A Much-Needed Switch
Prior to 2014, the submarine force had 18-hour days in which sailors stood watch for six hours, and had 12 hours off for other duties as well as sleep. Thanks to a few junior officers, though, it was agreed to change those watches to eight hours, with 16 hours off.
According to the officers, this switch had an immediate positive effect. Not only have people improved in their performances, but this switch also increased morale on the boat.
There’s No “I” in Team
Stealing anywhere should be prohibited, but you’re probably wondering why we’re placing such an emphasis on theft here. Well, it turns out that there are some serious consequences for those who steal whilst on a submarine.
One way or another, the thief will get caught. Once that happens, they’re kicked off the boat at the next port. Not only that, but this kind of incident can (unsurprisingly) cause demotions and rank drops. These consequences make sense considering the fact that these people are supposed to be a team.
We’ve all heard the saying, “Sharing is caring.” Well, that sentiment is slightly different if you’re living aboard a submarine. Submarines don’t have bunks for each of the passengers. In this case, two to three people usually share the same bunk with each other.
How? When one person’s shift ends, they wake up another passenger who’s sleeping in the bunk. This happens so often that submariners have even come up with a term called hot racking, which refers to the warm spot on the bed that someone else leaves behind after sleeping there for six hours.
The Dolphin Pin
Dolphins are the cutest, right? Did you know that dolphins are also extraordinarily honorable? Well, submariners are well aware of that. Officers have to work really hard to earn the highest honor from their commanders while living onboard a submarine.
The only way to get the dolphin pin as a marine is to memorize how the submarine works and learn how to use the boat as a weapon. Then, you’d have to sit down for a test and ace it with flying colors.
They Call Beds “Coffins”
Living aboard a submarine, which is basically an underwater metal tube, can be quite an eery thought if you really think about it. With that said, it’s only fitting that officers call the beds where they bunk “coffins.” Yes — you read that right.
An interesting nickname, we’re not sure how comfortable we’d feel laying down in a graveyard of sorts. Of course, we’re only kidding but nonetheless, it’s an interesting nickname for the bunkers.
The officers and marines that live aboard submarines learn and train themselves to sleep anytime, anywhere — so much so that you can have a full-on conversation next to someone that’s sleeping, and they won’t wake up.
Call their name once in a lower tone, though, and they’ll be up in no time. If only we had that skill. We’d take a nap or catch some shut-eye anywhere and everywhere!
Submerged for Weeks or Months
Considering that submarines operate underwater, or at the bottom of the ocean, it’s very rare to see daylight and nightfall. So, it’s incredibly easy to lose track of the time once you’re inside an operating submarine — especially considering the fact that these boats can stay submerged for weeks or even months at a time.
Still, if you’re ever aboard a submarine, don’t fret — you will have access to a clock! The point is, you’ll probably find it incredibly challenging to figure out what time it is without looking at the clock.
Lower Levels of Oxygen
Submarines keep oxygen levels extremely low, and although this is for safety reasons, this can have some serious side effects. For instance, lower oxygen makes it more of a challenge for your body to heal if it’s been injured.
While that’s typically not a problem, if you end up cutting yourself while working aboard a submarine, you probably won’t be the happiest of campers. Aside from the fact that your wound would constantly ooze because it can’t heal properly, lower oxygen can also cause your energy levels to drop and contribute to mood swings.
Sleeping With Nukes
Cramped living conditions may not sound so bad at first. In fact, some may find these small spaces to be cozy — that is, until they realize they have to share the same space with massively destructive weapons.
Although an off-putting thought, you better get used to being around ballistic missiles, torpedoes, and even nuclear warheads for months at a time.
Free Time in the Mess
As we’ve already mentioned, submarines lack space, and this limits what the crew can get up to during their designated free time. In most cases, crew members like to hang out in the mess hall.
This communal area typically includes a few big television sets and a DVD library. This way, the passengers can get some sort of entertainment whilst deep down under.
Electronics Will Guide You Home
Suppose you’re going somewhere that you’re not totally familiar with, so you stop and ask someone for directions. Well, aboard submarines, you can’t really do this.
