Friday, April 11, 2008

Race to the North Pole!

First, lest we forget, yesterday was the 45th anniversary of the tragic loss of USS THRESHER (SSN-593). The Sub Report had a link to this article. I was surprised by the detailed description and the computer-graphic animation of what happened to the THRESHER that were on the wikipedia page. In the wake of the loss of the THRESHER, the submarine force implemented a robust Quality Assurance (QA) program, in addition to some important design and procedural modifications. The submarine QA program is what ensures that we have the same number of surfaces as we have dives.

To the officers, crew and families of THRESHER and all the other submariners on eternal patrol, God bless you and may you rest in peace.

On a happier note, I received a really nice email from the Executive Director of the Dolphin Scholarship Foundation about my previous blog post.

In honor of the U.S. Submarine Force's birthday TODAY, April 11th, the DSF has kicked-off a virtual submarine Race to the North Pole. It starts TODAY and lasts through August 3rd. You can make donations in any amount under the name of any submarine. Right now, the website shows USS NAUTILUS is in the lead, with SILVERSIDES, GROTON, and BLACKFIN following behind. If any of you aren't sure which boat to vote for, just click on the Mighty MSP in the pull-down menu.

Aside: If I thought there were more people interested in naming another ship USS OREGON besides just me, I would propose a campaign for us to have the USS OREGON win the race to the North Pole as a gesture to the Navy leadership that the TIME HAS COME FOR OREGON! I have a feeling nobody shares my enthusiasm on that topic though.

Anyway, back to the Race to the North Pole topic...

For anyone who hasn't been under the polar ice cap before, it's a tight squeeze getting through the Bering Strait. The emblem for the Arctic Submarine Lab is a SCALE drawing of the clearances a 688-Class submarine has squeaking through the strait.

When I went through the Bering Strait, the closest we got was an ice keel passing 17 feet over the top of the sail, with 20 feet of clearance between the keel and the muddy bottom. Yes, there are deeper ice keels, like the one pictured on the right side of the ASL logo above, but you have to drive around those like a slalom. Keep in mind, a 6,900 ton nuclear submarine doesn't exactly turn on a dime. As an Officer of the Deck driving through there, you stare intently at the sonar display, because as soon as you detect an ice keel out in front of you, you've gotta put the rudder over and get the ship started turning to keep from hitting it.

Oh, check out the Arctic Submarine Lab website for some cool photos and videos of submarines breaking through ice and stuff.

Anyway, back to the DSF news:
Our Board of Directors has recently voted to increase the annual amount of the scholarship, to $3400! Tomorrow we will select 44 new Dolphin Scholars, and their potential scholarship over 4 years will be worth $13,000. The Board's goal is to eventually award scholarships of $4,000 each. Don't forget DSF when your sons are seniors in high school!
WRT the DSF Cartoon Calendars: Apparently I was wrong about the calendars. They aren't a big money-maker for the DSF, but they continue to do them as a matter of tradition. I've always been a big fan of the calendars and hope they will continue to keep the tradition going.

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