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, November 29, 2008

"Sharks Of Steel" Segment On YouTube

Check out this excerpt from the old "Sharks of Steel" documentary, featuring mostly shots from my old boat USS Topeka (SSN 754), filmed back in 1992:

Most of the shots in this clip were from the Topeka; we did all of the "Man Battlestations" action shots when we were in port the day after we did the at-sea shots. (You can see me at about the 2:22 mark; I'm the guy on the inboard side of the wardroom table who stands up and pushes my chair back in, correctly stowing it for sea). The other submarine shown is USS Georgia (SSBN 729); it's their CO who's speaking at the end. This clip also shows several shots of my old CO, "He Who Must Not Be Named" (aka "Fast Eddie" Jablonski). Even now, it kind of scares me to hear his voice...

Don't Mind Me... I'm Just Ranting

A few thoughts as I get ready to go back to work for a couple of weeks before my body completely shuts down from the radiation:

1) I love college football. My beloved Nebraska Cornhuskers are probably going to a New Years Day bowl, and the arguments caused by a simple failure to set up a playoff system in the one major sport that doesn't have it enables those of us who love to argue to really enjoy this time of year. The local Boise State Broncos completed another undefeated regular season last night, and it makes me wonder -- why do the people who put together bowl games think that people would want to see two-loss Ohio State suffer another BCS embarassment rather than watch what promises to be a completely non-boring BSU team?

2) I go back and forth over who is more sanctimonious and annoying -- whiny progressives or whiny social conservatives. Today I'm leaning towards progressives, because morialekafa, the "crazy old uncle in the attic" of the Idaho lefty blogosphere, included this little nugget of "wisdom" in his daily rant in response to yesterday's tragic death of the worker in the New York Walmart:
Our profligate ways have now painfully caught up with us, as evidenced by our now virtual dependence on Wal Mart. Even people who would not have been caught dead there previously are now flocking there in droves (alas, I am one of them). When I enter a Wal Mart I feel I am entering a giant warehouse full of losers. The clerks are losers, working for small wages and few benefits, the shoppers are losers, looking for the cheapest bargains they can find.
Wow... elitist much? This follows a statement where he mentioned that he bet that Brits, French, Germans, Russians, and Iranians would never trample anyone. Soccer and Iranian funeral violence notwithstanding, I'm really wondering if progressives who rail against all these horrors of American society ever really think through what their proposals would lead to. Would they outlaw sales? Is wanting to spend less really bad? Does spending more make you a "winner"? Would they outlaw concerts by The Who? Or should we just not buy anything and live off the land and love each other, like back in some earlier mythical century that has never existed in human history? It seems to me that, for now, progressives seem to want to outlaw and control more human behavior than even the most Old Testament-centered social conservatives. I'm sure that will change soon, though. (Please note that I haven't lost all perspective. I recognize that, when all is said and done, the truly most sanctimonious and annoying people are the "realists" like me who like to mock and belittle the people on the fringes.)

3) People continue to speak completely different languages, politically. Take the recent passage of Proposition 8 in California to overturn the decision of the California Supreme Court to establish the new right of homosexual marriage. Opponents of the measure say that it "takes away the civil rights" of gays and lesbians. I disagree, and here's why: both before the California Supreme Court case and after the passage of Prop 8, every adult Californian had the exact same right as every other, granted by legislative action -- the right (if not imprisoned) to marry exactly one consenting unmarried person of the opposite sex who was of age and not too closely related. Just because gays and lesbians choose not to exercise that right doesn't mean it is lost to them. It's as if one were to say that my wife had her abortion "rights" taken away from her because she chose not to get an abortion (my feelings on the subject of a "right" to abortion/privacy can be found here). The fact that she's not been given some closely-related other "right" to make up for the fact that she didn't exercise that one doesn't take away from her the original "right". The unvarnished truth is that the right to marry someone of the same sex would be a brand new right, and if some legislature wants to enact that I'd accept the result. Please just don't expect that I'll willingly accept accusations that I "hate" homosexuals just because I believe that the process for expanding our civil rights should have a legislative component. And just because us Mormons once supported polygamy (over 100 years ago) doesn't mean that we now have to support all new forms of marriage. None of us were alive back then, and at the same time Mormons supported polygamy, remember that Democrats supported Jim Crow and slavery.

SSN Seen In Puget Sound

A reader sent in some pictures recently taken from a ferry on the Puget Sound of a newer SSN; here's one:

Based on the "boot" at the front of the sail, she's clearly a Seawolf- or Virginia-class boat. And based on the length of the main deck vs. the height of the sail, I'm thinking the reader got a rare glimpse of my last boat, USS Jimmy Carter (SSN 23). What a pretty submarine...

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Why I'm Thankful

On this Thanksgiving Day, I find myself even more focused than usual on reasons to be thankful for all I have in this life:

I'm thankful to a loving Heavenly Father and for the Gift and the Atonement of his Son, Jesus Christ, through Whom all will gain Eternal Life.

I'm thankful for wonderful children who are a Gift from Above, and most especially for a wonderful wife and soulmate who completes me. I'm nothing without you, Dearest Love.

I'm thankful for living in the greatest country on Earth -- not a perfect country, but the best there is and capable of becoming still greater.

I'm thankful I've had the opportunity to serve my country in what I consider to be the most focused and dedicated group of professionals I know -- the world of Submariners.

I'm thankful that, while I've put down my arms, there are brave men and women who continue to pay the ultimate price to defend our country and our way of life on whatever battlefields may await.