As we all know, submarines glide through the water, relying solely on electronics and sophisticated machines in order to navigate. In other words, your life is dependent on electronic machines.
Months on End
You might be in love with submarine life and perhaps you’re planning on becoming a top-tier expert submariner, but beware — a huge commitment awaits you. We’re saying this because you won’t be staying underwater in a submarine for just a few days.
Rather, you’ll be living in the submarine for at least 90 days. While this is the minimum for normal tours, oftentimes, it gets extended to the point that you can end up on the submarine for almost six months!
No News Is Good News
Despite what some of you may believe, living aboard a submarine is not always high-tense action and sick battles. On the contrary (for the most part), life on a boat is rather mundane. The crew members follow the same schedule every day and while this can get quite boring at times, it’s actually a very good thing!
Why, you ask? Well, if there’s commotion aboard a submarine, that could mean that the world is in danger.
If you’re currently complaining about the size of the bathroom in your new apartment, then get this. Being that submarines have huge equipment and machines inside them, space is extremely limited.
As you can tell from this photo, the size of the bathrooms aboard submarines is quite small and can make anyone feel congested while they’re doing their business. Now, imagine that and add a bunch of crew members, and you’re left with absolute chaos. Sharing the same bathroom with a huge crew for a couple of months really doesn’t sound like a walk in the park.
At this point in the list, you’ve probably already realized what limited space there is inside a submarine. Now, you have to share that space with a crew that can range up to over 100 people. That’s nuts!
So, when it comes to storing your belongings, make sure not to overpack because you will be sharing that space with tons of other people.
Training for the Submarine Life
Just because it’s your dream to become a submariner doesn’t mean it’ll happen overnight. In fact, there’s a lot of training that goes into becoming a submarine crew member, and it’s a rigorous process.
According to a former Navy crew member, for the first few months, you spend 10 hours a day studying non-stop before marching back and forth. They essentially “cram four to six years of college-level information into a six-month period.”
No Communication With the Outer World
When you board a submarine, you should prepare yourself and understand that communicating with your loved ones won’t be like it was before. No mailman is going to swim deep into the ocean to pick up mail from you to deliver to your loved ones, and vice versa (obviously). The only time you can deliver or receive mail is when the submarine surfaces.
Even then, the submarine emits a signal that shows the location of the submarine, which the crew does not want. So, with that, just know that communicating with the outside world whilst you’re aboard a submarine won’t necessarily be a piece of a cake.
Laid Back Grooming Options
While the strongest military branches are usually made up of clean-cut soldiers with little to no facial hair and buzz cuts, those living aboard submarines have a different set of rules. These guidelines are a bit more laidback, and that makes sense considering that these men are trapped in a metal tube for months on end.
With that being said, it’s understandable that they don’t want to shave every single day!
Do you know what the crew members do after their boat, or submarine, is fully submerged under the water? They look for leaks, of course! Why? Well, if the boat does have any leaks in it, then their lives will be at great risk.
Even if they’re dealing with a huge leak or hole, they need to cover or mend it in a short amount of time — and they need to do it quickly. Their lives literally depend on it…
We have shared this information several times to make you understand just how little space submarines have. But, here’s another example of that! Due to the smaller space capacity, most of the areas inside these boats are entirely cramped. This impacts the hallways as well.
In fact, the hallways are so narrow that only one person can walk through them at a time. In other words, two members can’t even walk through a hallway side-by-side.
Do you remember how we discussed the size of bathrooms aboard submarines? Well, this time, we’re discussing the whole shower situation. As we all know by now, many types of machinery and equipment consume most of the space.
So when it comes to fitting in a shower, they need to be creative. Because of this, showers aboard submarines are usually — you guessed it — pretty cramped.
The kitchen aboard a submarine, also known as a galley, is where all the food is prepared. Now, considering we’ve mentioned time and time again that submarines are very limited when it comes to space, you may find it surprising to learn that these galleys are relatively large.
Don’t get too excited — these kitchens aren’t that big but in comparison to the other areas on board, it’s like a breath of fresh air.
