Friday, June 11, 2010

Back in the Day; The Buoyant Ascent. Submarine Escape Training New London, Conn. 1964 and now.



Well Sir, I was just over at a feller Submarine bloggers place, "Vigilis" at "Molten Eagle", and upon read'n his post about how today's modern Navy "Bubbleheads" escape from a disabled and downed Submarine, I was reminded that back in May of 2006, right after I first began bloggin, I had posted an article regarding a personal adventure of mine doing what is called "The Buoyant Ascent".

Thought y'all might just enjoy read'n it if'n ya ain't already done so....


The Buoyant Ascent, Submarine Escape Training Tower in New London, Conn..



A few days back...for nostalgic reasons...I posted an article about one of my duty stations while in the Navy...an article about the USS Piper SS409. This brought back some other fond memories of those days back in 64 and 65...so...what the hell...here's an article about a once in a lifetime experience(hopefully)...The Buoyant Ascent.

For oh so many years, this tower at the US Naval Submarine Base was the defining motif of the Groton, Conn. skyline. Any old "Bubbleheads" (fer all you land-lubbers that's slang fer Submariners) who were stationed at New London/Groton during the 40's, 50' and 60's and 70's, I'm sure y'all most certainly remember this landmark.

This is were we learned the rudiments of escape from a disabled sunken "Boat". For many of us...this 125 foot tall(if memory serves me correctly) old lady also helped many of us to achieve new self confidence and courage...and a sort of "right of passage" from Sub School student to, an almost Submariner.

This was generally one of the first sites that greeted us as our "boats" cruised up the Thames River returning home from a patrol...and the last site to see as we went down river to begin a new adventure.

If you went to the Base Exchange to buy some sort of souvenir (Post Card, coffee mug, T-Shirt, hat...) for the folks and friends back home...more likely as not it had this image on it. Oddly enough...it took me two full days of "Googling" to find this old photo...and that was by accident (naturally).

So...to all you lubbers and people unfamiliar with Submarine School and the types of training...what's so special about this "water tank"? Well Sir....this is where one did what is called The Buoyant Ascent"....a Submarine escape procedure.

A "buoyant ascent" is when a person surfaces from a depth of 50 or 75 feet underwater using ONLY the air in his/her lungs....no breathing apparatus. Here's how it works.....

Dressed in just our Navy issued swim trunks, we would proceed to the top of the tower where we were greeted by a site that looked something similar to this.....



Once you became familiarized with your surroundings and instructed for the 10th time on just what to do and what not to do...you descended (via the stairs on the outside of the tower) to an "pressurized Escape trunk" 50 foot under the surface.......



















...much like this one...but without the safety apparatus these men are wearing.....

Once in the 50 foot "escape trunk" with your instructor, the outer hatch was closed and you received your last set of safety instructions. The escape trunk was then filled with water just a little over your chin (if you were 5'11" tall) and the hatch to the inside of the tank was opened....and now........"It's Show Time".....


You ducked through the hatchway into the tank and you were now 50 feet below the surface, where you were then greeted by Navy divers who, for safety reasons...would accompany you to the surface...



Once outside the Escape trunk...one would first notice a large "No Smoking" sign just above the hatchway...don't laugh out loud...it could be fatal.

The Submariner would then grab a bar on the side of the tank, arch his back so he was looking straight up through 50 feet of water above him...and then let go....the ascent had started. The air in your lungs would carry you to the surface.

Now Sir....here's the catch! If you held your breath...your lungs would explode somewhere between there and the surface...not a pleasant prospect...so to avoid this most uncomfortable condition...you had to EXHALE air all the way to the surface...a trip that took about 8 seconds. This was also the reason for the Navy safety diver...if you stopped exhaling...he would punch you in the diaphragm to expel air...if you exhaled too much...he would give you an air hose.



If all went well...and you did exactly as instructed...you arrived at the surface with a renewed sense of self confidence and one real great adrenalin high......

Now Sir...it was mandatory for all prospective submariners to perform the buoyant ascent from the 50 feet level...and optional from the 75 feet level. Myself, the buddy I joined the Navy with, and three other men opted to do it from 75 feet...a trip, that if I recall correctly, took about 14 seconds (remember...exhaling ALL the way). WOW...what another great rush that was....

I just thought old Cookie would share that nostalgic adventure with y'all...after all...what's an adventure in'f cain't tell no one about it.....take care and may God Bless everyone......
_____________________________________

Now Sir, I guess this is the new way of escaping from a downed Sub. You'll notice that nowadays these bubbleheads use a contained suit fer escape'n, WUSSIES!! We did it with NUTHIN!! Just bustin balls mates. With the depths today's boats cruise at, and usually in Arctic waters ya gotta have a suit like these.