I'm thankful for loving friends and family, who always seem to be available to help one out when you need them. Especially as I work on beating my cancer, the good humor and support of so many has been a bigger help than you could know. I started radiation treatments on Thursday, chemo on Friday, and got a feeding tube implanted in my small intestine on Monday. I've decided that even minor abdominal surgery in conjunction with chemo kind of sucks, but this round of chemo ended Tuesday night, and by this morning I'm back to feeling pretty much normal. My middle child (oldest son, who just turned 18 and made me thankful by scoring a 35 on his ACT so I know that some lucky college will give him a nice scholarship) really wanted to show support for his old man and his chemo by shaving his head. I pointed out that I might not even lose my hair with the minimal amount of chemo I'm doing, but he really seemed to want to do it, so yesterday we did the deed; my father-in-law (right) joined in the fun:

I'm the one in the middle. For you guys who have never gone with this look, it's even worse than what we got in boot camp -- yet strangely freeing. I'm continuing radiation treatments through about Christmas, with another quick round of chemo at the end of that, then between 4 and 8 weeks later I'll get an esophagogastrectomy up in Seattle. A few weeks of recovery from that, maybe another round of chemo, and I expect to be cancer-free by spring. And for that I'll also be thankful.

Update 1224 27 November: I'm also thankful that we can still donate to Project Valour-IT, and can even get some good reading out of our donations by bidding on one of the three excellent books that Team Navy has put up on E-Bay; check them out here, here, and here.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

USS Nebraska Accident Report Completed

Navy Times is reporting that the Navy has released some preliminary information from the investigation into the tragic death of MM3(SS) Michael Gentile aboard USS Nebraska (SSBN 739) (Blue). Excerpts:
A Navy investigation into the Sept. 20 death of a submariner found that the sailor got himself into a deadly situation aboard the ballistic missile submarine Nebraska...
...Gentile, of Waterville, Maine, had gotten caught and stuck in the rudder ram, which lies in the submarine’s aft section, during a cleaning evolution.
The investigation report was completed by the Silverdale, Wash.-based Submarine Group-Trident under the Judge Advocate General’s Manual.
“It has been determined that while performing routine watchstanding duties, Petty Officer Gentile disregarded posted safety warnings, which ultimately led him to become pinned between the rudder ram and nearby stationary equipment,” officials said in a statement released Wednesday...
Without further details, it's hard to determine where the truth lies. My own experience is that if a boat is planning on doing cleaning in Shaft Alley while underway, you station a phone-talker with direct comms to Control to verify everyone is clear before moving any control surface. If, on the other hand, they weren't specifically cleaning in Shaft Alley, you have to trust in the posted warnings and training.

Update 1725 26 Nov: The article has been updated and expanded since I first posted about it; it now also discusses shortcomings found in the command climate, "specifically lack of enforcing safety rules and the cleaning habits and practices in shaft alley, where some sailors had taken to using sticks or bilge grabbers to reach and clean its tight confines." It goes on to say that the CSS-17 has been assigned to determine any additional administrative actions to take against the ship's leadership; this article from the Kitsap Sun, however, says that any such administrative action would not include being removed from duty aboard the ship.

USS Georgia Responds To Russian Caribbean Deployment!

The news is full of the reports that 4 Russian naval vessels, two of which are actual warships and only one of which is a tugboat they felt they needed to bring along for some reason, have arrived in Caracas for exercises with the Venezuelan "Navy". Some people are trying to make it seem like a Big Deal that the Russian Navy is deploying in our backyard, and I agree -- I'm impressed they were able to make it all the way almost to the equator with the same number of ships they started with. As I said earlier, I'm sure this provided an excellent training opportunity for U.S. Navy forces.

In any event, even though naval professionals will recognize that this "show of force" is about the same as that of a mouse running through the den of some well-fed sleepy lions, it's still important that we make the Russians feel like they've accomplished something for their efforts -- that we've taken some notice of the fact that they can steam several thousand miles with 4 ships and are therefore somehow "respectful" of them. The Navy has responded in the most appropriate way -- by choosing this week to just happen to "release" some pictures of one of the most feared weapons in the U.S. Navy arsenal. Check it out:

Experienced naval experts the world over were, I'm sure, shocked by the evidence of this latest Yankee advance in nautical superiority -- USS Georgia (SSGN 729) shown with a working B1rD system! In the past, the Navy has only released pictures of SSNs with B1rD (CGu-11 mod). Now that we've combined Special Forces operations, a couple hundred Tomahawks, and the most diabolical Aw-Sh*t paint-fouling system imaginable, other navies will just want to pack it in -- you haven't got a chance.

(You can find more pictures of USS Georgia here, here, and here.)

Bell-ringer 1221 27 Nov: A commenter remembers that the Georgia already has experience in getting rid of tugboats, so she could be considered even a greater potential counter to the Russian ships.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Submarine Tidbits

A quick run around items of interest to Submariners I found on the 'net:

1) There's a new homepage for USS L. Mendel Rivers (SSN 686) crewmembers and fans over at Looks like it's off to a promising start. Does anyone have any advice for the webmasters of such sites on how to help their creation to take off?

2) The Kitsap Sun has an update on the recently-completed bow replacement of USS San Francisco (SSN 711). SFO moved out of her drydock last month, and will head to her new homeport of San Diego in the spring.

3) NR-1 was retired in a ceremony held in Groton last Friday after almost 40 years of service. You can see some recent pictures of her here, here, here, and here. I'm hoping that the Navy will build a replacement; interestingly, I think that's more like with a new Obama Administration since it would help establish some sort of pro-military/pro-nuclear bona fides while providing needed scientific capabilities (and, of course, providing unionized jobs in a couple of blue states).

4) A commenter in an earlier thread pointed out that retired Admiral "Skip" Bowman, former head of Naval Reactors, has resigned from his position of Nuclear Energy Institute President and CEO. Stating that he was contemplating retirement next year anyway, he said he wanted to give the new NEI leadership a chance to hit the ground running with the new federal administration. Knowing that Admiral Bowman would never back down from a fight, I'm inclined to take him on his word, rather that thinking he resigned due to the anti-nuclear stances of the Obama team. I look forward to seeing what he'll do next.

