of the story they told around Charleston about how the boats there survived Hurricane Hugo, especially USS Narwhal (SSN-671). What I heard kind of matches what I found here:

Narwhal sustained minor damage on 22 September 1989 when Hurricane Hugo hit Charleston, South Carolina. The boat was moored with nine double wires and two three-inch ship's lines in preparation for the storm. All but one of the lines parted during the first half of the storm, and the boat drifted into the Cooper River. Tugboats and Narwhal's crew tried unsuccessfully to move the submarine back to the pier before the second half of the storm. As the storm resumed, Narwhal submerged in the river and rode out the remainder of the hurricane with only part of her sail exposed.

From what I understood, all the subs that could got underway, but Narwhal was in the middle of an upkeep and they couldn't get her back together in time. So, when they figured out that the storm was doing so much damage, they basically submerged at the pier and snorkled. If anyone else knows if this is what really happened, please let me know.

Going deep...


Blogger Skippy-san said...

Must have been in a different Navy. Over here in Yokosuka, the Vicnennes stayed in port (as did other ships) for a Typhoon and broke free from here moorings. Blame was affixed on the ships CO ( not on the SOPA which I find odd since he has the decision to sortie or not) and since then at even the first sign of high wind, ships are underway.......

8/28/2005 5:06 AM

Anonymous Ernie said...

In 1975-76 we were on patrol but heading for Groton, we had to stay at 400 feet because the buoy antenna was deployed. We went through a Hurricane. We had 25 degree rolls. During dinner you had to hold on to your plate, even with anti slip pads under them. Had problems getting the food of the plate, trying to get the fork to the food was almost impossible during the rolls.

8/29/2005 4:13 PM

Blogger Bubblehead said...

I remember coming to PD to clear the broadcast in the middle of one typhoon in the Western Pacific. The boat started rolling as soon as we passed 400 feet, and trying to stay at PD was absolutely impossible; we ended up just broaching to get the messages.

8/29/2005 7:42 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I had always thought the Narwhal was in a floating drydock that was flooded down and she remained submerged in the dock. Submerging in the Cooper River would have done nasty things to any seawater systems supplying ASW to air conditoning or RPFW. They'd still be cleaning the mud out of the seawater suctions.

8/30/2005 3:34 PM

Blogger alena said...

Cool Blog, I never really thought about it that way.

I have a Hurricane Katrina blog. It pretty much covers hurricane related stuff.

Thank you - and keep up the thoughts!

10/03/2005 7:12 PM

Blogger John Mulligan said...

I was an officer on the Narwhal who transferred off just three weeks before the hurricane. The reason the ship was still in port and did not sortie with the fleet was that the reactor was shut down and cooled down in preparation for drydocking for an overhaul. The boat was not in condition to go to sea.

4/17/2008 2:06 PM

Blogger Phil&Sandi said...

I was on the Woodrow Wilson in the Charleston shipyard during Hugo. We still had hull cuts and could not go to see so we rode out the storm tied to the pier. The day of the storm we added two brest lines to supplement the steel cables tying us to the pier. The next morning they were the only thing holding us there. The Narwhal was indeed in the middle of the Cooper River with just its sail showing. What we heard was that when she broke loose during the storm, they decided to submerge and sit on the bottom rather than being pushed around at the mercy of the storm. The Andrew Jackson I believe had just been decommissioned and had no one on board but when it broke loose, some shipyard bubbas and some sailors went out during the eye and were able to "corral" it and get it tied up.

5/13/2008 8:31 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was in Charleston as well, attached to the USS Batfish (681). We also had our reactor shut down but we were already on blocks in the dry dock (land based lock) so we were OK. Actually had a blast in the barracks during the 'hurricane party'. We had stolen one of the officer's shipyard bicycles and were daring each other (with a little alcohol induced bravery/stupidity) to ride around the outside of the barracks when the eye wall came across the base.
The Narwhal was indeed in the middle of the river the next morning. They were waiting their turn to go into the drydock for reactor refueling and hull modifications. The Batfish barge was pulled from it's mooring and slammed relentlessly into the pier until it sank. The crew spent months digging through that nasty mess, recovering what we could and destroying whatever confidential trash that remained. I'll never forget the smell. Good times. Aoogah.