Three Meals a Day
We can’t talk about submarine kitchens without discussing the food onboard! Modern American submarines feed their crew members three meals a day for the length of the submarine patrol — which could last weeks or even months without resupply! And from the looks of it, the food doesn’t look half bad!
In the top photo, you can see that the cook is seasoning a tray of fish fillets aboard the ballistic missile submarine USS Lousiana. In the bottom photo, another cook is preparing pizza on the same submarine.
Watch duties aren’t random assigned amongst the crew members. Instead, they prepare the schedule for the incoming months based on a hierarchy of sorts.
Everyone has to attend watch duty but the time and place will vary depending on the personnel’s rank. It also depends on the kind of specialized training each of these individuals go through. So, with higher rank comes greater responsibility.
Since we’ve already discussed watch duties and how responsibilities are distributed to the crew members, we’d like to now get a little more specific — who does what during the watch duties?
For instance, the deck officer is required and in charge of the conning tower, a raised platform on the submarine from which the officer can conn the vessel. In other words, the officer can control the movements of the ship by giving orders to those responsible for the ship’s engine, rudder, lines, and ground tackle.
The Command Launch
You must be wondering how the crew members manage to make space for tons of weapons when everything is so cramped, and space is so limited. Well, that’s what the command launch is essentially for — to store all those types of weapons.
Just like any other area on board a Navy or Marine vessel, the control room has particular requirements. Just because there’s space for weaponry doesn’t mean that they aren’t limited. This limited space actually demands certain design features including specific lighting solutions.
Now that we’ve covered where the weaponry sits aboard these submarines, it’s time to learn a little more about these said weapons. Some submarines have Trident missiles, submarine-launched ballistic missiles equipped with multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles.
In other words, be extra careful if your submarine is carrying one. On the other hand, though, you can feel at peace knowing that you have something this powerful to protect you!
Moving away from war and gore, let’s talk about something light and fun. Did you know that there are multiple recreational options for the sailors and crew members? Come on, they need to have a little fun as well, especially because they’re underwater for weeks or months at a time!
Anyway, members keep busy in their spare time by playing cards and board games. Sounds a lot like summer camp, huh?
Toilets Get Clogged
Just like at home, toilets get clogged on board a submarine. The way it works is that water from the toilets is supposed to be pumped into three sanitary tanks on board the vessel.
However, if someone has mistakenly messed up the valve-line, water would flow somewhere else, like the kitchen sinks. Also, if you’ve ever wondered where all this wastewater normally goes, we can tell you that it’s actually being dumped into the ocean.
Sailors are known for their superstitions and weird ceremonies. One of them is called the “Line-Crossing Ceremony”. Unlike what you may think, crossing the line doesn’t mean punishing someone for, well, crossing the line.
What it actually stands for is crossing the Equator. All the people who have already crossed the Equator are called “shellbacks,” and they initiate the wogs (short for pollywogs), those who haven’t crossed the line yet.
Angles and Danglers
As you may have guessed from the title, you are about to read about many head-swirling moments. Angles and dangles mean that the crew takes the submarine on a couple of extreme turns.
Usually, it’s done to test the crew’s ability to deal with extreme scenarios. This mainly involves groping whatever you can and ensuring that all the equipment is secured in place. Then, all that is left to do is to enjoy the rough ride.
No Slamming Doors
Since sailors get very little sleep, and anyway, it’s pretty hard to get a good sleep on a submarine, there is a very strict rule about slamming doors. Since every little noise may cause people to wake up, slamming doors is strictly prohibited.
Also, there is another aspect to it. Sometimes it is absolutely necessary to maintain complete silence to avoid sonar detection by enemy vessels. So, slamming doors or making any other loud noises is not allowed.
Limited Shower Time
Despite the fact that a submarine is virtually surrounded by water, clean water is extremely precious onboard the vessel. Since a submarine wishes to stay undetected, it needs to limit the number of times it expels its used (grey) water.
For this reason, shower time is limited to three or five minutes max. It depends on water run time, which is the time it takes to cycle used water out of the ship’s systems.
Usually, there is only one washer and one dryer aboard a submarine. This means that it can handle only a small amount of clothes every time it is used. And despite what you may think, these washers and dryers are not that different from the ones you have at home.