5) USS Albany (SSN 753) and USS Jacksonville (SSN 699) both recently returned from deployments. Some good pictures of the Jacksonville's return can be found here, and a story on Albany's deployment is here. Looks like the crew of the Albany got some decent liberty, with visits to Crete, France, Italy, and Norway (in addition to some Arabian Gulf ports) mixed in during their 7-month sojourn. Welcome home, guys, and I hope you get some well-deserved time off.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Russian Victor I Transported By Cargo Ship

Via OObject, here's an interesting story about a Victor-I class submarine being transported from Murmansk to Severodvinsk aboard a Dutch transport ship (and paid for by the Canadians). Here's a picture:

It's probably a good idea for the Russians to transport their un-seaworthy old subs by transport ship, considering what happened to the November-class boat that sank under tow in the same waters back in 2003, killing 9 crewmembers.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Movie Reviews: "Quantum Of Solace" And "Twilight"

I saw a couple of movies this week: the new James Bond movie "Quantum of Solace" and the chick-flick "Twilight". I ended up disappointed with both.

I was really looking forward to "Quantum of Solace", both because I thought the last Bond Film, "Casino Royale", was the 3rd best movie I've seen so far in the Naughties (behind "Serenity" and "The Dark Knight"), and because I thought it had a really cool name. It turns out they should have called it "The Bond Supremacy". I'm serious -- it's not the director's fault, but all the potentially good stuff had already been done before, and better, in "The Bourne Ultimatum". What this movie does is advance the story in a workmanlike manner; you learn a little more about the re-tooled Bond, but it mainly just sets us up for the next movie. I didn't feel I wasted my money, but it's not a movie I'd stop to watch again if I see it on cable. Overall, I give it 3 Goldfinger-inspired murdered Bond lovers out of five.

We went to the midnight showing of "Twilight" on Thursday night. As expected, the audiences were about 85% female; surprisingly, though, there seemed to be a lot of adult females as well. I blame this on the fact that there are lots of us Mormons here in Meridian; you see, the "Twilight" series of books has become quite viral among LDS women and teens, to the detriment of us Mormon men and young men. "Why aren't you romantic like Edward?", we hear. Being well trained, we resist the urge to respond, "It's because we're not fictional romantic characters written by a woman, that's why!" In any event, I was hoping the movie might have some good guy stuff in it; after all, it's about vampires. Unfortunately, it featured mainly lots of longing looks, along with a thinly-buried allegory about how people (vampires, in this case) can overcome their natural inclination to do bad by self-discipline. There were some funny scenes, however. As I left the theater, I came upon my youngest, who had been in another theater (couldn't be seen with the parents) ranting about how bad the movie was. "THX 1138 was worse, The DaVinci Code was worse, and there were maybe a couple of other worse movies, but this one is definitely in the bottom five", he declaimed to looks of agreement from the guys in his party and gasps of horror from the girls. I didn't agree it was that bad, but I did give it only 2 romantic vampires out of five. (My wife and daughter, on the other hand, want to go see it again. Since I met my quarterly chick-flick requirement with this one, I'll give it a pass.)

Update 1759 04 Dec: Here's a short video of my youngest expanding on his opinions about the movie.

Friday, November 21, 2008

More Old Topeka Shipmates In The News

Hot on the heels of the story of my old Weps from USS Topeka (SSN 754) hosting a famous tennis star, I noticed two more Navy stories about some of my old wardroom buddies from the "Defender of the Heartland" -- these guys were JOs with me, so they're now on their submarine command tours.

The first discusses the recent return from the sub's 40th deterrent patrol of USS Maine (SSBN 741) (Blue), commanded by my old shipmate CDR John Tollier. Captain Tolliver discusses how the boat was out for 98 days on this patrol, thereby earning the sub and crew the Sea Service Deployment ribbon. The story also mentions something I either never knew or had forgotten -- apparently if a crew has two 80-day patrols then they also earn the Sea Service ribbon. I wonder -- does that only applies to Sailors on one crew, or do they get credit if they transfer from one sub to another and get the required patrols/deployments during a year? (Looking at the applicable instruction -- starting on page 4-45 of a big .pdf file of SECNAVINST 1650.1G -- it looks like that wouldn't be the case, which strikes me as kind of unfair.)

The second is a picture of my old shipmate CDR Mike Tesar re-enlisting three of his crewmen from USS Cheyenne (SSN 773) aboard the USS Bowfin Museum at Pearl Harbor:

You gotta love seeing guys wearing whites in November -- Hawaii is a great place. You also gotta love seeing the 3 junior nukes getting a combined total of almost a quarter million dollars for what normally amounts to about an extra two years each above their current obligation for their first re-enlistment. I think it's one of the Navy's best methods of long-term retention of nukes -- it gets them to shore duty, which gives them a chance to catch their breath after their first sea duty and evaluate their career options. Hopefully the term "buy-a-crow" for this type of re-enlistment (if the guy is an E-4, like the middle Sailor pictured) has gone out of favor; that being said, I'm still in favor of the use of the term "rent-a-crow" to describe all of us nukes and other technical rates who get automatically promoted to E-4 for finishing A-School; I liked the money, but always thought that was kind of cheesy -- especially for the MMs who made MM3 within 2 months of finishing boot camp back before they made all the nuke A-schools longer sometime in the 90s.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Life Submarine Photo Archive

Navy Dad has a great post about the new partnership between Google and the owners of the Life magazine photo archives; you can now search in from Google Image page for any collection of Life photos by using the followign format -- topic source:life

For instance, click here to see their collection of submarine photos.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

New Navy Paternity Leave: Continuing Wussification Or Idea Whose Time Has Come?

