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, September 05, 2007

Urban Legends, Nuke Style

Even better than shore story urban legends are the ones that supposedly happen at sea. One that popped into my head today was the "Legend of the SCRAM Switch Chicken Game".

"SCRAM Switch Chicken" was supposedly played by Reactor Operators, wherein they'd rotate the SCRAM Switch as far as they dared towards the "SCRAM" position (obviously without actually making the contacts) and leaving a pencil mark showing how far they'd gotten if they surpassed the old record. To make the game interesting, it would have to be done while the reactor was critical -- otherwise there was no risk. (You have to assume here that the EOOW was one of those officers who wanted to be "one of the guys".)

One story I heard about the game going too far involved a guy standing his last midwatch SRO before he got out of the Navy. This urban legend goes that he didn't much like his division mates, so he erased the old pencil mark and replaced it with one that was just past the "make" position of the switch. The story goes on that the next RO who tried the game underway got more than he bargained for when he tried to set a new record.

(Interestingly, a website of stories from the Enterprise has a similar account -- maybe that's where the submarine version came from.)

Similar Nuke Urban Legends tell of the dirty pictures put underneath various placards on the RPCP, along with the story of this message written on the back of isolation valve switch covers: "If you had a leak right now, you'd be screwed". (For the non-nukes out there, the only way to get the cover off was to take the handle off the switch.)

Midwatch SROs have a lot of time on their hands.


Blogger LC Scotty said...

The USS Cavalla (SSN-684) did indeed have dirty pictures under various switch covers on the EPCP, RPCP and SPCP, but I don't recall which ones. It could have been the pressurizer heater control for all I remember.

One of my favorite urban legends was the Buddah in the RC facing the pressure vessel. The thinking was that a watched pot never boils...

9/06/2007 6:55 AM

Blogger enginerd said...

As a former 'midwatch cowboy EOOW' I have to say it was a very entertaining time for me. The saying is true that the most dangerous thing on a submarine is a bored nuke! I had my share of run-ins with danger-nut, and an ERLL watch that made an entire super-hero suit of EB red.

9/06/2007 7:56 AM

Blogger Bubblehead said...

On Topeka, we had an ERLL who had a complex plan for defending his watchstation from attackers, with potential weapons stowed at strategic places all over the place. He put a lot of thought into it. He scared me a lot.

9/06/2007 8:30 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

On one of the Pearl Harbor boats, a short-timer shutdown reactor operator was rumored to have cycled a set of primary coolant isolation valves on the midwatch just to prove that he could do it without getting caught.

9/06/2007 9:35 AM

Blogger Bubblehead said...

I was just about to point out the stuff that SRO would have to do at the VO station to cover up the results after he left Maneuvering (or get an accomplice to do it) when I realized we really don't want to get that technical here.

9/06/2007 11:25 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

On the boomer, we had some nice pictures hidden, with a centerfold on the back of the status board next to the TH. We also had green toy soldiers in the box and even had one well hidden during several ORSEs!!

One midwatch underway, the EOOW went forward to AMR2, and we quickly mustered everyone but the RO back in shaft alley for a smoke break.

9/06/2007 11:59 AM

Blogger oxillini said...

As someone who used to work on getting old RPCP's off boats, I can verify that "chicken game" marks and pictures under placards did exist.

Urban legend held that the "pictures under placards" was a reason for a design change on newer cabinets.

9/06/2007 12:08 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

On my last boat we had a hot-running young RO. He qualified ships and everything up to EWs in his 1st patrol. One of those staffer guys. Anyway, one night on the midwatch, he accidently let the coolant temp spike - just for a split second. Then he looked around and said "Nobody saw that, right." Everyone, including the JO EOOW, just let it slide. On one of the electric panels there was a label plate where guys who screwed up (nuclear screwups) would write what they had done on the back of it, and screw it back in place. A few days later, an EWS noticed the plate looked funny, and had heard a rumor about what had happened. He unscrewed the plate, saw what was on it, and went right to the Eng. Needless to say, the nuke was denuked, busted, and kicked out. The JO got a Letter of Reprimand. Incidently, this same junior officer was also later involved in rig for dive violation. He improperly verified the bridge was rigged for dive, which caused the radar mast to drift up at high speed, which then caused loss of the radar head. Which then caused us to have to return to port. The ultimate unforgivable sin for a boomer. This JO was given another Letter of Reprimand, and was relieved of all real watchstanding duties - he was assigned permanent JOOW for the entire patrol. He was not allowed to eat at 1st sitting in the WR, or otherwise be in the Skipper's presence. Needless to say he got out at the end of his sea tour.

9/06/2007 12:36 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not necassarily a nuke story but an engineroom story. This was on my first underway with the 21 boat in early '97. Well we had this Aux Aft watchstander that was kind of different...typical A-ganger. Well he decided to play a joke on manuevering. He stripped down totally nude and requested to enter manuevering. The EOOW didn't really look at who requested and just let him enter. Well he entered through the Stbd door, strolled through in front of the EOOW, did a twist on one of the trash cans, and the exited out the Port door. Of course he still had his TLD...taped to...I'll let you imagine where.

9/06/2007 2:56 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...


As the story goes, when relieved as SRO, he did those things (that's another story) and all the logs read as they should have, except pressurizer level. Oops! And, as the story continues, an NRRO monitor appeared only minutes after he finished up. A little earlier and that would have left a serious mark on the chain of command.

9/06/2007 3:01 PM

Blogger midwatchcowboy said...

How about saluting the flag on the inside of the door covering the battleshort switch? Forget what plant it was on. Getting old.

9/06/2007 3:28 PM

Blogger Unknown said...

Heh, I love stupid nuke tricks. Some of ours:

Various label plates had various things behind them, SNOB dates, holidays spent underway, and, under the poly covering for the EOOW’s desk, the dates and one-line descriptions for each incident in the yards, and who got disqualified for them ;-) If you didn’t get DQ’d at least once by uptight NRRO monitors, you obviously weren't standing enough duty.

Also in the yards, one of the SRO's, on midwatch, was late getting relieved, so he managed to convince his U/I to go fetch them a pizza from the Crew Barge. However, halfway through the watch, he got the furious clicking from topside that meant an NRRO bubba was on his way down. Who knew a pizza, box and all, could fit under the instrument panel section of the SPCP?

We also loved the hidey-holes behind panels. The stuff hiden in them was also a fairly poorly-kept secret. So much so that when one of the squadron deputies was riding us (had to keep his sea-pay, don’t you know), he wandered back to Maneuvering, to our surprise, chatted up the EOOW for a few minutes, then turned, opened one of the more obviously available panels, took out the Penthouse, winked to the watchstanders, and went back forward.

The best, though, was DRT. Taped in such a location that you would see it only if you were doing a thorough bilge inspection, it was how our EDO’s caught under-instructions doing an incomplete closeout-
At the Decon station:
EDO: “So, what color was her hair?”
U/I: “Huh, whose?”
EDO: “Get back in there and do a proper close-out inspection!” [The answer: Brunette]

Damn I am wordy tonight...

9/06/2007 7:00 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Providence had a digital watch hiden somewhere in manuvering w/ the alarm set for a few min. after midnight. It was hidden good. I never found it, but from time to time it moved.

9/06/2007 7:07 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Best one I ever heard -

EDO came back with his U/I for the 0300 tour (SDO had the 0000 tour) and found the SRO asleep. The U/I said "what do we do?" The EDO said "watch this." EDO (who weighed about 275) stripped down and climbed onto the RPCP with his feet on the rail and his hands on the panel, his ample rear directly in front of the still-sleeping SRO's face. The EDO then took the RPCP siren to alarm test. You can guess what happened when the SRO woke up and bolted upright.... You can bet he never fell asleep on watch again.

9/06/2007 7:58 PM

Blogger 630-738 said...

I, as EDPO, went back to conduct my 0300 tour on NARWHAL. I found the SRO bent over his chair with his pants down around his ankles, the SEO with a bottle of white-out painting a circle around, well, a certain circle. I just shut the door and finished my tour outside of maneuvering and came back. Nar-Sailors were strange, indeed.

9/06/2007 9:11 PM

Blogger Subvet said...

Just a general observation; stories like these are why I tell my wife it's a good thing the public at large is ignorant of what really goes on aboard the boats.

9/06/2007 9:48 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I had a similar story from Providence that Dean mentioned. Someone dropped a watch back behind the RPM bookshelves that had the alarm set for 7:19 (the boat's hull number). Of course, it went off at 7:19 every day in that time zone - not so effective on deployment or when daylight savings time shifted. This was in the 95-99 time frame. Maybe the batteries finally died and someone else hid a watch that went off at midnight like Dean mentioned.

Like other boats, we had major incidents - date, incident, and who was on watch when it happened - written on the back of various label plates all over the SPCP, RPCP, and EPCP.

We also had a nude pin-up behind the chemistry status board that one of the ORSE board members found.

Once when I was EOOW and the 2MC/7MC mic stopped working, the IC chief opened the desk drawer to look at the back side of the microphone plug. He stuck his head in the opening to look at the plug and said, "Cookies!" I said, "What?" He said, "Chocolate Chip Cookies!" I said, "What are you talking about?" He pulled his head out of the hole, then reached inside and pulled out a stack of like 5 chocolate chip cookies. They weren't very old and still tasted good. ;-)

9/06/2007 10:11 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

While on the Albany we had a nuke MM that was from the hills of Kentucky and was very proud of that fact. He was so proud that he went and got personalized plates for his beat up Delta 88 that said,"KY RULES". At least I think it was because he was so proud of his home state.....
Same person during a northern run was on watch in the lower levl and had to use the head in a bad way. No one would relieve him, so he did his business in a chem-wipe and threw it in the trash. The same trash that later got compacted. This obviously made a mess. Doc was pissed as hell, not to mention the Eng and CO, as punishment the MM had to clean and disinfect the whole trash room and then he had to take hourly logs on all the bags of Bio-hazard that he had created. He wasn't there all that much longer, not sure just where he wound up, no doubt somewhere in the hills of Kentucky.