Sure, they may be a little smaller in size because they have to fit in a cramped environment, but that’s pretty much the only difference.
Unlike the rest of the navy, submariners get a special kind of uniform. Sure, they still bear all the markings and colors of the US Navy, but with a unique twist to it. While sailors on board a submarine wear deep blue overalls (like other sailors), these are made of lint-free polyester.
And the reason? Lint may clog the air filtration system onboard the submarine. Also, this garment earned a funny nickname — poopie suit.
Ever wondered how the servicemen (and recently, servicewomen) onboard submarines don’t suffocate? Submarines are equipped with a simple yet quite impressive technology that allows them to produce oxygen from the water.
Seawater is put through a process called electrolysis, which basically allows the extraction of oxygen from saltwater. Additionally, submarines have a couple of oxygen tanks just in case these systems fail and there is an acute need to release oxygen into the submarine’s interior.
Sometimes, especially in Hollywood movies, submarines are depicted laying at the bottom of the ocean. Have you ever wondered if it’s even possible? The answer is simple: it depends on the type of submarine.
Apparently, electric-diesel submarines are lighter and more maneuverable and they can actually do that, assuming that the depth is within their limit. However, their bigger sisters, the nuclear submarines, are less likely to perform something like that since they may get stuck at the bottom.
An average submarine has some 100 people serving on it, sometimes even more. This means that they produce a lot of trash, starting from candy wrappers to eggshells, and even Q-tips. Where is all this waste going?
Following both environmental safety concerns, and ensuring the success of the mission, some of the trash is sorted until it can be unloaded and recycled onshore, whereas what can’t be recycled gets sealed in special steel cans and dumped into the ocean.
Submarines need to stay as quiet as possible to avoid detection. For this reason, their hull is coated with a special material called anechoic coating. It consists of complexly engineered rubber tiles that are attached to the hull of the submarine with glue.
These rubber tiles absorb the sound of breaking waves against the hull, thus reducing the acoustic signature of the vessel. They also reduce the sounds that are coming out of the submarine, ensuring that the submarine remains as stealthy as possible.
This is perhaps a fact that is little known by many, given its distinctive and covert nature. United States submarines have a special compartment called the lockout trunk, which is used by the Navy SEALs.
This is basically a room that is accessible via a hatch and it allows SEAL teams to get on board the submarine in their scuba gear while the ship is submerged. This basically gives them the ability to deploy special forces anywhere in the world.
One of the many advantages of using a nuclear-powered submarine is the fact that it will remain operational for decades without the need to refuel. The Astute class nuclear submarines that are operated by the Royal Navy, for example, require refueling only once in 25 years.
Naturally, even with such capabilities, a submarine needs to resurface simply because it needs to be resupplied with food and clean water. However, this is still an impressive fact.
We’ve already mentioned the fact that there aren’t enough sleeping bunks on board a submarine and sailors often have to share their beds with each other. Sometimes, when that doesn’t seem to be enough, temporary bunks are sometimes placed in the torpedo room.
This means that sailors have to share their beds with hunky torpedoes. We’re kidding of course, but we guess that sleeping around metal tubes filled with explosives is something they get used to.
Most modern submarines have a dedicated area onboard the vessel that is reserved for the ship’s doctor. The word “doctor,” however, can be misleading. On some submarines, a senior corpsman serves as the medical authority on board the vessel, but only after completing a very rigorous training process.
Their job is to ensure that the crew stays healthy. They can treat minor injuries as well as more serious and complex ones, even those that may require surgery.
Given the fact that submarines have to remain submerged for long periods of time, food is an issue. Fresh food only lasts a couple of weeks, and then the chefs have to improvise. Some dried foods are used to cook great meals, including complex dishes such as lasagna.
Additional tricks include storing fresh food in various nooks and crannies, to prolong their shelf life. Since it gets really cold underwater, fresh products can last a little longer than on the surface.
Lack of Motion
This may be quite surprising for those who have never actually been on a submarine, but things remain very still even if there is a storm raging above. But, why is that? This is because submarines usually travel dozens (and sometimes hundreds) of meters below the surface.