The Navy announced yesterday the implementation of a new "Paternity Leave" benefit:
The Navy announced the implementation of a paternity leave policy authorized Oct. 14 which is part of the Fiscal Year 2009 National Defense Authorization Act.
The paternity leave policy provides Sailors another tool designed to help balance work and family. It grants 10 days of non-chargeable leave to married fathers who are currently serving on active duty following the birth a child...
...The Navy, which is committed to becoming one of the top 50 employers in the nation and attracting the best talent possible, designed the progressive paternity leave policy after considering the changing perspectives of work and family needs in the Navy. These perspectives include a desire for more family time...
..."We're pleased to be able to offer this highly-valued benefit," said Capt. Ken Barrett, head of Task Force Life Work, which helped spearhead the paternity leave policy. "Addressing life/work needs for our Sailors is a top priority. The ability for new dads to bond with a new baby or help mom at home is important to building healthy families and is a big priority for our Navy."
I guess I'm kind of confused that the Navy thinks that "a desire for more family time" is somehow part of a "changing" culture. I for one would have appreciated 10 days of free leave to spend with my family even back in the '80s.

Based on my experience, though, I could see submarine commands not finding time to give their guys their "free" 10 days until sometime around Christmas leave period or a post-deployment stand down. (I still have my copy of my disapproved leave papers from when I wanted to drive my family cross-country for a move while the boat was in port for 2 months, and my relief had already been on board for a month, because they "couldn't afford to let me go for 10 days".)

Monday, November 17, 2008

Russian Sub Force: Mess Up Your Logs, Go To Prison!

Some "details" have emerged on the "cause" of the fire suppression system casualty on RFS Nerpa I posted about earlier. The Russians have charged one of the submarine's watchstanders with entering the wrong temperature data into the ship's environmental system:
The business daily said, quoting a source close to the investigation, that sailor Dmitry Grobov is suspected of having entered the wrong temperature data for the submarine's living quarters, which caused the fire safety system to release Freon gas.
The source said that according to information obtained from the sub's Rotor data block, similar to an aircraft's black-box, "the temperature...increased sharply all of sudden and the fire safety system reacted as programmed."
The daily said that at the time of the incident Grobov was on a scheduled watch and the access code to the fire safety system was written in pencil on the surface of the equipment...
...However, former Navy officers have told the paper they doubt that Grobov was solely to blame as it is impossible for one person to activate the system, which is protected from unauthorized activation by multiple levels of confirmation...
...Investigators earlier announced that they had brought criminal charges against the crew member, and that he faced up to seven years in jail.
"Military investigators have determined the person who activated, without permission or any particular reason, a fire safety system on board the submarine. He is a sailor from the crew, and he has already confessed," Vladimir Markin, a spokesman for the Investigation Committee of the Prosecutor General's Office, said on November 13.
This is almost too stupid for words. Do the Russians expect people to believe that one incorrect data entry will cause an automated system to engage? Has no one ever heard of a temperature sensor failing high before? Who would design a system to automatically actuate based on one false reading? (OK, you nukes all know about one particular protective action that happens because of that, but we won't discuss that here. It couldn't kill anyone, anyway.) It's becoming apparent that the sub's fire suppression system was put together incorrectly, but the Russians are trying to deflect blame from the shipyard and/or the possible problems inherent in taking over 15 years to construct a submarine.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

While I Was Away...

Lots of submarine news while I was up in Seattle for testing. Here are some links:

1) It looks like the Russian Navy has identified their scapegoat for the recent fire-extinguishing system accident on the RFS Nerpa; it appears they didn't have any foreign nationals onboard to blame, so they're going after a crewman. Apparently the Russian Navy has learned from the U.S. Submarine Force (or maybe it was the other way around) that's it's a lot easier, when something goes wrong on a boat, to publicly blame the crew rather than admit either a) to possible force-wide problems, or b) that the accident was potentially something that could not have reasonably been prevented with the current Force operating procedures and philosophies.

2) An ASDS "mini-submarine" caught fire in Hawaii during "routine maintenance" that included a battery charge. Bull Nav at OPFOR has more on the troubled history of the ASDS batteries.

3) The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Navy in the active sonar case I wrote about earlier. It looks like at least two Justices bought into the faulty airborne vs. seaborne Sound Pressure Level comparison the environmental groups were disingenuously using in support of their case, proving once again that some of the people can be fooled most of the time.

4) Most ridiculous headline involving submarines: "Terror Jet Was Zapped By A Sub". This one is dumb even by the standards of the British press, since the story never says that a sub is a possible cause of a jet losing altitude quickly; it postulated that powerful VLF transmissions from the Navy Communications Station in Exmouth, Australia, was responsible for interfering with the jet's systems; this is despite the fact that VLF is chosen for submarine communications precisely because it hugs the ground, and that the station has been transmitting for over 40 years without causing other problems with aircraft. It's just important for the British press to try to blame the U.S. military for every problem that happens in the world.

5) The Family Readiness Group of the USS Nebraska (SSBN 739), in conjunction with the "Big Red Sub Club" from Nebraska (home of a football team that's gonna kick KSU's butt today) donated 600 turkeys to the Central Kitsap food bank. Go Big Red!

My test in Seattle went pretty well. They determined that my cancer had penetrated to the "2nd layer" of tissue, but had not spread to the lymph nodes; they say I'll have the best chance of becoming completely cancer-free if I get the radiation/chemo before the surgery. (This was a "borderline" case for whether rad/chemo or surgery was indicated first; had I not been so "young", they said they would have gone with surgery, but figure I can handle the radiation OK and have a better chance of beating it completely thereby.) Hopefully that will be starting this week. I'm just happy to have a way-ahead laid out, and just want to start eliminating this thing -- with extreme prejudice. Radiation is my friend!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Submariner In Space!

On Friday (or maybe a little later), CAPT Stephen Bowen will become the first Submariner in space when he blasts off onboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour as part of STS-126. I know he'll do us proud!

