Tuesday, May 31, 2005
Here's a portion of what is purported of an unclassified message sent today by Commander, Submarine Forces Pacific.
At 10 January 1634 local (100134 EST) the USS SAN FRANCISCO returned safely to Apra Harbor, Guam. The ship moored with her own line handlers in a normal submarine configured mooring (AFT draft is 27'-10'' (normal AFT draft is 32') and FWD Draft is above the draft marks with the waterline at the point the towed array faring begins; 0.8 degree STBD list and 1 degree Down bubble indicating by naval architecture calculations that 1 A/B and 2A/B MBTs are most likely flooded). The severely injured Machinist Mate (Engineroom Upper Level Watch at time of grounding) was evacuated immediately and transferred by ambulance to Naval Hospital Guam where a fully staffed medical team was standing by. He is conscious and in stable condition. Approximately fifteen additional injured personnel requiring medical care subsequently departed the ship and were transported to the hospital after taking a moment to meet with family members.
Crewmembers from the USS CORPUS CHRISTI, HOUSTON and FRANK CABLE assisted in linehandling and various return to port evolutions such as propulsion plant shutdown, shorepower cables, and rig for surface. Standing by on the pier was a full complement of watchstanders from USS CITY OF CORPUS CHRISTI (and SAN FRANCISCO stay-behinds) to satisfy all watchstanding requirements for reactor plant shutdown with follow-on inport forward and aft watchsections.
Following the grounding on 8 January, the ship transited on the surface at 8kts with surface escort, USCGC GALVESTON ISLAND to Apra Harbor, Guam. Due to deteriorated weather conditions on the evening of 9 January, the Commanding Officer shifted bridge watchstations to control and shut bridge access hatches to maximize watertight integrity in light of reserve buoyancy concerns. The ship maintained stability throughout the surface transit with continuous operation of the Low Pressure Blower on the Forward Main Ballast Tanks. SAN FRANCISCO has experienced no reactor plant, propulsion train or electrical system degradations as a result of the grounding. The Commanding Officer shifted the Officer of the Deck's watch to the bridge on 10 January in preparation for piloting into Apra Harbor.
The ship's Main Ballast Tank damage and deformation has degraded maneuverability and mandated the use of two tugs to moor in Apra Harbor. A Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard/NAVSEA Material Assessment Team comprised of a structural engineer, MBT vent expert, air systems expert and naval architect arrived in Guam with special ship salvage and recovery equipment to stabilize the ship pierside as soon as possible. The team, led by Captain [Name], commenced a seaworthiness and repair assessment upon the ship's arrival. Once additional buoyancy measures are in place and testedsatisfactory, the Low Pressure Blower will be secured to allow divers to enter the water to conduct an inspection. While this grounding is a tragedy, with a through investigation led by [Name], we will find out all the facts and then ensure we learn from the mistakes. But, I too believe we have much to be thankful for today, and much to be confident in. An operational warship has returned to port on her own power with all but one of its crew after sustaining major hull damage. The survival of the ship after such an incredibly hard grounding (nearly instantaneous deacceleration from Flank Speed to 4 KTS) is a credit to the ship design engineers and our day-to-day engineering and watchstanding practices. The continuous operation of the propulsion plant, electrical systems and navigation demonstrates the reliability of our equipment and the operational readiness of our crews as a whole.
I can't guarantee that this is an actual message sent out by ComSubPac, (I'm not on the mailing list anymore) but it certainly is in the same tone as similar messages I've seen previously, and if it is a hoax, it's a darn good one, by someone who knows submarines. The description of two flooded forward main ballast tanks matches with the boats attitude as it was coming into the harbor. If true, this message confirms to me the professionalism, dedication, and incredible seamanship demonstrated by the crew in the aftermath of the casualty. I expect we won't hear much more about the specifics of this incident for a while, unless they do determine that there really was an uncharted seamount that the boat hit.