Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Submarines: "Loss of Sea Legs"?

Approximately half of the astronauts in the U.S. space program have suffered from space sickness.[5]

The most recognized theory for the cause of motion sickness is that it is an ancient defense mechanism against neurotoxins.[6] The brain's area postrema induces vomiting when poisonous effects are detected, such as feeling but not seeing motion (for example, in a ship with no windows). The inner ear transmits a sense of motion while the eyes transmit a lack of it. As a result of the conflicting signals, the brain concludes that one of the signals is hallucinatory and possibly due to ingestion of poison (astronauts may be most familiar with excess alcohol consumption; for still others the cause may be toxic mushrooms or spoiled foodstuffs). The brain's best defense is to induce vomiting to eliminate the supposed toxin.

Motion sickness or kinetosis is variously referred to as seasickness, carsickness, carsickness, simulation sickness, airsickness, or space sickness. Dizziness, fatigue, and nausea are the most common symptoms of motion sickness.

A legendary submariner had this to say:
...Take, for example, the trip across the English Channel. No other water journey causes an equal amount of suffering. The most hardened traveller becomes seasick there. - John P. Holland (April 22, 1901)
- Holland, John P.,"The Submarine Boat and its Future," North American Review, December 1900.

After WWII, Submarine Medecine Practice proclaimed this:
18.7.4. Ship's motion.
Seasickness is caused by periodic acceleration on undetermined receptors in the inner ear. Certain factors as the type of ship and state of the sea are important, and the fact that most of the submarine crew are crowded below decks while the ship is on the surface might be contributory. The submarine's roll is believed to be gentler in comparison to surface vessels because of its round hull and its low transverse metacentric height. The ship motion is dampened below the surface; below periscope depth there is almost no sensation of motion except in the presence of violent seas. An interesting phenomenon which has been described is the loss of "sea legs" during long submergence periods, and a greater incidence of motion sickness upon surfacing than before the dive. [color highlights added]

I have to take issue with both of Submarine Medecine's observations: ... [a] submarine's roll is believed to be gentler in comparison to surface vessels ... and never did I get seasick after prolonged submergence. Am I wrong? What are your own recollections?

Seasickness was a major problem in heavy seas before reaching the continental shelf. Afterwards, it was no longer a factor surface or submerged. On sea trials, for instance, the mess deck was awash in vomit. The odor alone would cause most of the people who had to come through either hatch to puke involuntarily. One of five in the control room watchstanders had barf bags at the ready.

After sea trials, most got their sea legs. Still, motionsickness in a rolling vessel with its log-shaped hull is the pits. Possible preventative: (this worked, and I can only guess it has something to do with the astronaut status mentioned in the first sentence) a few beers the night before always worked. Of course, this was not always possible.



At 28 August, 2007 23:51, Blogger bothenook said...

i don't know about the science aspect of the body's innate response to toxins, but MINE responded to rocking and rolling spectacularly. thanks be to the fine chemists that dreamed up meclazine hydrochloride.
one thing i learned over the years punching holes in the ocean from direct observation AND through practice: cigar smokers and tobacco chewers very rarely ever got seasick. everyone around us did, but we didn't.

At 29 August, 2007 00:14, Blogger otim said...

Surface Transit Tokyo Bay ~ 1987 Sturgeon Class SSN:
Returned from an augment, the boat was over three weeks overdue in Japan (chased it from Sasebo to Yokuska broken 594 forced stay on station). Boat reaches port cigarette packs thrown to Chiefs before mooring lines come across, I guess last smoke for them was about two weeks before.
A typhoon was coming at Tokyo bay hard and the boat was to be inport for ~30 hours, All hands stores load for about six hours (The augment crew had it staged on the pier). The skip[per lets loose liberty for six hours at a time for the ships company ( its amazing how fast you can requal as EWS in such a condition). Out bound from Yokuska as 2MC on the bridge taking water over the bridge, at times we had to hold our breat for ten - 15 seconds before the water drained away. Finaly a huge wave washes over us and I realy thought I was going to drown, one of the lookouts was over the side and we had to haul him up by his lifeline and the wind screen was smashed flat, the Raytheon radar was dangling over the side of the sail. The Co wisely determines to abandon the bridge and we go below to find a scene from Dante's Inferno. There are honuclei manning the conn and barf all over the floor. I head down to the head and steap I initialy assume is water, but oh it is not two or three inches of the liberty in Yokuska's EM club are covering the floor of the head and as the smell reahces my nostrils, I hurled for the first and last time on a submarine. I do my business and head the shower to wash of shoes and the bottom of my poopie suit, as I am neede to "lay" aft tp relieve the EWS. If control was from hell, manuevering was from some alternate universe than Adms Rickover and McKee inhabited. The EOOW was laying over the rear chain dry heaving into trash can and the EO and RO were completley incapacitated sharing the manuevering trashcan. The Throttleman however was incredibly stalwart answering bells communicating on the 2JV and taking care of all three manuevering watchtstations, as I walked in he shimmed for Tave and tweaked the electric plant. I stood in the door for about a minute and he looked at me and said I got it Petty Officer ___ , I said good job Willy I will be back in a few minutes. shortly thereafter we rigged for dive and at about 150 feet the boat settled out and the dead came back to life.