In fact, the submarine moves in almost complete stillness, except for a few minor jolts here and there. The only noises on board the vessel come from the people and the whirring equipment.
Drills Drills Drills
Part of the mundane routine onboard a submarine includes countless drills. Three of the most important drills are fire, flooding, and reactor drills. An additional type of drill addresses various battle scenarios.
Even when the submarine is docking at port, the crews are required to carry out drills. This is necessary to maintain readiness for all scenarios. Another type of drill is called a torpedo “hot run”. It implies a scenario in which a torpedo unintentionally goes off onboard the submarine.
Like any other complex machine, a submarine requires a high degree of maintenance to ensure that it continues to operate smoothly while on operational deployment at sea. Therefore, sailors devote many hours of their day (and night) to fixing, repairing, and taking care of every valve and hatch.
This, of course, also includes the maintenance of the electronic equipment and the launch tubes. This maintenance actually bites into the sailors’ time off. There is a little rest for the sailors, even when they are off duty, so it seems.
This may just be unique to American submariners, but since boys will be boys, this makes sense. Sometimes, when the conditions permit it, sailors will “slide” down the submarine’s corridors when it performs steep depth changes.
This doesn’t happen every day of course, but when it does, it looks like a small holiday for the mariners. They would need, however, to secure their commanders’ approval before doing anything silly such as this.
Another weird ritual on board a submarine is the halfway moment of the patrol or the deployment. This is usually celebrated with a great, sumptuous, meal. Just to give you an idea, the meal may include lobsters, prime rib, or even a NY strip steak.
It also includes just a generally festive atmosphere. Another part of these celebrations includes throwing pies at your favorite crew member, excluding the captain, because you know, it’s the captain.
If you thought that training and qualification stop the moment you leave the shore, you’ve got it wrong. When sailors are not on duty, doing drills, or standing watch, they use their time to improve their professional skills and qualifications.
The learning process continues while they are already at sea. Ultimately, the goal is to make sure they know everything that there is to know about their sector. This is a lot to take in, given the fact that modern submarines have thousands of valves, pumps, pipes, and other sorts of sophisticated equipment.
This is considered to be pretty rare but does happen from time to time nonetheless. Whenever a submarine gets a chance to cross the Arctic Circle, its members get to paint their noses blue.
US Navy submarines visit the North Pole pretty rarely, maybe once every two to three years, so the number of people in the force who actually earned their blue noses is pretty low. Usually, if a submarine is passing through that area it is because it is doing a fleet transfer.
Steel Beach Picnic
It’s not all dark and gloomy onboard a submarine. Sometimes, when the weather conditions are nice, and the captain is in a good mood, the vessel will resurface and the sailors can climb on top and do a quick BBQ.
The cooks will send burgers and hotdogs from the kitchen and everyone will get a chance to chill a little and enjoy the fresh air. However, some members of the crew will of course have to stay and maintain a watch at the bridge.
Sometimes the submarine will resurface to allow some recreation time for the fatigued sailors. Whenever the conditions permit it, the captain can authorize the submarine to resurface so the sailor can enjoy a little swim — in the middle of the ocean.
To ensure their safety, someone is required to keep watch, in case of sharks. Some sailors use this opportunity to get some necessary vitamin D, while others just enjoy the fresh air.
The Mail Buoy
Like in any other branch of the armed forces, pranks are an important part of the military tradition. Submarines are no different in this respect. One funny prank that the newbies have to endure is the request to retrieve the mail buoy.
A mail sack is supposedly attached to a buoy and one of the new sailors on board the submarine has to get dressed in foul weather gear, approach the captain, and request permission to climb on top to retrieve the mail. The request is denied — of course — because there is no such a thing as a mail buoy.
Another aspect of life onboard a US Navy submarine includes this funny prank, which is again done on newly enlisted sailors who recently joined the submarine force. This prank usually happens during maintenance time. The “chief” would ask one of the new sailors to go to the supply deck and ask for “relative bearing grease.”
When the sailor would get there, the supply officer would reply that they gave the last canister to some other maintenance crew. This would require the sailor to run and chase after various crews around the submarine in a vain attempt to fulfill the order.
