Tuesday, May 31, 2005

From Someone Who's Been There...

Originally posted by Bubblehead at 2331 23 Apr:

A reader who is fairly familiar with the unclassified portions of the San Francisco grounding and investigation sent in some clarifications to reports that have been going around the 'Net and mainstream media (mostly Bob Hamilton, since he's the MSM guy that submariners read most). Here's what the reader has to say; what he writes "passes the smell test" from my end, but you are obviously free to make your own decision:

Chart E2202 was corrected and up to date by the ship - the report does not state otherwise. In fact, of all the charts reviewed by the investigation team (and they reviewed A LOT), none were missing ANY corrections (in a TRE, that would make you AA in this particular regard)

Read the report comments carefully (it's written a bit inexactly) - where the ship screwed up was in believing the E2202 chart was an accurate chart because it was based on extensive surveys. My opinion: every U.S. submarine would have been using E2202 (a nice bottom contour chart) for this transit submerged. How many submarines would have found the discolored water spot on 81023 and transferred it to E2202? We'll never know. However, open ocean navigation common practice for most ships had been to compare charts and then select the best chart, just like the SAN FRAN did (I'm not condoning this, but this is my belief based on talking with many people). Stated in another way for redundancy...The bottom contour charts (like E2202) were widely thought to be superior to the general nautical charts (like 81023). And oh, by the way, the SUBNOTE writer used E2202 as well, thank you very much. We all saw the pictures of SAN FRAN in drydock and we all signed Joey Ashley's guest book - we know NOW the bottom contour charts suck. And oh, why wasn't the discoloured water on the E2202 chart to begin with? Truthful answer: no good reason; a clear error on the part of NGA, who made the chart and lacks the fortitude and decency to admit this critical error. God bless the boys on SAN FRAN, who at least had the integrity to admit their faults, take their licks, and support each other.

There was one, repeat, ONE sounding that did not check with chart prior to the grounding - it was 22% off and in about 6000 feet of water, and it was about 5 hours prior to the grounding. An alarm bell? Maybe, or were the investigators reaching? Certainly some good lessons to be learned, but a screeching red/yellow (or even minumum expected) sounding it most certainly was not! And oh by the way, the soundings for the 4 hours up to the grounding tracked just about precisely with the chart.

You'd be hard pressed to find a QM (even one of those 20 year born and bred types) to raise big alarms over these indications. But hey, maybe I'm wrong - that's why it's an OPINION!

General Comments:
Does this investigation report highlight legitimate errors by the ship? You betcha - they should have been more careful in navigating and more thorough in their preparations. The report wastes no ink in dumping on the crew, and even stretches the boundaries of reason and fairness in doing so. And as we all know, they were punished. I'm sorry, but I read the report and I see their mistakes but I don't see gross dereliction of duty. How about the other organizations? With the exception of some minor comments, they get a pass even though they put all the pieces in place to make the grounding happen! They gave the ship the doomed track (BTW, a first time track, never used before - deviated significantly from numerous past "good" tracks - yes, several boats had done this milk run before) and then gave them a chart that made it look safe. A great ship would have recognized the ambush and steered clear - but how many ships really could have avoided this debacle? We'll never know.

Anyone with other opinions can feel free to so state in the comments. But as for me, the facts stated above are the best data I have, and I'll treat them as unquestioned until shown otherwise.


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