Update 0803 15 Nov: Endeavour took off with CAPT Bowen aboard as scheduled. As commenter Rubber Ducky points out, it turns out that CAPT Bowen is not the first Submariner in space; that honor goes to former astronaut Michael J. McCulley, who served on 3 submarines while enlisted before getting picked up for a commissioning program and going Navy Air. McCulley was the pilot for STS-34 in 1989.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Beta Radiation! It Burns!

Once again proving that the press can turn even the most innocuous nuclear event into the End Of The World As We Know It, check out this Telegraph article on the spillage of some controlled pure water from HMS Trafalgar (S 107). Excerpt:
More than 61 gallons (280 litres) of toxic coolant poured into a river from a burst hose as it was being pumped from the nuclear submarine HMS Trafalgar on November 7.
But the Navy has only now admitted to the spill of the liquid, which contained tritium, a substance which can cause burns, cancer and DNA mutations as it breaks down...
...The incident happened as the coolant was being pumped from the hunter-killer submarine into a large tank on a jetty at the Devonport Naval Base in Plymouth, Devon.
When the pipe split, the liquid, which had been used to cool the sub's nuclear reactor, poured into the River Tamar causing the worst spillage at the base for 23 years...
...Tritium is an unstable radioactive form of hydrogen which glows in the dark and is used to create the luminous glow on watch dials. Concentrated tritium is also used as the fuel to kick-start the uncontrolled reaction in a nuclear bomb, but in nuclear reactors it is a by-product of the reaction process.
It is classed as a 'soft beta emitter', giving off low-energy beta radiation as it decays into a form of helium. Beta radiation can cause burns, cancer and DNA mutations, and tritiated water can enter the body through the skin's pores.
I'm not sure how beta radiation can cause burns at anything other than the highest doses, unless they're talking about electrical burns, because that's what beta radiation is: an electron. You get more "beta radiation" from shocking your hand on a doorknob from static electricity than you would from drinking a gallon of CPW (remember Rickover drinking a glass of it in front of a Congressional panel). Plus, the "beta" from tritium comes out with a ridiculously low amount of energy -- about 5.7 keV. I'm almost amazed they didn't mention that the water spilled from the Trafalgar almost certainly contained traces of DHMO.

(Interestingly, the BBC had a completely non-hysterical report on the incident on their website.)

...Eleventh Day Of The Eleventh Month..

As we take today to reflect on the service that all Veterans have given to our country, we should ask ourselves, "How can I truly honor those who have given so much for my freedom"? One way you could consider helping is to donate to Project Valour-IT; they provide Voice-Activate Laptops for OUR Injured Troops. With 21st century warfare and medical care resulting in a large number of surviving Heroes without the use of their arms, these voice-activated laptops provide them with a needed link to the world. If you're in a position to share of your gifts with them, please consider donating to this worthy cause. For more information, check out Navy Team Leader Galrahn's post from today.

Monday, November 10, 2008

USS Providence Visit Touches Off Diplomatic Row

Japan is protesting an "unannounced" visit of USS Providence (SSN 719) to the White Beach Naval Facility in Okinawa today:
A statement from the Japanese Foreign Ministry says Tokyo reminded the United States that it must give Japan at least 24 hours notice before submarines arrive at its ports.
Japan has asked U.S. officials to explain why the USS Providence arrived on the southern island of Okinawa today without prior notice. The U.S. embassy in Japan said the incident was due to what it called "miscommunication" in the U.S. Navy.
Of course the State Department spokesman will blame the Navy. I'm more inclined to believe that some staffer in the U.S. embassy would fail to pass on the information from SubGru SEVEN than I would believe that the submarine staff messed up. Of course, the civilians get the last say.
This appears to be only the 2nd screw-up we've had with Japan since we signed the 1964 agreement covering warship visits. The first was in April 2001, when USS Chicago (SSN 721) pulled into Sasebo for a touch-and-go at the pier when the Japanese had only been informed that the boat was only going to do a PERSTRANS or something out in the bay.

Submarine Officers In Navy ROTC Commercial

The Navy posted a video on YouTube that features two submarine JOs talking about how they came to join the Navy and the training they got:

Pretty much just guys talking about submarining in front of a black background... not the most exciting video I've ever seen.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

At Least Twenty Deaths Reported On Russian Submarine

Russian media sources are reporting that 20 sailors and shipyard workers were killed during "testing" after a "fire extinguishing system unexpectedly went off". From a BBC report on the incident:
Russian Pacific Fleet spokesman Igor Dygalo said both sailors and shipyard workers died in the incident, which occurred during sea trials.
He said the submarine itself had not been damaged and there had been no radiation leaks...
...The submarine, whose name and class have not been revealed, has been ordered to suspend sea trials and return to port in the far eastern Primorye territory, Capt Dygalo said...
...There were 208 people on board at the time, 81 of whom were servicemen.
Twenty-one injured people have been evacuated from the submarine, sources at the fleet said.
Reports say the incident occurred in the nose of the vessel. The nuclear reactor, which is in the stern, was not affected.
The first linked article says that the sub is "now moving to a temporary base. It is being escorted by an anti-submarine ship and a rescue vessel."

The number of civilians on board indicates that the BBC report is correct that this seems to have happened during sea trials. I mentioned late last month that the Akula-II submarine RFS Nerpa, rumored to be heading to India on lease after shakedown, was out on sea trials. As I doubt that the Russians would have enough shipyard resources to have two boats out on sea trials in the Pacific simultaneously, I'd guess that this is the affected boat. This AFP article on the new incident reaches a similar conclusion.

Russian submarines operate with much smaller crews than American boats, so I would imagine that they rely more on automatic fire suppression systems than our boats do. (The Russians have lost at least one submarine to fire relatively recently, so I imagine they have a special interest in designing robust fire extinguishing systems.) Most naval fire suppression systems would probably use either CO2 or a Halon-like chemical, both of which would displace oxygen in the environment. While you have to take everything the Russians say with a grain of salt, I could imagine the fire suppression system emptying its contents into the torpedo room, and the inexperienced crew following their fire procedures and isolating all compartments; this could have resulted in the O2 concentration in the Torpedo Compartment dropping below that required to support life. In any event, this is quite a tragic accident. Our thoughts are with the families and shipmates of the fallen mariners.