Away from Home
Since submariners have virtually very limited contact with the outside world, this means they do not get much news from home. Sometimes this also means they would have to miss college graduations, births, and other happy occasions.
As part of their routine, and before going on another voyage, they write letters to their wives or kids, leaving something of them for the time they are away. Some even pre-order gifts for their loved ones in case they have to miss out on the holidays.
Shooting Water Slugs
When you are stuck in a tin can, underwater, for long periods of time, no wonder you have time to come up with stupid and funny pranks. Submarines exercise torpedo launching procedures every week.
They fill the torpedo tube with air and “shoot” it into the ocean. This is called shooting water slugs. The new sailors who are unaware of this funny name are often requested to head to the engine room to get a pail of water slugs.
It’s not always the newbies who get to be pranked. Sometimes the entire crew will pull a prank on one of the more senior officers on the submarine, which may include the Executive Office. The electrician will tap into the lighting system in the officer’s stateroom (living quarters), and start playing around with them whenever the officer is there.
The officer would, of course, send for the electrician who would confirm that there is nothing wrong with the lights. This is a great way to mess around with your Executive Officer, at your own risk.
Surprisingly, unlike their counterparts in the US Navy, sailors on board British submarines actually get to “talk” to their families once a week. By talking we mean that they are allowed to send (and receive) a single message of no more than 60 characters.
Sometimes, both sides would do away with the punctuation and use contracted forms of communication to cram as much information as possible into those extremely short messages. This is sure to keep the sailors going when they have to spend some 150 days at sea.
While it is known that the Navy is less strict about its submariners growing beards and long hair, sometimes even these guys need to get a haircut. Officially, however, there is no barber onboard a submarine.
Usually, one or two members of the crew who know something about trimming beards and doing decent haircuts will be called to the task. By usually, we mean that sometimes sailors settle for someone who simply knows how to hold a pair of scissors.
As part of the routine aboard a submarine, a special day is dedicated from time to time for cleaning the submarine. This day is ironically called “field day”. When hearing the order “sweepers, sweepers man your brooms!” over the PA, sailors would pick up cleaning supplies and start scrubbing and cleaning the floors — quietly.
On other submarines, sailors will use sponges or foxtails (hand brooms) to clean the floors because there isn’t enough space to swing brooms.
A Unique Smell
Since the people aboard a submarine operate in a closed environment, this means that the air they breathe is constantly being recycled. This means that once the hatch is sealed, all you would smell is a combination of oil, amine, and body odors.
Amine, in case you didn’t know, is a special chemical substance that is used to remove carbon dioxide from the air. While it is very useful and essentially enables these submarines to move underwater for long periods of time, it’s pretty stinky.
Spending weeks and sometimes even months without any communication with the outside world is not for everyone. Although the sailors serving aboard a submarine go through a rigorous selection process and training until they are admitted to the ranks of the submarine corps, in rare cases, some crack under the pressure.
When this happens, the submarine’s medical officer is authorized to issue medications (mostly sedatives) and confine the sailor. By confine, we mean that they are put under watch in the living quarters.
Jack of All Trades
Submariners spend hours upon hours mastering their primary occupation. This means, for example, that a sonar operator will spend a lot of time mastering the skills and knowledge needed to work the sonar systems.
However, this doesn’t end there. Every submariner also has to learn about systems and equipment that are outside their area of expertise. This way, for example, a sonar operator would study the work of the engineers who are in charge of maintaining the ship’s nuclear reactor and vice versa.
A funny prank that submariners like to play on their Executive Officer is stealing their stateroom door. Since these officers are usually good-natured and friendly, albeit having perhaps a difficult job, they usually go along with it.
The XO is responsible for all the administrative aspects involved in running the submarine, including drills. Usually, the XO knows who are the sailors that stole the door and takes measures to convince them to return it.
The Art of Flat
There is no need to reiterate the fact that submarines have to economize on space. This means that the passageways between submarine compartments are quite narrow. They are in fact designed for relatively thin people.
This means that whenever sailors need to pass simultaneously they have to make themselves as “flat” as possible. This gets worse when someone has to rush through. Usually, the rushing party would just shout “make way, coming through” to make sure everyone makes an effort to squeeze themselves out of the way.
