Tuesday, November 18, 2008

When Sub Silence Was Extreme

Submariners both appreciate and understand the sophistication of modern boats as well as the remote potentials for sudden, compounding failures. Breathable atmosphere, watertight hull and fairly accurate depth to keel, for instance, are commonly assumed, with related upsets routinely drilled.

In the early days of submarining, however, upsets were rather more expected:

The early submarines, dating from the 1900 period, had, for twelve years, been extremely vulnerable to being rammed or run-over by surface vessels. Virtually at all times when in busy navigable waters, a submarine was escorted by a ship of sloop size to ensure its safety. When this occurred, the highest safety factor was when the boat was on the surface, the two vessels in sight of each other and fully aware of what each was doing. source
And surfaced subs could not communicate as easily as we:

Before, during and after WW2, submarines had "jumping wires" which were rigged from forward to aft external of the boat, over the top of the casing and the conning tower. The conning tower was fitted with stanchions which supported the wire, set in such a way that personnel and equipment [periscopes etc] were not affected by the presence of the hefty wire. source
M.E. came across a rich and invaluable resource for insights into early submarine technologies.

The author is an ex-submariner. We could spend hours in this Museum, but those with a possible interest are on their own. M.E. will confine further description to only two, difficult to find items of general interest:
When was wireless telegraph in use? 1912. RN submarines B class - 1913. Range: 1-2 miles (usual); 25 miles best.
When was voice radio introduced?

The new fangled communication of radio telephony [R/T] {which had been known about for many a long year by this time} was still an emission for trial purposes only. The earliest R/T transmitter in the RN was the Type 81 [1921] closely followed by the Type 83 [1923]. This is what the Admiralty Handbook of Wireless Telegraphy 1920 had to say about R/T communications * which the 1925 edition more or less echoed and wasn't at all sure about the reliability of voice / sounds / tones being transmitted through the ether as radio waves. source
Submarines are always silent and strange.



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