Update 1951 08 Nov: This Reuters article is reporting that the Russian media is quoting a shipyard source as saying that the submarine involved is the Nerpa.

Update 2053 08 Nov: Russian Navy Blog has a translation of a Novosti report that discusses the types of fire suppression systems used on Russian submarines. Applicable excerpt:
The chemical system is designed to extinguish any type of fire in a space except for fuel and ammunition fires and consists of a fire supression station located in all compartments except the reactor compartment. The reactor compartment is covered by stations located in the 5th and 7th compartments.
The extinguishing agent is Halon 114B2. The system can deliver three shots of extinguishing agent to each space. The system can be activated remotely from the central command post or from a local control panel as well as manually from the station in the compartment.
I could imagine that if the whole Halon storage tank emptied into one compartment due to a failed valve/pipe, rather than operating in a fixed number of short bursts, that could result in a Halon concentration high enough to drive the oxygen levels too low in the breathing space --especially if the compartment was isolated so as not to spread the Halon to the remainder of the ship.

Update 0730 09 Nov: An update from the CNN website:
The victims died of poisoning from Freon gas that was released Saturday when the fire-extinguishing system accidentally turned on, said Sergei Markin, an official with Russia's top investigative agency.
His agency has launched a probe into the accident, which Markin said will focus on what activated the firefighting system. He suggested there could be possible violations of operating rules, which points to human error...
...The submarine returned to Bolshoi Kamen, a military shipyard and a navy base near Vladivostok, state-run Rossiya television said.
Dygalo said the deaths and injuries were due to the "unsanctioned activation" of the firefighting system in the two sections of the submarine closest to the bow.
Seventeen civilians and three seamen died in the accident and 21 others were hospitalized after being evacuated to a destroyer that brought them to shore, Markin said in a statement, revising earlier casualty figures.
Hopefully Sergei Markin was misquoted, or at least his investigators know the difference between Freon and Halon. And the Navy spokesman quick announcement of "unsanctioned activation" indicates that they're looking to go the scapegoat route, or anything to take blame away from bad construction or design. My guess is they'll blame one of the dead shipyard workers; it'll be especially good for Russia if one of the dead was an Indian rider, 'cause that'll give them someone non-Russian to blame.

Update 0955 09 Nov: Based on this translation at Russian Navy Blog of a commentary on the site, I'm starting to think that the Russians don't have a separate word for "Halon", and use "Freon" to describe both the refrigerant and fire suppression haloalkanes. My Russian is a little rusty, but I picked up the word "фреона" in the Russian article ("freona" would be the English transliteration), which clearly means "Freon".

Update 1255 09 Nov: This AP article has some good updates, including the information (Russian-supplied, so evaluate accordingly) that the victims were found to have "Freon" in their lungs. This CSM article, on the other hand, confuses AFFF with chemical extinguishers, so probably isn't worth spending your time reading.

Update 1437 10 Nov: Here's an AP follow-up with some theories from some Russians about what might have happened.

Update 1551 11 Nov: Some of the survivors speak.

U.S. Submariners Rode Japanese Boats Back To Japan At End Of WWII?

This story from the Florida Times-Union about the Kings Bay World War II Submarine Veterans Memorial Service, held ysterday, had one particular passage that caught my eye:
He was serving on the USS Bluefish, an American submarine, when his crew learned the Japanese surrendered. But he still had one more mission.
Hiatt, 85, of Lansing, Mich., visiting Kings Bay for the 20th submarine veterans reunion Friday, was one of four crew members who boarded a Japanese submarine to accompany it back to its home port. The sub was on its way to attack the Panama Canal when the crew was ordered to surrender. Haitt arrived to Japan in time to witness the signing of the surrender documents that formally ended the war.
This is fascinating; I'd never heard that this happened. This is one reason why it's so important for the Submariners of today to learn as much as they can from the heroes who fought and won WWII under the sea -- while they're still with us. This is also why it's important for WWII submarine (as well as veterans of the Cold War) to record their recollections for public use -- whether it's through an oral history project or just as a post on your boat's webpage. This history is too important to lose.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Bill Sali Fan Hangs It Up

Based on this comment over at HBO, it looks like Idaho satire blog personality Bill Sali Fan is giving up the ghost. As the writer of Standing Up To Pelosi, it appears that Bill Sali Fan used BlameBush! as a model for satire, except he was in "favor" of his target rather than "against" him -- I guess kind of like Shelley The Republican.

Personally, I thought there was some clever writing going on over at BSF's site, and I was hoping to get the opinion of my regular readers to see if they agree. Check out this post defending Idaho Senator Larry Craig posted soon after news of his arrest came out. (Very bad word warning!) So what do you think... does Bill Sali Fan have any talent as a writer?

