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.)

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Two Potentially Contaminated Engineers

So there I was... underway on USS Seawolf (SSN 21) sometime in late '97. I was the Eng on PCU Connecticut (SSN 22), and they sent me out to watch Seawolf's ORSE work-up so I'd have more experience seeing what a Seawolf could do at sea. I knew what a pain in the ass it is to have riders from other boats onboard, so I tried to make myself as inconspicuous as possible and just followed their Eng around. We were getting ready to run the second drill set of the day, and the Eng got called up to the forward part of the Engine Room to check out some water they found on one of the valves up by the RC bulkhead. I went with him, and sure enough, there was water in the driptray for this valve... then we saw water in another valve driptray, higher up... then we saw the water was coming from the deck above us... then we looked down around our feet, and noticed we (the 21 Eng, the 21 EDMC, and I) were standing in puddles of water.

For those of you who aren't nukes, water coming out of pipes on the forward wall of the Engine Room is rarely a good thing. There are some systems that really do have "contaminated" water, and others that are only "potentially contaminated"; being nukes, we treat them as if they were contaminated until we prove otherwise. (This water was coming from an overflow line from a big, big flask -- you nukes know what I mean.)

Anyway, we were standing around in the water, and slowly it hit us... all of us were potentially contaminated with radioactive water. Being good nukes, we knew we had to call away a spill. (As an aside: Who remembers the immediate actions for a spill? I still do, because of the acronym "SWIMS" -- Smile, Walk away, Ignore It, Make up a story, Stick by your story.) The word gets passed to Maneuvering, and they passed the word to Control, so then the whole ship knew: "Spill in the Engine Room, the Engineer, the EDMC, and the 22 Engineer are potentially contaminated."

Now this surprised the CO, who was sitting in the wardroom. It turns out that the first drill they had planned for the drill set was a spill in the Engine Room, and he wondered what the hell the Eng was doing starting the drill without his permission!

I got frisked out of there right away, and went up to tell the CO what happened. It turned out, of course, that it wasn't a big deal -- there were no "counts" to be found, and they torqued a valve to stop the "leak". And the drill set went off only a few minutes late...

And then there was the time on Connecticut where we had a real leak in the middle of our spill drill... but that's another story (and one I can't tell here without violating some sort of "Restricted Data" rule). All I can say is that the EDMC and I knew there was something wrong when we all of a sudden saw about 10 guys start running away from the spill area at the same time...


Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's a good one. I remember once during a supposed fire drill in AMR, I was opening the door to radio to go start the Oprep when I smelled the smoke. It's amazing how fast the attitudes change.

Another time during a drill set, a piece of gear in ESM smoked and we called it on the 27MC. The first thing we hear over the speaker from control was "that's not the drill."

When you spend so much time doing drills, you're bound to have casualties during a drill. We could do a better job of preparing for this situation if we ran drill casualty drills!


6/29/2006 7:39 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's funny! Reminds me of the time on my first boat (SSBN 626), I awoke to find us snorkeling on reduced juice. For about three days. We were reduced juice because of a reactor scram. We had a scram because Reactor Controls blew a power supply. RC blew a power supply due to excessive heat. The excessive heat was caused by the diesel right below it, which was running every 12 to 18 hours for an hour or two. We had to snorkel every 12 to 18 hours for an hour or two due to excessive R-12 levels. We had excessive R-12 levels due to a pinhole leak in the chill box. So, we snorkeled for three miserable days in the North Atlantic, making all the headway of a beachball, hoping to God the Russkies and/or sosus or anyone else didn't hear us, trying like hell to eat everything before it went bad before it spoiled so the Chop didn't have to survey it.

6/29/2006 9:22 AM

Blogger bothenook said...

run drill casualty drills. that's friggin hilarious!
on the 575 version of the seawolf, we used to say that the boat was our primary drill coordinator. it was common knowledge that if the eng or skipper decided to throw a drill, the boat would throw three back. so drill workups were always prefaced with "buy one, get one free", and "when we start a drill, the casualty probably won't be the one we planned".
made for interesting times

6/29/2006 9:50 AM

Blogger PigBoatSailor said...


Ah, memories. I remember after the last drill set of three days of vulcan death watches, just as I was climbing into my rack, I heard "Hydraulic rupture in the Machinery Room!" over the 1MC. Cursing the Eng for slipping one last drill in, I hurried down the AMR (I was the DCA), only to find the whole place shrouded in a brown fog, just as the 1MC emphasized "This is not a drill". Yeah, it is amazing how quick attitudes change - we had half-nekkid A-gangers in there before you could blink.

Sonarman, wanna feel old? The 626 was my floatotype boat ;-)

6/29/2006 2:53 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually, I learned that the second "S" in SWIMS stood for "Send out Resumes".

6/29/2006 7:02 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

So there we were, mid-afternoon on a Sunday, and I was shooting the breeze with my buddy in the Nav space on the Omaha (SSN 692) (just above Crews Mess via a drop ladder). The officers were huddled in the Wardroom for training, so we thought we were safe from yet another drill. I had just come off watch in the Engine Room so I was part of the DC team.

Then the 4MC went off with "Fire in Shaft Alley, Steering and Diving Hydraulics!"

I dropped down one level, donned the OBA under the forward escape trunk and started the canister(!). Inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale, everything was working....I was fully buttoned up and started hauling ASS aft with a purple-K extinguisher in my hand. Thru and dog the WT door to the ER, down the RC tunnel, up and back thru the Engine Room at a full run, then back down the ladder to Shaft Alley........ I skidded to a stop wondering why the air was so clear and why the CO had a clipboard and a stopwatch.....

You guessed it, the Old Man decided to run a drill himself. I got there too quickly for his liking, because he told me to lay down “You are overcome with smoke.”

After the rest of the watch section came aft and played around with rescuing me we finally secured the drill. The A-gang chief was NOT happy with me and wanted to know why I activated the OBA canister. I just looked at him an asked him just exactly HOW I was supposed to read the CO’s mind to know we were having a fire *drill*, when doctrine was to be buttoned up before you entered the compartment full of smoke...

PS – “The” Watertight door, as in the ONLY WT door on a 688....

That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it...

Rick Tengdin

6/29/2006 10:11 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh yah!!! I love the 3-for-1 drills, especially during ORSE. Having a real loss of ERFW, during a drill of the same title, is a great way to get an E on ORSE. Of course, it helped that we had done THE EXACT SAME THING during the workup. Yes, the good old SSN-711, that boat could throw you some curve balls (don't get me started on the actual Emer. blows).

7/01/2006 11:11 PM


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