Life on a Nuclear Submarine
Life aboard a nuclear submarine isn't for everyone -- a submariner must undergo a battery of tests to determine his physical and mental abilities as well as his psychological and emotional well-being.
After passing The Initial Training at HMS Raleigh, a Submariner receives Trade training for their Chosen Branch. Then He goes on to the Submarine School at Raleigh (used to be HMS Dolphin)
He learns about the history of submarines, the different classes and types of submarines, engineering aspects, submarine weaponry, damage control measures (such as fire fighting) and team dynamics aboard Submarines.
Deployments on a submarine can vary in length, depending on the type of submarine. Overall assignments last Two to three years. On a ballistic missile sub (SSBN), two full crews rotate shifts to allow the vessel to remain at sea as often as possible. Each crew may serve for about 3 Months before resurfacing and rotating Crews. This schedule is established for the entire Two to Three-year submarine assignment, this allows Submariners and their families a chance to plan their lives around the deployments.
On a Hunter Killer Submarine (SSN) surveillance Patrols may last a few weeks -- or has been mentioned recently (HMS Tireless) six months Plus. Today, sailors can use e-mail (with some restrictions), but in times past, submariners weren't allowed to communicate with the outside world while aboard their sub.
What is life in the Submarine Service really like?
Everybody has heard the Newspaper accounts of what its like on Boats when a Reporter is allowed access (limited) but the reality is a lot Different.They dont have to leave their Family and Friends behind for the Full patrol or work in the Engine Room or Control Room.
We slid slowly down into the murky depths below the waves"
New Astute Class Submarine Schematic
Click on all Images to Enlarge
Before we go any further there are obviously some Restrictions as to what i can share with you above is a Schematic of an Astute class Submarine it will give you a rough idea as to the Living and Working Conditions on most class of Nuclear Submarine ... I have served Both Forward and Aft on Swiftsure Submarines so for the sake of simplicity and now we are underway and submerged i will be talking about that class of Boat.
We are now Producing our own Oxygen,Fresh Water and Steam from Sea water through the Process of Electolysis, Evaporation and Heating the Fresh Water with the Reactor to Produce the Steam ... in effect we have become a Small Self sustaining Submerged Village.
One of the first things noticeable is the Mouth becoming dry and sore throats are not uncommon in the first few days at Sea, this is caused by the Dryness of the Artificial Atmosphere and one of the other effect is Constipation.There is one consolation though there are only 5 Heads cubicles (no Urinals) onboard for the 100+ Crew.
A Typical Submarine Crapper
Lets move on quickly there are only 5 Showers Available for the whole crew as well and Hand basins are Limited also.We do have a Laundry that has two Washing machines and one tumble Dryer all crammed into a very small Compartment (we do not Iron our Uniforms at Sea) This is operated and Maintained by the Forward Wreckers Crew < (Fwd engineering Dept) at a nominal charge and the Proceeds go to the Welfare fund onboard.Life in Luxury at its best.
The submarines galley is situated Forward here the chefs have too produce in excess of 300 Meals per day On either side of the Galley are the Junior and Senior Ratings mess where the Meals are served through Hatches The Wardroom Pantry is supplied by a Dumb Waiter pulley type Lift.
In all these Messes Crew members who are off watch eat, read and study, A wide variety of activities are available during free time. Movies are watched, Card games and various board games, such as Uckers,Backgammon or Cribbage are played.In Todays Submarines Computer Games are played as well.
Lets now move on to my Favourite Space on the Submarine the Bunk Spaces Forward of 29 Bulkhead door.
The Bunk Spaces are split between Port and Starboard forward of the Bulkhead where 48 + Bunks are situated when there are not enough Bunks available the Weapons Stowage Compartment (WSC) it used for All trainees (Men and Officers) or Hot Bunking is implemented ... one man out one man in.Not using the same Sleeping bag i may add.
This is the only place on the Submarine where i could get some privacy there is nothing like diving in your Bunk,Farter,Crib and a few other names which for the sake of decency i wont mention here.
Moving on quickly again once the Curtains are drawn i am in my own little world onboard ... in the first few days at sea my mind would always wander and Ponder about the Family Life i had left behind but by the second week i was able to put that to the back of my mind it was just the way i dealt with it others coped with it differently.
Coffin Dreams are not uncommon if a Man has a Nightmare and wakes up the Confined Sleeping space coupled with drawn Curtains make it feel like you have woken up inside a Coffin, i always tried to get the bottom bunk that way i was Kneeing the bloke in the Kidneys above me and not Vice Versa.
One Survey done onboard a Sub i served on was a Civilian sitting in the Bunk Space just prior to the General Alarm going off ...He was amazed that the majority of the Crew were already out of their Bunks and starting to get dressed before the Alarm went off ... nearing the end of the tests we eventually told him why ... just prior to the Alarm going off the Ventilation was crashed Stopped or Failed we had become so conditioned to the difference in noise levels our own internal Body alarms told us there was something wrong.
