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, December 06, 2006

Escape From L.A.

I was kind of surprised to learn that the Sub Force hadn't conducted an actual open ocean ESCAPEX from a submarine at sea in over 30 years -- until last Saturday, that is. Navy NewsStand has an interesting story of the escape exercise the USS Los Angeles (SSN 688) did up in Alaska:

Seven personnel practiced locking out from the attack submarine USS Los Angeles (SSN 688) and ascending to the surface wearing special suits that are designed to enable a free ascent from a stricken submarine Dec. 2 during ESCAPEX at the Navy’s Southeast Alaska Acoustic Measurement Facility in Ketchikan, Alaska...
...The MK10 Submarine Escape Immersion Equipment, or SEIE, allows survivors to escape a disabled submarine at depths down to 600 feet, at a rate of eight or more men per hour. It is designed to enable a free ascent from a stricken submarine and provides protection for the submariner on reaching the surface until rescued. The assembly is comprised of a submarine escape and immersion suit, an inner thermal liner and a gas inflated single seat life raft, all contained in an outer protective stowage compartment.
For the exercise, Los Angeles embarked six U.S. Navy divers, as well as a British diver from the Royal Navy. The submarine submerged to 130 feet, where each of the seven divers donned the SEIE suits, entered the escape trunk, and ascended.
Chief Navy Diver (DSW/SW) Sean Daoust, a submarine escape instructor at the Naval Submarine School in Groton, Conn., was the first to ascend. Daoust said he was honored to be the first to escape from a U.S. nuclear-powered submarine, and couldn’t wait to return to his students with his firsthand knowledge...
...After Daoust, there were three tandem escapes. Los Angeles crew member Fire Control Technician 2nd Class (SS) Gary Halsey was one of the Sailors given the chance to participate in a tandem escape. While thrilled at the experience, Halsey also said it was reassuring to know that the escape system works.
Pictures from the exercise are here and here. The last one shows FT2(SS) Halsey reaching the surface while wearing his Submarine Escape and Immersion Equipment, pictured below:

It looks a lot more useful than the old Steinke hoods (pictured here). I admit that I'm one of those who thought that escape training was kind of a waste of time, and useful only for making our womenfolk feel better. (Plus, I was part of the generation of submariners that never got to go through an Escape Tower; all we had was the escape trainer in a pool. In a couple years, though, they're going to have a brand-new one in Groton.)

Here's what concerned me -- you know how everyone knew about the "golden needle" the Doc would have to use on you before you ascended? What if only the Engine Room was unflooded, and the Doc wasn't back there? Would you trust some MMC(SS) with anything sharp anywhere near your eardrum right before getting into the Escape Trunk? I certainly wouldn't. I always figured that if I ended up in that situation, I'd stay with the boat until the DSRV arrived.


Blogger Dale Courtney said...

Ho, Ho, Ho -- all the way to the surface. :)

Great post. I didn't know that half of this stuff was going on.


12/07/2006 4:56 AM

Blogger half said...

From your Wiki link
On completion of escape training, testees are now considered bubbleheads.

So that it!

12/07/2006 9:24 AM

Anonymous BeachBumBill said...

"Golden Needle"? Please explain further.

12/07/2006 11:00 AM

Blogger NCdt(II) Genest said...

So, if those nifty suits only go down to 600 feet.. what happens when your sub goes down to 601 feet? You have to wait for someone to notice you're not around, send a DSRV, and hope that you're over a piece of real estate that's shallow enough not to exceed your crush depth?

Definately sounds like those suits only make submariners' wives feel better.

12/07/2006 2:22 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

As an old MMC(SS), I take umbrage to your insinuation that I would not be able to hit that little ear drum with a needle. However, with my eye site these days, I might have to use a cold chisel and a hammer.

We had a man, MMC Larry Willis, on my first submarine (USS DRUM (SSN677)) who had done a free ascent from a boat in his career. He used to brag that his surfaces did not equal his dives on a submarine.

That Damn Good Looking Aganger From Iowa, MMCS(SS) Ret.

12/07/2006 4:16 PM

Blogger WillyShake said...


This red suit pic really gets me in the Holiday spirit--thanks, shipmate!

One question: why in the heck did they choose Alaskan waters rather than Hawaiian? brrrrr... No wonder they needed the full suit!

12/07/2006 5:04 PM

Blogger Bubblehead said...

BeachBumBill -- When you go into the escape chamber, you pressurize it rapidly to sea pressure. Apparently, if there wasn't a pre-existing hole in head, the differential pressure induced would make on, and blow out your eardrums. Therefore, the Doc was supposed to puncture your eardrum before you started your escape.

12/08/2006 12:12 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

They did the ESCAPEX there in Alaska because they were already tied up to a submerged spot. That is where the Navy does sound trials for subs.

12/12/2006 9:46 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

With the new escape suits it is no longer a necessity to puncture your ear drums to equalize with sea pressure. the escapee is required to keep up with increase in pressure by clearing his ears.

11/05/2008 3:19 AM

Blogger Graham said...

Yes, you yanks the suits are British. We are of course the leaders in submarine escape and its no wonder you lot came to us for help.All hail the ROYAL NAVY, not the biggest but ALWAYS the BEST.

12/22/2009 8:31 AM

Anonymous Sub-Doc said...

Is that because you tea-drinkers sink more of your subs?

(Just kidding, but it was just too good to pass up!)

6/30/2011 6:16 AM


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