Sunday, October 24, 2004

note from a canadian submariner...

"minor damage" done to the hmcs chicoutimi

i got the following email from a friend of mine who used to be in the navy (in fact, she was rather high up in the chain of command). in it, stuart glen, a petty officer (i think) onboard the ill-fated submarine hmcs chicoutimi, described the time period immediately following the outbreak of fire...

>May be of interest to you. I received it from a friend who didn't identify
> who first received it from PO1 Stuart Glen and then passed it on.
> ********************************
> Message From Canadian Sub Crew Member
> On behalf of the whole crew of HMCS Chicoutimi, please let me say that we
> appreciate each and every one of the heartfelt messages we've received,
> both in this forum and in others. We performed well - but we were also
> lucky, in equal measure. It could have been far, far worse. The actual
> moment of danger lasted just over 4 or so hours - the vast majority of that
> time being with the submarine solidly filled with very toxic, thick black
> smoke. And, of course, with no power whatsoever to run engines, ventilation
> fans, or the LP Blower. We've always been taught in Sea Training that smoke
> generates rapidly, but until this past week we had no idea what that really
> meant.
> When you finish reading this, go stand in your bathroom and picture the
> single entrance being blocked by fire and sparks, accompanied by a very
> loud electrical popping/crackling sound. After 2 seconds - two very short
> seconds, shut out the light. That darkness is what it was like on 01 and 02
> decks on board HMCS Chicoutimi. Everything had to be done by feel -
> provided you were one of the lucky ones who got a mask on their faces. If
> you didn't, then your only conscious thoughts were about locating one in
> the pitch dark, then feeling your way to a spot where the EBS connectors
> were and plugging it in.
> I was one of the unfortunate ones who didn't get a mask - I had a person on
> one side of me, and a person on the other - and my path was blocked by one
> of the tables in the C&PO'S mess. I'd been closed up there as part of DCHQ
> (HQ1 to the O Boat types). Not to be overly dramatic about it, but I
> believed that I was going to die. In the microsecond it took my brain to
> work through all the combinations for escape, the result kept coming up the
> same - no way out, and fire/smoke still coming in. I could feel the heat
> beginning to increase. I was fortunate - as were so many of us. Just as my
> brain became resigned to the extremely dangerous position I was in, a fully
> plugged-in EBS mask appeared out of the darkness and thrust into my hands.
> One of the other members in DCHQ had taken the time, as the bangs and
> flashes were going off, to empty the EBS locker at his feet and plug in
> enough for everyone, and started passing them around. He saved my life, and
> the lives of everyone else in that space - but when he reached for his own
> mask, he couldn't find it in the darkness. He managed to escape through
> the glowing doorway to safety, though, fortunately. Elsewhere in the boat,
> a two man team saved more lives. One aggressively snatched passing
> shipmates and bodily shoved them into the Junior Rates Mess while the other
> plunked a mask on their face. We did everything we needed to do, to
> survive - though one of us just didn't make it. Lt. Saunders was to be my direct
> boss when we got back to Halifax - I'm the Combat Systems Engineering Chief
> on board the boat. This trip was to be the time we started working with
> each other, to start the process of running the department together. It is
> sadly ironic that my memories of Chris Saunders will be for the laughs and
> experiences we won't get the chance to share, rather than the few we did.
> I cannot talk about specifics, of course, and I know you'll all understand.
> At least not yet. There is a family and a country that deserves answers,
> and the proper route for that is through the Board of Inquiry which is
> starting now. We met them today, and I know several members of it either
> personally or through reputation. It will be thorough, of that there is
> absolutely no doubt whatsoever.
> I've been lurking here on the board far too long - time to surface and say
> hello. Some of you will recognize my name, others won't, though I've been
> serving in submarines almost continuously since August, 1981. And banging
> my head on valves since that time, so I must be pretty damn lumpy by
> now. Good to be back, boys, and thank you again.
> - Stu
> PO1 Stuart Glen

No comments: