10 THINGS YOU DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT LIFE ON A SUBMARINE!

Stolen from Peter T. Yeschenko

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1. The biggest party night on patrol is…

Halfway Night: the halfway point of deployment, usually celebrated with the best meal, Lobster tail and prime rib or NY strip steak and festivities to raise money for the sub’s recreation fund, such as Pie in the Eye. Whipped cream pies are auctioned off and thrown at a favorite crew member, officers included. Halfway Night is a time for the crew to let down their hair and break through the barrier between officers and enlisted.

2. Traditions:

You aren’t really an initiated sailor until you’re a Shellback. A Shellback has crossed the equator on a Navy ship. A Pollywog hasn’t. If you’re a Pollywog when you cross the equator, you’ll have to be initiated. It’s all in fun and the ceremonies used to be pretty gross, but they’ve been toned down. Basically the biggest guy on crew becomes King Neptune for the day, regaled with crown and scepter, and Pollywogs have to do his bidding…which may or may not include sucking a cherry out of King Neptune’s belly button. Becoming a Shellback is a Navy tradition.

3. Submarines make their own oxygen.

Submarines have 1 or 2 oxygen generators that break water molecules into their oxygen and hydrogen atoms. Submarines also store oxygen in oxygen banks for an emergency in case both oxygen generators go down, or if the submarine sinks and loses power, they can bleed oxygen from the banks.

4. Submariners go for social swims!

When the Captain surfaces the submarine for a Steel Beach Picnic, he’ll usually authorize a Swim Call too. Break out the sunglasses, because a bevy of submariners will head topside to catch some rays and dive into the water. One note: they’re always on the lookout for sharks, so they’ll post an extra lookout in the Bridge with a rifle. The joke is: he’s not there to shoot the shark, just the farthest guy out, so the rest can make it back.

5. The toilets may explode if you aren’t careful. A submarine has to discharge its sanitary tanks every so often. On the older classes, they pressurize the sanitary tanks and blow them overboard. This is critical: you don’t want to flush a toilet while a tank is being blown overboard. The toilets are flushed by opening a ball valve that lets the toilet contents flow down into the tank, but if you open the ball valve while the tank is pressurized—the toilets can explode….

6. Crews get creative about leaving the family for months at a time.

There’s a lot to be done before Sailors depart for deployment. The simplest part is packing. The harder part is making arrangements for everything while gone. Sailors will write letters to their wives that they can open once a week, or notes to be hidden around the house. They also can’t forget the special holidays they’ll miss, so they have to pre-order the Valentine’s and Mother’s Day flowers, and buy and wrap the birthday and Christmas gifts and can’t forget the cards either.

7. Exercise on a sub: more regular than you’d think.

A crew member will typically work out after coming off watch or before going on. Each submarine jams whatever it can fit: one or two stationary bikes, maybe a rowing machine, sometimes a treadmill. Some of the subs that have more room have a universal-style weight machine, and a lot of submarines will have a work bench with adjustable dumb bells. You can also get a decent run in, 17 laps around an SSBN’s Missile Compartment Upper Level is one mile.

8. The food prep is heavy (literally).

A typical list of all the packed food for a submarine trip includes:

  • 22,000 eggs
  • 800 pounds of butter
  • 500 pounds of coffee

Due to space limitations, many items are baked aboard. There’s a night baker assigned to bake the bread needed for sandwiches and toast, along with dinner rolls, hamburger and hoagie buns, and all the pastries, cakes, and cookies.

9. Some submarines have more powerful warheads than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima.

Ballistic missile submarines can carry up to 24 missiles, which have up to 8 nuclear warheads each. Each can be about 25 times more powerful than what was dropped on Hiroshima, so imagine the destructive power of a single Trident ballistic missile submarine launched towards North Korea.

10. The size of submarines is not what you thought

.The US Navy’s submarines are nothing like the small, grimy diesel submarines you see in movies. For example, the USS Ohio class (Trident) submarines are almost 2 football fields long, 7 stories tall from keel to sail, and wide as a three lane highway.

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