9/07/2007 12:53 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another Albany story, this does not take place underway but does show a little of the mentality of the guys we had.
We were in Norfolk getting some of the usual work done and was all the way at the end of the pier. We had scaffolding around the sail for mast work. Our CO was trying real hard to get a premo post in DC and was competeing with the CO of the Scranton for the same post.
On this particular day the Scranton was coming home and was to berth across the pier from the Albany. We had about 9 flag officers from all the services on board touring the boat. About an hour before the Scranton pulled in our CO found out that the DC post was going to the CO of the Scranton. Our CO got the DCPO and told him to get a sheet and make a sign that said,"Scranton, eat shit." and hang it on the scaffolding facing the pier.
In short order the Scranton pulled in, with the Sq CO and a few other dignitaries. The flag officers touring our little slice of heaven had left, but not before turning to salute the flag that was just forward of the sign flapping in the wind. Now, our CO and the Scranton Co were old friends and all of this was done in jest, but some took it a little too literally.
All of the crew of the Scranton got a good look at the sign through perivis and were more than a little steamed.
We and the Scranton crew were ordered not to approach each other until things simmered down some.
Our CO at that time had quite a history of acting out like this and just doing whatever he wanted. There are many more stories provided by this CO, but I will leave it at just this one.

9/07/2007 1:23 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

On San Fran (early 90's, prior to the "honofrisco") The Nukes hid all of the characters of the Simpsons in the Engine Room for the Eng to find. He never found Lisa and had a special liberty bounty on Lisa Simpson's Head. "Bring me the head of Lisa Simpson" usually appeared in the Eng's night orders most evenings.

9/07/2007 1:25 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

On the underside of the PLO sump was a story of a patrol from back in the 80's. It was written with a large permanent marker. As part of my quals, I had to recite the entire story verbatim. Over the years it slowly began to fade away... so sad.

9/07/2007 7:56 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The name of that ERLL watch you refer to was John H. He not only hid weapons, but if you recall, wore a full suit of chain mail armor under his coveralls . . . yeah, can't make shit like that up. And he scared me too . . .
MMCM(SS) Pearl Harbor Bull Nuke

9/07/2007 4:20 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

One of the E-div's got caught not wearing his TLD on watch while underway. During EDT that evening, the eng jumped on everyones back.

He said: "I don't give a crap what you may wear on watch, but you will damn well wear your TLD while on watch!"

Yes.. you know what happened.
After midrats, the ongoing watch walked thru the mess decks wear shoes, belts with a TLD attached, and a smile.

9/07/2007 5:17 PM

Blogger Chap said...

Oh geez, I remember being let in on the secret location of Lisa Simpson. I think Homer got the eng in trouble at one point, IIRC.

Although the green book got him in trouble too.

Were you there when the eng caution tagged the chain into Maneuvering?

9/07/2007 10:30 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

There was a small plastic dinosaur or something like that who occasionally lived behind one of the scram switch covers in 4 plant on Enterprise. It was always amusing to see it launch out into the lap of the SRO who was checking switch positions for the nightly status report.

Somewhere in my Big "E" detritus, I have a Lighting Panel switch label plate that is marked "Admiral's Quarters Vent Fan" on the official side and "Forward Phaser Bank" on the back side.

9/09/2007 3:59 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

As an SRO in the shipyards watches can get quite boring (especially when not only is the reactor shutdown, it's on a train somewhere headed toward the mountains). Well, we started playing SRO chicken where we'd see how far AFT we can make it in the engineroom on watch. We'd of course mark it with "SRO was here" and the date. My entry on top of the 10k was beaten by a later feat of making it outboard the S/S hydraulic pumps.

In another story we never really liked our LPO, so we played a game called "word of the day." There was a new word each day, and each member of the division had to say the word, in a different context, that day to the LPO. So for instance if the word was "pork" someone could talk about having pork the night before for dinner - the next person on line would have to talk about porking his wife, so on and so on using the word differently each time. The words got stranger each day and eventually there were 13 E-DIVers attempting to use the word "ovary", in context, in a single day. The LPO caught onto the gag when I asked him if he ever tried the Ovarian Chicken at Applebees.

9/09/2007 10:51 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

On the Will Rogers fish (SSBN-659), we had a hot running new MM who finished first in nuke school and prototype. His attitude begged everyone to screw with him, which they did.

I was EOOW one night when we got a jump bell from ahead 1/3 to ahead flank. Everything is going by the numbers until I get high hotwell levels on both condensers. Then low surge tank levels on both sides. As you an imagine, sweat pumps are in fast speed.

Turns out the hot running MM was hte ERLL watch and decided to get back at us by turning the condensate pumps off on the jump bell.

It took two people to pull the ERS off the MM. Needless to say, Mr. Hotrunner went away real quick when we got back to the offcrew office.

11/21/2008 11:47 AM


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