Many have wondered what BSF's motivation was. As near as I can tell, he started the blog right after Bill Sali's victory in 2006, hoping to become established enough that by the time the 2008 election rolled around, Bill Sali might actually link to BSF as a "supporter", and then people could make fun of Bill Sali for not recognizing obvious satire. Unfortunately, BSF made it too obvious, even to true believers, that he was engaged in satire, and that plan fell through. My guess is that he just kept writing afterwards because he thought it was funny.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Brits Considering Letting Women On Submarines

Vigilis covered this earlier, but I wanted to jump into the discussion on rumors the Royal Navy is considering designing their replacement for the Vanguard-class SSBNs such that they can accomodate mixed gender crews. From this Daily Mail article:
The next generation of Britain's nuclear submarines are being designed to carry female sailors as the Ministry of Defence is considering scrapping a long-standing ban on women submariners.
Defence officials confirmed that the current rules barring the Royal Navy's 3,700 female sailors from serving in the submarine branch are 'under review', and said design work on a £20billion new fleet of nuclear-missile submarines was taking into account 'the possibility of women serving on submarines in the future.'
The Navy is facing a shortage of suitably-qualified engineers willing to serve for months at a time beneath the waves, and officials believe legal challenges based on gender equality laws could eventually make the current policy untenable, forcing them to adopt mixed crews.
Other nations have already accepted women into submarining, and at least for the Aussies, it looks like this hasn't fixed their "manning" shortages. Although a civilian advisory panel at the end of the Clinton Administration recommended women be allowed on U.S. submarines, the idea really hasn't gotten anywhere in the last 8 years; it's still enough of an outrageous idea to be a source of the New York Times April Fool's joke this year. (OK, so it was really the guys from SubSim who came up with that, but it's still not a mainstream idea.) The Brits are at least smart enough to recognize that a submarine would have to be designed from the ground up to accommodate women. I wrote earlier about the problems you'd have if you attempt to put women on a submarine that's not designed for them:
The biggest problem I see is that either you'd have men and women in much closer quarters that you do on surface ships, or you'd end up with empty racks in the "female only" berthing areas when people stay behind... not very good for morale when most of the crew is hot-racking. Plus, which head becomes the female head? And do you need to install an extra head in the goat locker and wardroom areas? Or just have a sign you put up depending on the gender of the occupant? (That's what we did when we had female riders -- except for middie ops, when boats will turn one head over to them for the night.)
Plus, we all know what "feminine products" would do to the san pump...
We all know that sometime this century the U.S. will put women on submarines; hopefully, though, it'll be done the right way, and not rushed into half-assed. The question of the day is: Do you think the new Administration will try to rush half-assed into putting women on submarines?

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

I Got My First Tattoo Today

For over 21 years on active duty in the Navy, I was able to avoid the temptation to get a tattoo. Today, though, I got my first one (or three, depending on how you look at it). They're small -- just one needlepoke worth of black ink -- and spaced around my abdomen, one on each side and one just below the bottom of my sternum. They're alignment marks for the radiation therapy I'll almost certainly start in the next couple of weeks. This will hopefully help cure the stomach cancer I have that was discovered 15 days ago.

I'm actually very lucky. While this is generally a really bad form of cancer, it was found very early. Normally, cancerous tumors at the gastroesophageal junction (where the stomach and esophagus meet) aren't found until the patient complains of pain, or the tumor grows so big that it blocks off the esophagus and you can't swallow anymore. Luckily for me, I vomited up some blood one morning, and figuring that was sub-optimal I went to our family doctor. He sent me to a GI tract specialist who stuck a camera down my throat and verified that an ulcer-looking thing had been bleeding into my stomach, but had stopped. We did a follow-up endoscoping 2 weeks later, and the doctor noted that it had grown significantly, and the biopsy confirmed cancer. Since then, I've had a couple of tests (one involved getting injected with F-18, which all you nukes should remember from having to learn about all the primary sample analyses), that show the cancer apparently hasn't spread from the main 1" diameter tumor site.

I'll go up to Seattle in the next couple of weeks (apparently, the only doctor who can do this surgery in the Northwest is there) for another test to see if it's spread to the lymph nodes, and based on those results we'll decide if I need radiation treatment in conjunction with chemotherapy first to shrink the tumor (followed by surgery), or have the surgery first followed by chemo. I really hope it's the 2nd option, since the radiation treatment will involve the GE junction getting zapped with 5040 rads of X-rays over a 5 1/2 week period; they say it'll be like the worst sore throat I've ever had (but it will last for several weeks), I'll be weak and nauseated, I won't be able to swallow anything, and they'll have to install a feeding tube into my stomach for me to pour my nutrients and pain meds into. Then, after 4 weeks off to recover, I'd go to Seattle for surgery to remove the tumor and surrounding tissue. Unfortunately, I'm not too optimistic the easier option will be feasible (my doctor's here think it's very likely it's spread into the lymph nodes), so that's why I got the tattoos today.

Needless to say, blogging may be erratic over the next few months. I don't intend to turn TSSBP into a cancer blog, but I find it seems to help me to talk to people about what's going on. If I do blog about it, I'll try to keep it at least somewhat entertaining and/or informative.

While I'm in Seattle, any chance any of my readers stationed on the USS Connecticut (SSN 22) or USS Jimmy Carter (SSN 23) can get your boat's initial manning Eng a quick unclas tour?

Update 1257 06 November: Thanks so much for all the prayers and good wishes. I'll be heading up to Seattle next Wednesday to take the tests on Thursday; we'll be staying with a friend in the Bangor area when not at the hospital, so if any old friends want to see us on Wednesday or Thursday night, drop me a line.

"Hey, Shipwreck" Episode 2-04

The new episode of the space submarine video series "Hey, Shipwreck" is posted over at TubeDaze. In this episode, the guys on watch discuss the Navy in popular culture and how to spot a Diggit. Here it is:

Minnick Defeats Sali

The race for Congress here in Idaho's 1st District pitted a socially moderate, fiscally conservative businessman/veteran who happens to be a Democrat against an incumbent, Bill Sali, who's basically an ineffective embarrassment to the district.

Because the MSM won't get off their butts and make the call, it looks like it's up to me to do so. With 452 of 469 precincts reporting, and Walt Minnick with a lead of over 4,500 votes, Bubblehead is projecting that Walt Minnick has defeated Bill Sali in Idaho's 1st Congressional District. The outstanding precincts are 5 in Canyon County (where Sali leads 54-46) and 12 in Bonner County (where Minnick leads 54-46). Congratulations to Walt, his staff, his supporters, and to all the citizens of this district who won't be embarrassed by their Congressman anymore!

