Seals and Extreme Creatures
In his poem Extreme Creatures, the late submariner Juan Caruso D. refers to 'When the latest hazard has sprung out of its nearby bounds'.
Worldwide, there have been 102 known instances of disabled submarines sunk in noncombat conditions. Approximately 2,600 lives, including those on the Kursk, have been lost (CDR Wayne Horn, U.S. Navy 2000).
The most probable cause of a sub sinking is breach of the hull causing flooding. It is also likely that breaching the hull would cause an onboard fire. Fires produce toxic gases and particles of urgent concern to crews due to respiratory or central nervous system effects and even death. Depletion of oxygen, accumulation of CO2 and temperature drop are added concerns (U.S. Navy 1998).
Most accidents leading to submarine sinking have occurred at depths above 300 feet. At depths down to 600 feet crews may escape from submarines, but will face 6 significant risks besides drowning. To depths of around 2,000 feet the crew can be rescued (Brown 1999). Russia's AS-28 drama highlights the rescue dilemma: entanglement around 625 feet below sea level with decreasing temperature and compromised atmosphere. The world witnessed cool, calm professionalism under a prolonged period of stress, one of many characteristics that set submariners apart.
Due to significant risks of attempting escape, the Navy’s policy is that if conditions allow, crews should await rescue (U.S. Navy 1998).
Well what does this have to do with SEALS, the Navy’s elite special operations forces? Aren’t they extreme creatures? Absolutely, and they even ride subs.
Remember the policy: Disabled sub crews should await rescue when conditions allow? Well, the other SEALs, Submarine Escape Action Levels, provides info for certain chemicals to help determine IF conditions will permit crews to await rescue.
The latest, 290-page action level book is too information dense to summarize here, except to say Juan Caruso D. was absolutely correct: "There is no phoning home during silent submarining."