Whilst we are Forward of 29 Bulkhead lets take a look at what else is there
Escape Hatch (OOPS) wrong picture
There are a few Compartments/Spaces here on the same level as the Bunk Space there are the Freezer and Fridge spaces and the Compressor space that houses the Machinery to keep everything Frozen and chilled ... All the Perishable goods are kept in the Freezer and Fridge enough hopefully for a full patrol ... non Perishables are as explained crammed into every place onboard that is available.
On the Level above is the Escape Compartment with Emergency Oxygen Generators and CO2 Filters The Escape Tower is also in this Compartment.
A Typical Two Man Escape Tower
(Not Swiftsure class)
ALL Submariners are trained on how to use the Equipment in this area as well as Escaping Via the Tower they must be able to take control of the Escape procedure (they could be the most senior crew member there)
SETT Explained here in Blog >> Royal-Navy-Sett.
All the compartments i have shown and talked about could have been seen at any Navy Days when The Boats were Active .. Sadly that is not now the case they have all been De-Commissioned
29 Bulkhead Door
Click on Images to Enlarge
Lets move out of the Bunk spaces some idiot decided to Carpet the Area thinking it would be a good idea he took the "Run silent run Deep" idea to the extreme and frankly with so many men in one area it is starting to get a little bit smelly.
Weapons Stowage Compartment (WSC)
This is on the other side of the Bulkhead this is where the Torpedoes are stowed the eagle eyed among you will spot the non Perishable food stowed down the centre, for obvious reasons we had to remove all Smoking Materials (Lighters) before Entering.All Trainee Submariners will have to Know the Hydraulic,Pneumatic,compartment Valves and Isolation's.
They will also have to know what Tanks,Hull Valves and Standard/Emergency operating Procedures (SOP/EOPs) that are applicable to this compartment ... this also applies to all compartments onboard a Submarine.
Each crew member continues to learn and gain more expertise after they are assigned onboard a submarine. As a Submariner gains operational experience, they receive advanced training in equipment maintenance, troubleshooting, and advanced operational techniques. Training continues throughout a Submariner's career to keep pace with technological developments. Regardless of their specialty, everyone also has to learn how everything on the Boat works and how to respond in emergencies to become a "qualified submariner" and earn the right to wear the coveted Dolphins on their uniform.
Right thats the Compartment Part 3 Lecture over lets go back onto 2 Deck and move Aft ... there are some compartments that are Restricted on this Deck that i cannot take you into ... However you will have to know what is inside the Chief in Charge will be more than happy to show you at a later date .. Just knock and ask.
Just Past the Junior rates Mess is the Ladder down to 3 Deck in this area you will find the Auxilliary Machinery Space (AMS) and also the Air Production and Purification Plants ... There are two main problems of life support in the closed environment of a submarine:
When we breathe in air, our bodies consume its oxygen and convert it to carbon dioxide. Exhaled air contains about 4.5 percent carbon dioxide. A submarine is a sealed container that contains people and a limited supply of air. There are three things that must happen in order to keep air in a submarine breathable:
•Oxygen has to be replenished as it is consumed.
•Carbon dioxide must be removed from the air.
•Oxygen has to be replenished as it is consumed.
•Carbon dioxide must be removed from the air.
Oxygen is supplied from electrolysis of water it is either released continuously by a computerized system that senses the percentage of oxygen in the air, or it is released in batches periodically through the day.Carbon dioxide can be removed from the air chemically by devices called scrubbers.There are also Onboard 2 CO/H2 Burners that help with purification.
2 Deck to 1 Deck (Control Room) Ladder
We are now in the Control Room this is the Command Centre of the Submarine
Diving and Surfacing
To control its buoyancy, the submarine has ballast tanks and auxiliary, or trim tanks, that can be alternately filled with water or air.When the submarine is on the surface,the ballast tanks are filled with air and the submarine's overall density is less than that of the surrounding water. As the submarine dives, the ballast tanks are flooded with water and the air in the ballast tanks is vented from the submarine until its overall density is greater than the surrounding water and the submarine begins to sink (negative buoyancy). A supply of compressed air is maintained aboard the submarine in air flasks for life support and for use with the ballast tanks. In addition, the submarine has hydroplanes that help to control the angle of the dive and Surface.
Sleeping Control Room Chairs ZZZZ
Although it is difficult for most people to imagine living on a submarine, challenging submarine living conditions actually build strong Bonds among the crew. The crews are highly motivated, and quickly adapt to changing conditions. It is a busy life of specialized work, watches, and drills.
There are Three meals a day: Breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Crew members usually get about six hours of sleep per day; most people fall to sleep very quickly after their Watch.
The days pass without sunrises and sunsets, because on a submarine operating at sea, the only view of the sky is through the periscope.
Compared to life on a surface ship, submarines are quieter and the ride is smoother because the submarine is rarely affected by the surface waves. The air is cleaner than the air outside, and many submariners notice the strong smell of the ocean when the hatch is opened after a long time.