Update 0610 05 November: The 5 precincts in Canyon County reported, reducing Minnick's lead to 3,500 votes. This leaves only the 12 precincts in far-north Bonner County yet to report, but Minnick was ahead 54-46 in the 21 precincts that had already reported there, so there're just not enough votes left for Sali to make up the difference. (In Idaho, absentee ballots have to be at the election office by 8 p.m. on election day, so there won't be a wait for them.)

Update 0859 05 November: One of the TV stations finally called it; it's now down to 4 precincts left, and Minnick has a 3,600 vote lead. Bill Sali supporter Adam has conceded the race (and turned comments off for his concession post, which is probably a smart move on his part), but the actual Congressman is tardy; I wonder if he's going to try to stretch this out until it gets embarrassing, which would be his style. Maybe he's hoping he'll get named to the soon-to-be vacant Lieutenant Governor spot -- after all, he's been such a big help to Gov. Otter in the past. *snicker*

Update 1008 05 November: Still no word from Bill Sali on when he's going to concede; Walt Minnick says he'll hold off on declaring victory until the last three precincts report. Chris at The Unequivocal Notion has a very good analysis about what this means for Idaho politics, and The MountainGoat report is collecting other reactions to this huge story.

Update 2140 05 November: Bill Sali has announced he's not going to concede the race until he's sure "all the votes are counted", despite the fact that all precincts have reported and the final margin is well outside the recount criteria. Representative de-elect Sali's non-concession notwithstanding, the two other current members of the Idaho Congressional delegation who are returning to D.C. next year (Rep. Simpson and Sen. Crapo) have already graciously called to congratulate Walt Minnick. "Graciousness" is a word we already knew wasn't in soon-to-be former Congressman Bill Sali's vocabulary, so I'm not surprised he's causing himself and his Party more embarrassment by failing to do the honorable thing. At this juncture, I think it's become a moot point; Congressman-elect Minnick will get sworn in on Janurary 3rd whether Bill Sali has "conceded" or not. And if the Capitol Police have to haul Sali and his staff out of the Congressional offices on that date because they're still not giving up, so be it.

Update 1253 06 November: Bill Sali did end up conceding in a voice mail to Walt Minnick last night. Dennis Mansfield has a positive post about his friend, the soon-to-be former Congressman.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Old Shipmate Hits The Big Time

My old Weps from when I was on USS Topeka (SSN 754) is now the CO of the submarine tender USS Frank Cable (AS 40). It's not being CO of the Cable that means he's hit the big time, though... it's who he recently hosted as part of a USO tour of Guam: Anna Kournikova. Here's the photographic proof:

Miss Kournikova also toured the USS Buffalo (SSN 715) during her visit. During my time on the boats, the only celebrity we ever had on board was Khrystyne Haje, who visited the Topeka on the 4th of July in 1992 -- not such a big deal now, but in the early '90s she was kind of well known.

Who's the biggest / most attractive celebrity you've ever had visit your boat?

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Pot, Meet Kettle

Dave Lindorff, one of the most consistently amusing conspiracy theorists when it comes to predicting imminent U.S. attacks on Iran (here, here, and here, among other places) is now celebrating the upcoming election of Sen. Obama as a way to end the "self-destructive" conspiracy theories pervading the progressive establishment. Ironically hilarious! Still, I'll miss his "insightful" commentary on upcoming Iran attacks, like where he says the attack will be led by "aircraft carriers packed with tomahawk cruise missiles".

Dumbest Thing Ever Said By Major Party Candidate?

I really, really want to vote for John McCain for President. I think he has the experience needed to step right in as Commander-in-Chief, and as a moderate who doesn't want to see one-party control of government, I really, really don't want a Democratic President with a filibuster-proof Senate (which is possible, though not probable). While I recognize intellectually that my vote doesn't really matter -- Idaho's electoral votes are going to John McCain no matter how I vote -- I still take my voting seriously. And right now I'm seriously having doubts about Sen. McCain's judgment in selecting a running mate after hearing about Gov. Palin's latest completely ridiculous statement:
Palin told WMAL-AM that her criticism of Obama's associations, like those with 1960s radical Bill Ayers and the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, should not be considered negative attacks. Rather, for reporters or columnists to suggest that it is going negative may constitute an attack that threatens a candidate's free speech rights under the Constitution, Palin said.
"If [the media] convince enough voters that that is negative campaigning, for me to call Barack Obama out on his associations," Palin told host Chris Plante, "then I don't know what the future of our country would be in terms of First Amendment rights and our ability to ask questions without fear of attacks by the mainstream media."
This is the sort of idiocy you normally only hear from progressives. The First Amendment, which Gov. Palin clearly doesn't understand, says this:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Nowhere does it say that the Constitution protects people from having their political views criticized, or having their "dissent stifled". If you say something stupid, expect to be called on it. It does, however, say that Congress can't abridge freedom of the press. While extremists on both sides of the political circle like to claim that the media is biased against them, the fact remains that each side has enough media sympathetic to their cause to get their ideas out to the American public. If one wants to avoid "attacks" by the mainstream media, one could choose to use actual facts in their statements; they'll still be attacked (that pesky First Amendment in action again!) but they won't sound like a blithering idiot when they're defending themselves.

As I've mentioned before, progressives have made lots of dumb attacks on Gov. Palin that turned me off from supporting their candidate, but this is something ridiculous that's said by the candidate herself. While I still don't plan on casting my vote for President based on who the Vice Presidential candidate is, I'm seriously looking to see if Sen. McCain provides an explanation for this inexplicable statement from his running mate. [Incongruity intentionally included] The John McCain I've supported since 2000 would address the issue head-on. I'll look forward to seeing what the McCain of 2008 will say.

This being said, I recognize that an Obama Administration would have a lot more people that have similar views of the First Amendment that Gov. Palin seems to have expressed, so that's a strike against them. It's just that none of them would be quite so high in the chain of command.