At 29 August, 2007 18:54, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Only ever before diving did I ever feel queazy. And the only time I ever barfed was on my 1st patrol, when we went out in State 5 seas and had to go the long way to the dive point due to snoopers. I got on the stack, listening to the crash of the waves through the hull and amplified through the headphones, feeling it in the rolls, and seeing it on the display. It was pure sensory overload. Then up came breakfast. Cold cereal with milk. It wrenched. Then, my sea daddy/sonar sup barfed because of the smell of putrid milk. He cursed me because he had never been seasick before.

But I never got seasick after surfacing - you're correct. This guy doesn't know what he's talking about.

At 29 August, 2007 20:29, Blogger Vigilis said...

Bothenook, you are right. I completely forgot about tobacco; and, you bring up another interesting point: mine were the days before Meclizine, but civilians were already starting to use Dramamine like crazy. Either our Doc did not have any, or possible side effects (including drowsiness, spasms, extreme anxiety and even amnesia) would have prevented its distribution to first-line Govm't property.

Otim, don't know when I have read a more authentic and enjoyable sea story. Thank you for sharing.

SonarMan, and thanks for the benefit of your many years experience. What an introduction to your sea daddy/sonar sup! Thanks for sharing it.

At 29 August, 2007 23:56, Blogger Lubber's Line said...

Vigilis, interesting post and comments. I only got seasick once when making patrols and yes it was on the way back in after a full 70 day deterrent patrol. Details and sea story at http://lubbers-line.blogspot.com/


At 30 August, 2007 01:57, Blogger Vigilis said...

Thanks for the link, LL. Your seasick story also has the unmistakable "air" of authenticity, rich detail and fabulous terminology (nuke "vomitorium") that brings readers like me back for more everytime.

With the sanitary lineup twist and hapless victim, that was quite a story.

Yes, puking seemed very contagious in the densely confined spaces called submarines.

At 31 August, 2007 03:05, Blogger dbfcaye482 said...

You guys are amatuers! I was seasick within 1/2 hour of my first underway on a PCS during SONAR School in Key West. So bad that the Chief Gunner's Mate suggested I had made a bad choice of going USN.

I was surprised that I got seasick. After all, I was an ancestor of several USNers, USCG & Norwegian fisherman. Guess they either lied or I didn't get the jeans.

I have many puck stories, but the one that is the most vivid for me happened on the USS Irex. We had been running in rough weather & I had been drapped over the radar to make sure we didn't get hit - right! I could hardly see the scope because the darned thing seemed to go in the opposite direction of the ship. When the Captain ordered us to dive, I gave a special little prayer of thanks to King Neptune & all of the other gods associated with making me miserable.

I still had my stomach just below my throat & was swallowing hard to keep lunch down. The SONAR shack was below the Control Room with an access hatch that was part of the deck. As I went through the hatch, the heat from the equipment hit me & something different. It was the smell of a bologna sandwich that had been left sitting on top of the hottest piece of equipment in the shack. That was it, every thing was on the way out. But, this was my cleaning station & I had just field-dayed the space earlier in the day.

Someone had moved the trash can that I wanted to puke in & I couldn't find it. My body was not going to stand for this. I puked, but keep my mouth shut. With cheeks puffed out, I continued my search for the trash can. Finally, I was running out of air & had to swallow, which of course brought about another shudder. I had to recycle about three times before I spotted my white hat in the corner.

The white hat was easier to clean than the compartment, so it was pressed into service. As all whitehats do, it came through in a pinch. Once done puking, I was able to get on with the watch.

This is just one incident, but there was never any correlation. I was often one of the few that wasn't sick in a violent storm. Got a lot of time as Chief of the Watch in Control some days. Then one day it was just like glass execpt for very large slow swells as we headed into Bermuda. One of the swells picked up the stern & made a move with the boat that I had never felt before. I was right by the crews head in AB. Opened one of the stalls an went looking for the Irishman again. Only one on the boat that was seasick that day. Naturally, the crew was very sympathetic. One of the IC's got on the phone & called every compartment to announce, "If you'all want to see a seasick Chief Caye, com'on back to the AB Head." He got his later.

DBF Ken Caye, STCM(SS), USN, Ret.

At 31 August, 2007 09:34, Blogger RM1(SS) (ret) said...

I blogged about this a while back, but I'm too lazy to look up the link. 8) Only time I ever puked whilst under way was on the tender. Felt a little queasy a few times on the boat, but I learned that the best remedy was to eat something and then lie down.

At 31 August, 2007 13:30, Blogger Vigilis said...

Chief Caye, so far, your cleanup prevention remedy in Sonar is the most resourceful, so far.

To tell the truth, we judged our own "sea legs" in comparison to when and if the chiefs actually got seasick. That's probably why the word was passed on you in the AB Head.

RM1(SS)(ret), our radiomen never got sea sick, either. What was it with you guys, location? The radio shacks were below the waterline, even when we were surfaced.


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