9/19/2008 8:29 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was on the Narwhal during Hugo, she did break away from the pier (as did most other piered vessels) due to the storm surge lifting her until we ran out of cable. We sank to the bottom (on purpose)but could not snorkle due to the cooling water ports being so close to the bottom of the hull and would have quickly clogged with mud, so we sat there on battery power with everything off but lighting. The boat was operatingal, but we had gone past our subsafe certifacation due date and could not go out to sea without certain inspections, basically a paperwork issue, the boat was fully operatioal.

3/10/2011 8:06 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I rode Hugo on the Narwhal. You got some bad info. We secured snorkeling and dove in the middle of the Cooper after breaking loose during the storm. Popped up the next morning and a tug took us home. Nothing more.

10/06/2011 6:32 PM

Anonymous david swiney said...

I was On the NarPig. We were preparing to go into drydock for A Mjor overhaul. the reactor was Totally shut down. We had No fuel. After the first half of the storm, during the eye we found that the Only thing holding us to the pier was the aft night rider.A tug was on its way. They tried to push us to the pier, the other side of the storm was on us, the tug left. Our captain came on the 1 mc. He said "we can either ride out the storm And wind up on shore Or we can sink it."He was up for Full bird He said he Might lose it But HE Was NOT Gonna Lose His boat. We sank. The next morning, it took us a few hours, blowing forward mbts and aft mbts, back and forth to get out of the silt. We Did Not Use Anything But BATTERIES that night. Cap got Full Bird early.

2/19/2012 8:34 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was the duty sonarman on board during the storm, I had just fallen asleep to the rockin of the boat ... when Capt. Dan called collision eminent. Ship is under way, topside was calm and clear for a few moments, when the eye past, the windand rain was stinging bad.. Capt then away to rig ship for dive, then DIVE DIVE...AUGHA AUGHA... there we sat for the night. I still have the pic with the sail and farewater planes sticking out of the water.. JR

3/20/2012 6:27 AM

Anonymous olsonsfoodemporium said...

Quite helpful piece of writing, thanks so much for your post.

7/02/2012 6:33 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was the on duty shutdown rover in the engin room when the general alarm sounded. The COB announced the boat was underway and we made ready to drop the anchor, which we did. The diving alarm was sounded and we dove to the bottom. Nothing but the battery for power as the rx had been shut down and cooled and all diesel had been offloaded getting ready for drydock and refuling. We watched the storm through the periscope. The next morning, tugs came out, we did a couple of blows, and back to the pier we came. Capt. was smart guy. Made it a controlled evolution. I have the picture of us submerged on the wall as well. S. Wish

8/19/2012 9:54 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was operating one of the tugs, Christopher Turecamo that came to the assistance Of the USS Narwhal. The other tig was the Barney Turecamo. We got underway just before the end of the eye Of Hurricane Hugo. Our instructions were to first locate the Narwhal, then secure the sub back to her dock. The end of the eye came and the hurricane hit us before locating the Narwhal and we were fighting 140 to 160 mph winds when we located the vessel adrift in the Cooper River not far from her dock. This was not an uneventful task, risking life and vessels we located the Narwhal and stopped her from making way by pinching the Narwhal with a tug on both sides of her bow. With our bows into the wind and checking the way of the sub at the same time, We had also placed one man on the deck of the Narwhal to secure lines from the tugs to the sub. Where communications with the sub were established the officer of in charge of the Narwhal informed the the tug Captains of his intent to submerge. If he had done so at that time he would have contributed to the drowning of the deckhand that was placed on his vessel and possibly damaged all of the vessels now involved. After some intense discussion the tugs personal was retrieved, lines released and the tugs backed away with 140 mph sustained winds and gust of up to 190mph. With the sub now safely sitting on the bottom the tugs had to fight for survival to find safe refuge from the monster that was upon them. This was a very dramatic event and every one was fortunate that no damage or injury occurred. Thank you, Capt Barry Flaherty

1/10/2013 12:47 PM


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