A Friendship that Lasts
People who serve together and fight together usually form an unbreakable bond. This is especially true for people who served onboard a submarine. When you spend months upon months (and sometimes years upon years) stuck in a submerged tin can you are likely to form strong bonds with your comrades.
Sailors often report that years after being discharged they still hold reunions and feel like they’ve never parted — this is true comradeship@
While this may sound obvious, there is more to it. When the submarine is at port, non-governmental electronic devices are not allowed near it, for information security reasons.
There is a special box (outside the submarine) where the sailors can leave their cellphones. At sea, however, certain electronic devices are allowed but are strictly forbidden in certain areas of the vessel. Cellphones, as stated, cannot be brought aboard a submarine given the fact that they can be easily hacked by foreign entities.
This may come as a surprise, but submarines are not (yet) technically equipped with air defense capabilities. While on the one hand, this would make perfect sense, since this is a sea platform designed to carry underwater operations, on the other hand, it doesn’t mean it wouldn’t have to defend itself against, say, anti-submarine helicopters.
Interestingly enough, the German Navy is developing an interactive defense and attack system for submarines, which is designed to tackle these kinds of threats.
Women Are Allowed
The military has always been an institution that was intended for men. It seems that men have been fighting men since the dawn of time, while women stood by and watched.
In the latter half of the 20th century, with the changing nature of warfare and the public’s general attitude towards military service, many positions that were only open to men have started being offered to women as well. Women were allowed to join the US Navy’s submarine force starting from 2010.
Following the fact that submarines were originally designed with male sailors in mind, the navy had to make some serious changes to its submarines after making the decision of allowing women on board.
These changes included the installation of separate facilities for women. Although these changes were modest in scope, and primarily done to the Ohio-class submarines. The Navy’s future submarines, including those that are currently under construction, like the USS Jersey, and the Colombia-class submarines, will be “gender-neutral.”
How Do You Even Drive This Thing?
Ever wondered how you even pilot a submarine? Every submarine has a section called “conn.” It’s a raised platform in the middle of the control center. The officer of the watch typically sits there and maintains the watch. This is also where the submarine’s periscopes are.
The officer has a double responsibility while maintaining the watch. He or she is responsible for the “deck” which is supervision, control, and responsibility for all aspects of the submarine. Additionally, the “conn” responsibility means that she or she is responsible for piloting the vessel.
Ever wondered what happens when a submarine is spotted by the enemy? Within seconds an alarm will blare, indicating that torpedoes are zeroing in on the submarine. Luckily, not all is lost. US Navy submarines carry specific countermeasures that are designed to trick incoming torpedos.
These countermeasures are called “Mobile Submarine Simulator” or MOSS in short. It’s practically a decoy sonar that imitates the acoustic signature of a real submarine. It first entered service in 1976, and was used by all Navy ballistic submarines until the 1990s.
You might think that those who service onboard a nuclear-powered submarine have a higher chance of being exposed to lethal doses of nuclear radiation. Apparently, all US Navy’s nuclear submarines have four barriers of comprehensive shielding which preclude the risk of nuclear material leakage.
What’s even more surprising, according to government studies, the average submariner is exposed significantly less to radiation than the average US citizen at home during the same time period.
We know what some of you may think. All those who serve on board a submarine need to spend time in a diving chamber after surfacing and returning to base. Despite its misleading name, a diving chamber has nothing to do with submarines.
Well, at least not in this respect. A submarine is a water-tight and non-compressible vessel. It has the same pressure inside as you’d normally have above the surface.
Letter of Last Resort
The Royal Navy operates four nuclear-armed submarines. This means that in the event of a potential nuclear exchange, these submarines will be required to release their nuclear payload. However, the order must come directly from the prime minister.
Given the fact that the prime minister or any other senior member of the cabinet that has the authority to order a nuclear strike is incapacitated, each submarine commander receives a sealed envelope with precise orders as to what to do in such a scenario.
Five-Star Underwater Hotel
During the Cold War, the Soviets did their best to beat the Americans at everything, the submarines were no different in this respect. So, the Soviets came up with what is, to this day, the largest submarine class in the world — the typhoon.