This video takes you from inside the pressurized escape trunk as it fills with water, to your buoyant ascent ride to the surface. Pretty good video.

NOTE: Although the sound is lost briefly and then returns, you'll hear the man yelling all the way to the surface. It's NOT because he's scared (although it could be), but remember, you MUST exhale all the way up or your lungs will EXPLODE!

Clicky de Linky to watch!

http://link.brightcove.com/services/player/bcpid1815813330?bctid=71702888001

Posted by Cookie frum over at Thecookshack--Gab & Grub

10 Comments:

At 10:39 PM, Blogger Eric said...

With our training for the new escape suits, they instructed us to breathe normally which is different from the old system. Much easier and it also has a number of cool features, like a built in 1 person life raft.

 
At 6:18 AM, Blogger Cookie..... said...

Thanks Eric. Had no idea regarding the new suits and thier capabilities.

 
At 3:51 AM, Blogger Terry said...

This is eiree Cookie,

I was born in Syracuse, grew up in Central Square, Brewerton,all east and west on Rte. 49 and north and south on Rte. 11. I went through the tank in 1964, and shortly afterwards served on the Piper until I helped put her out of commission in early 1967 so they could tow her to Detroit to serve as a reserve boat.

The Vagabond

 
At 4:19 PM, Blogger Boogliodemus said...

I went through the same one you have in the photo in 1982. We went at the bottom hatch, wore Steinke hoods, and had to yell "Ho Ho Ho" repeatedly until we surfaced. Wish someone would have told me to make sure the drawstring on my swim trunks was secured. They filled with water about a quarter of the way up and with the hood inflated, you came out of the water quite a bit. Good laughs had by all. Still remember the female Ensign standing at parade rest with her eyes bugged out as I was yelling "HO, HO, HO" and my trunks down around my ankles.

 
At 8:38 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

There's a very old Hollywood movie, "Submarine D-1", featuring the sub school, and the D-1 "Dolphin" sub in exterior shots. Also, I believe some of the ships that went down in Pearl in '41 are seen there. But the real "pearl" in this oyster is the Escape Training Tank, and the ascent with The Momsen "lung." Caution, some of the dialog is technically inaccurate, but the images filmed around and in the tank are gorgeous, as is the "escape training" sequence itself. That is how it was done, back in the day!
Regards, John

 
At 8:54 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

a little historic post-script: the first submarine escape on record, from Wilhelm Bauer's "Sea Devil" or "Sea Diver" (he built a first sub, which sank, then a second which was successful). Upon the sinking of his first submarine, he evidently understood Boyle's law, as he explained to his panicky crew that they could not open the hatch until the pressure had equalized, when they would "float up to the surface like champagne corks!" It would seem that they must have instinctively, and quickly, learned to breathe out, as there is no mention of casualty. Another historic early escapee commented that, as he went though the hatch he had a sensation of "growing larger;" he said that he realized he did not need to breathe in but constantly had to exhale. It took a long time, and a few accidents, before the U.S. Navy had submarine escape training, and a long time before any type of "free ascent" (without a breathing apparatus as such) became the norm.

Regards, John

 
At 1:23 PM, Blogger LR said...

I've never been on a sub, but that old bubble blowing technique was very useful to me once when I ran out of air at 40 feet while scuba diving. Since there were no obstacles, it was no big deal.

 
At 11:28 AM, Blogger John Pratchios said...

In the summer of 1967, during USNA Midshipman summer training, the Class of '69 spent a week at Sub Base New London. We were afforded the opportunity to make free ascents. They ran us through the pressure chamber taking us to the pressure of 120 feet of depth and back to the surface while adiabatic cooling made the inside temperature fall to about 35 degrees. Surviving that we made one free ascent and a second ascent with the Stanke Hood.
During the free ascent, the hatch out was "guarded" by a diver who grabbed you and did not let you go until you were blowing out hard enough for the free ascent. Instead of being accompanied by a diver, they had divers at 50 feet, 25 feet and 10 feet below the surface monitoring each ascent. When you hit the surface, it seemed like you came fully out of the water, especially with the Stanke Hood which provided a lot of bouyancy.
By the way, the tower was 300 feet tall but the 300 feet deep level was rarely used. Looking at the picture looking down, you can see that the 50 foot hatch is only about one sixth of the way to the bottom.
It was an "E" ticket ride for sure!

 
At 7:32 AM, Blogger sailgulf said...

In 1955 the tank was 112 feet deep and everyone went to the bottom after exiting first from 25 and 50 foot locks.

 
At 7:38 AM, Blogger sailgulf said...

My first time in the tank training was 1955 with the Monson lung. 54/56 re-qualified "free assent".

 

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