Thursday, August 21, 2008

Avoiding Following Winds

The familiar benediction fair winds and following seas is the nautical version of goodbye and good luck in addition to a politeness in the language of international diplomacy.

On the otherhand, Breaking winds and following seizures are a serious hazard for submariners.

Electrostatic precipitators, charcoal filters, etc. only help outside the originating compartment - remember, the entire submarine is, realistically speaking, a permit-required confined space.

Confined Space Entry: Inside Maneuvers (CSH‑021K) 1Working in a confined space is a lot like working in a submarine – space is tight, atmospheric conditions are critical, and potential hazards abound. This dynamic program uses the USS Atlanta, a United States Naval submarine, and its crew as a dramatic backdrop to compare the dangers of working in a submarine to that of working in a confined space. The Trainer’s Toolkit contains the video program, Confined Space Entry: Inside Maneuvers, employee handbooks, a leader’s guide and several overhead transparency masters. - Idaho Occupational Safety & Health Consultation At Boise State University.

So, how do compassionate submariners avoid this natural hazard? Back in the day, nuclear subs had partitioned spaces, say for the sonar shack. A shipmate we'll call Woody had a chronic flatulence condition. Rather than make other sonar watchstanders gag, Woody would perform a low tech procedure with his cigarette lighter:

Flatus is indeed flammable, because methane and hydrogen are flammable gases, and they are both found in flatus. The odor in flatulence comes from hydrogen sulphide (which comes from foods in people's diet) and other sulfur or nitrogen containing compounds including methanethiol (metyhyl mecaptan). Upon lighting a match the hydrogen sulphide will ignite to form water (vapor) and sulphur dioxide. Removing the hydrogen sulphide also removes the odor. [3] Explanation .

Woody's method (described above) worked very well considering any visual distraction was relatively shortlived and fellow watchstanders normally wear headphones that block external noises. Other watchstanders followed suit.

Woody was one of those guys who could perform on demand, unless asleep, when it would be random. Certain areas were obviously off limits (wardroom, control room, crew's mess, COB's berthing), however, for Woody's technique. A few officers never approved of it anywhere. If one of these officers had to be in our smallest compartment - the conning tower on our sub - Woody might prepare the space in an olfactory sense just prior to the officer's arrival.

Once, this backfired. He had no idea the CO (a really good guy) was headed to the conning tower to meet the JO. The CO got there just after Woody's performance. Woody's face was still flushed when he scooted down the ladder to Control, but the CO never said a word nor held it against Woody. In fact, Woody's later request for transfer to the East coast appeared to have been greased.

Modern sub design seems to have eliminated spaces like the sonar shack. Anyone remember another old or new sea story like this?



At 22 August, 2008 03:06, Blogger Tom Goering said...

Great pic, I got a good chuckle from that! "Breaking wind" Classic!


Post a Comment

<< Home