These submarines had a sauna (banya), a cold water pool, a recreational area, a gym, and a cinema. We would expect nothing less for our comrades who serve for up to six months at sea!
Got Your Fish?
After a trainee-submariner completes their training phase, they get their dolphin pin. However, not many know that its not actually called a dolphin but a fish. “Fish” is the nickname for the submarine force formal insignia.
Once they have done with their basic training and earned their fish, the double letter “s” is added to their rank. It indicated: “submarine specialist.” The insignia of the submarine force is a submarine flanked by two dolphins, which honestly look more like fish.
Unfortunately, we don’t refer here to what would happen if you request to be transferred from the submarine while being on duty. We are actually talking about what happens to a sailor who is KIA.
Apparently, their body is put in a cooler until the operational conditions permit it to be transported ashore. It is usually done by helicopter, or by a direct transfer to a surface vessel. Sailors in the US Navy are never buried at sea.
This Is BBC 4
Given the fact that submarines usually operate in complete radio silence, their connection with the outer world is limited. While it’s vital that they remain silent and undetected for the entire duration of their mission, it’s also necessary for them to know whether or not their country is still standing.
One way to do it, at least in the Royal Navy, is to check whether or not BBC 4 is still broadcasting. In case it doesn’t, chances are that the British Government has been wiped off the face of the earth.
Still on Patrol
There is a longstanding tradition in the US Navy that pertains to submarines that never returned from their missions. If a submarine is presumed sunken or lost, its official status changes to “still on patrol.”
It’s a romantic way of saying that one day it will return home, while it’s obvious to everyone that this won’t happen. It doesn’t mean, however, that the navy won’t invest time and effort in finding out what exactly happened to those submarines that are presumed lost.
There is a weird tradition in the British Navy that enables submarine captains to fly the jolly roger (a pirate’s flag) whenever they sail back into port. The roots of this tradition go back to the 1900s.
Sir Arthur Wilson, the First Sea Lord of the British Navy, called submarines “underheard, unfair and so…un-English.” When the first British submarine torpedoed a German U-boat during WWI, its captain ordered the crew to manufacture a jolly roger which was flown from the mast.
Windows for Submarines
Ever wondered what operating system do they use onboard Royal Navy submarines? Perhaps you would opt for something extremely advanced, something that the general public hasn’t even heard of. Well, we hate to disappoint you.
British subs run on an outdated version of Windows XP for subs. Considering the fact that XP was released to the general public on October 25, 2001, and support for the system officially ended in 2019, this doesn’t sound very reassuring to us.
Ability to Sail Anywhere
Most countries throughout the world have their own submarines. Not all of these said countries are permitted to travel anywhere they want, though. From all these countries, the US holds the power to travel the whole world with their submarine without facing any detection.
They have long strike capabilities that make them more powerful than the rest of the world. So, you can see that it’s not easy work, but rather a critical role.
Do you know at what angle the entire ship ascends and descends? Any guesses? If you guessed 180°, we hate to break it to you, but you’re wrong. In reality, when a submarine changes depth, the entire submarine will angle itself upwards/downwards almost 45° — which forces the crew to brace themselves while it moves.
So, with that in mind, you can imagine how it must feel for crew members aboard the submarine to ascend from and descend into the water.
Rocking the Curtains
Life inside the submarine can be pretty challenging, especially because you could be gone for weeks or months at a time. And while there will be times that you miss home and your loved ones, your fellow crew members will become your family — and family is there for you no matter what, through thick and thin.
It’s hard not to become so close considering all the time you’re spending together. So, although you may find yourself getting homesick here and there, the bonds you create with your fellow crew members will be unbreakable.
Turn the Lights Down Low
When your journey aboard a submarine begins, there are a few things to do. First, they check for leaks (as we mentioned previously), then they complete the tasks that have been assigned to them, and then they turn all of the lights off.
No — this isn’t some sort of ritual but rather a chance to get some shut-eye before the chaos and work truly begins.
The Neptune Captain
The people living aboard submarines are constantly looking for ways to have fun and keep themselves enthused despite their usual daily routine.