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|09-05-2005, 10:40 AM||#1|
Join Date: May 2005
Location: South Africa
Sinking of the USS Gitarro
The Sinking of the USS Gitarro
Mike Crawford <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sun, 30 Oct 1994 00:02:42 -0700
I just read the section on defense in *Computer-Related Risks* and was
reminded of the following incidents:
During 1967 and 1968 I lived on Mare Island Naval Shipyard, a submarine
maintenance station just off the North end of San Francisco Bay, across a
channel from Vallejo, California. Until recently most submarine repair
(nuclear, conventional, attack and missile) for the Pacific fleet was done
here; it has since been moved to Bremerton Washington; MINSY is being closed
Sometime during 1968, the USS Gitarro (sp?) was being repaired. The front
sonar cover was taken off, and a hatch was left open so the repair crew
could get out to work on it. The Gitarro was floating in the water, raised
high to expose the sonar to the air.
A test engineer, who had nothing to do with the sonar people, wished to
perform a test of some mechanism that required the submarine to be level.
He went to the bridge (in the middle of the ship, far from the front) and
let some water in the ballast tanks at one end of the ship, until the
submarine was level, then closed off the tank... but he neglected to consider
inertia. The submarine continued to settle for a bit after he closed the
He did not take the obvious route of blowing some air back into the tank.
Apparently he did not know how to raise the submarine, only lower it.
(Perhaps this was all that was given in his test plan; I don't know).
Instead, he let water in the ballast tanks at the other end. Again he
overshot, and again, and again... until he wiggled the open sonar hatch under
Sea water came rushing in the front. Now, this would not be such a disaster
under ordinary circumstances, as military ships are always compartmented so
that whole sections of a ship can be flooded without sinking the ship. But
this ship was in for repair, and temporary pipelines, hoses, and power cables
had been run through the pressure hatches that were meant to close the
compartments. Sailors tried to use fireaxes to cut through live power cables
in order to close the hatches, but to no avail: the valiant Gitarro sank to
the bottom of Mare Island Channel.
I don't know if anyone was killed or injured - I think not. Damage was
mitigated somewhat by a quick thinking tugboat operator who saw the "sail"
starting to roll over into the water. He rammed his tugboat up against the
sail and kept pushing against it until a floating crane was brought in the
next morning. Even so, damage came to $30 million.
In another incident, the radioactive coolant water was being drained from a
reactor. This submarine (not the Gitarro) was in drydock. The usual
procedure is to cut a hole in the hull and run the water out a pipe into a
cement mixer. The radioactive water is used to make cement and trucked to
Hanford, Washington (about 800 miles) for "disposal".
The pipe from the reactor reached out to the hull, where it was connected
via a flange to the pipe leading to the cement mixer. Only one time they
forgot to bolt the flanges together; as the water was pumped out it showered
upon a shipyard worker walking on the drydock below.
I understand that the shipyard worker not only survived but was still working
at the shipyard during the '80s - but the clothes he was wearing at the time,
and the patch of drydock he was standing on at the time are buried at
Hanford. Also, this fellow exceeded his lifetime allowance for radiation
exposure during this "hot shower", and is not allowed inside the nuclear
In still another incident, the above mentioned cement mixer was stolen by the
truck driver assigned to deliver the radioactive concrete to Hanford. He was
caught - after he had used the mixer to pour a backyard patio at his house.
But wait, there's more! The Navy contracted with a private manufacturer to
build a piece of equipment that would be installed in a room aboard a
submarine. The Navy gave the manufacturer plans to this room. When the
equipment was delivered, a hole was cut in the hull of the submarine, and the
equipment was lowered in by a crane. Because submarines are very cramped
there was not much room and the designers used up every bit of available
space for their machine. When it was lowered into the submarine, it was
found that this device did not fit! The Navy made all sorts of accusation's
about the manufacturer's incompetence, but in the end it was found that the
manufacturer did meet the specifications; the Navy's mechanical drawing had
an error in which "1/2 inch" was written where "1/4 inch" was intended.
(Note that one of the factors that limits the life of a submarine is the
number of times holes have been cut in its hull. After a while the hull is
weakened so much that the submarine has to be scrapped.)
And finally, a note about the circumstances in which I lived at the base, and
the importance of unambiguous language in giving commands. I lived there at
the height of the Vietnam War, while my father was an instructor in the
antiaircraft missile school there. I spent the third and fourth years of my
life living on a military base at the height of a war; I remember tanks
rolling by and trucks and trains loaded with bombs. Being a small child I
regarded this with the wonder and curiousity any childhood would have for his
My parents sternly ordered me never to cross the street - but by walking some
distance down my street and crossing an open meadow, I could freely enter
the Marine Corps rifle practice range. Being three feet tall, my friends and
I could easily walk unobserved in the culverts along the road. I remember
watching the men firing their M16's, and one time I sat in a bunker below
the targets - one could lower a paper target into the bunker to replace it
or tally the score - watching bullet holes appear in the targets above.
The Marines did catch us, many times in fact, and always sternly warned us to
stay away, but they never did tell my parents. I never felt I was doing
anything wrong as I did not cross the street.
I did cross the street once, though... and the next street beyond, and snuck
under the fence into the shipyard area itself, walking right past heavily
armed sentries - remember all the riots were happening in Berkeley just 20
miles away, so I'm sure they were on the lookout for saboteurs. They just
didn't think to look for intruders that didn't reach up to their knees! I
remember quite clearly looking up into the cranes used to lift heavy
equipment off of railroad cars, and all manner of heavy equipment that would
have ground a four-year old boy into hamburger. [...]
|09-05-2005, 10:47 AM||#2|
Join Date: May 2005
Location: Below . . .
|09-05-2005, 12:25 PM||#4|
Join Date: Aug 2005
|09-05-2005, 01:04 PM||#5|
Join Date: Aug 2005
Are those stories true or just urban myth type things.
Screw up happen in my industry and it is normally little things like that that do the damage. They are funny when no one is hurt.
O/B U-69, 2nd Flotilla