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.)

Monday, April 23, 2007

Passing On Tribal Knowledge

A Discovery Channel show on dolphins that I noticed while channel-surfing tonight got me thinking about the lovable critters, and what they mean to submariners. Of course, the Submarine Warfare Insignia for many countries (including the UK) feature dolphins, and while those of the U.S. have dolphinfish, we still call them "dolphins".

This being the Year of the Dolphin, I figured I should pass on some of my experience in interacting with dolphins to today's crop of surface OODs. All submariners know that dolphins like nothing better than playing with submarines. I remember one time seeing a dolphin do a backflip above the water when I was on the 'scope with the TV off, so I was the only one who saw it. My favorite thing to do with dolphins, though, was to give them a good ride on the bow wave. I've seen dolphins change course and make a beeline for my boat from a couple of miles off just to ride the sub's bow wave.

The problem is getting the right speed to make it the best possible experience for our friends. A 2/3 bell is just too slow; the wave isn't big enough, and they'll soon get bored. Likewise, while a Standard bell kicks up a good wave, that's really just too fast for a dolphin to swim for a long period. I've found that the best speed for dolphins is about 12 knots -- they'll ride for a few miles, and never tire of it.

The problem for OODs, of course, is that your track is rarely laid out for 12 knots, and slowing down off the track speed makes the CO and XO concerned and the Nav team pissed off. I found that by getting ahead of track, you could get a good 10-15 minute period of 12 knot dolphin-watching by calling down to the NavSup and telling him you were doing some calculations, and you're afraid we might be getting to the entrance buoy too early. By the time they figured out that your "mental gym" is all messed up, you've given our mammalian brothers just the kind of aerobic workout they need to excel in the "eat or be eaten" world of the ocean.

Bell-ringer 2310 26 Apr: bothenook came up with a great picture of dolphins riding a sub's bow wave:


Blogger SonarMan said...

That, of course, is as fun as listening to them on Sonar cavort in front of you. Especially when you can't surface or go to PD to look at them.

Though I have been out for 5 years, and left the boat over 7 years ago, my kids are still enthralled with my stories of the dolphins that play with the boat.

4/23/2007 7:36 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

When we (USS Michigan) used to sail from Bangor, I was the Topside Phone Talker, it was very common for the Dolphins to swim along with us and ride the bow wave up to and past the Hood Canal Bridge.

As we pulled out for Patrol 13, the Dolphins never showed. I remember noting this and having a brief conversation about it before some O-Ganger got uptight about "proper phone" comms.

Needless to say, it was just a few days later (Oct 31, 1986) that USS Michigan experienced her "engineering casualty" that resulted in a loss of coverage and eventually a very slow return to port, followed by two weeks in dry dock and a very nervous crew.

As we pulled out again, I kept getting calls from below decks wanted to know if the Dolphins had showed up.

Eventually, even the O-Ganger who got on me before popped in and wanted to know if they had.

Of course, this time these wonderful and magnificent creatures had and were having a ball swimming with us, and for the only time I recall even jumping over our bow instead of just along side it.

We returned to sea and literally, never had another problem. We even tried to break things, couldn't get it to work.

Dolphin Dave
USS Michigan 1982-1988

4/23/2007 9:59 AM

Anonymous Bryan said...

I agree - I also found that anywhere from a 2/3 bell up to standard turns for 12 was the best speed to keep them happy and jumping. Anything slower bored them, and anything faster tired them out too quickly.

4/23/2007 8:30 PM

Anonymous Navy Wife said...

**Off topic again**

Hi there,
I just wanted to let you know the latest from over at Thanks for adding our link by the way!

We have recently recorded two podcasts / radio shows, and are getting a little better at the whole process.

Eric has a cool "news commercial" with sound & music featuring of course

Just wanted to share some good news.

Hope you can turn your wife on to our little project. I'd be interested to hear her comments / feedback.


4/23/2007 9:37 PM

Anonymous HalfEmpty said...

followed by two weeks in dry dock and a very nervous crew.

Can you say anything?

4/23/2007 10:02 PM

Blogger bothenook said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

4/26/2007 1:15 PM

Blogger bothenook said...

you mean like this?

4/26/2007 1:16 PM


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