GROTON, Connecticut--At the Naval Submarine Base New London here, thousands of students go through Submarine School, which encompasses the varied curriculum required of a Naval submariner.
One element of the school is escape training, where the students are taught, over two days, the steps required for a safe and orderly escape from a submarine in turmoil. Similarly, special forces or Navy SEALS may be on board, and may need quick egress for a mission. They two would use the so-called lockout trunk on a sub to leave the vessel.
The training involves several steps, but the most important one is the successful completion of a 37-foot quick ascent made by a student in the current-generation escape unit, who is first placed into a compression chamber that simulates the proper depth, and then climbs up from the now-flooded chamber into the bottom of a huge water tank.
Here, in an image taken through a porthole onto the bottom of the tank, we see a student being given the OK sign by one of the instructors before being released.
A submarine school student is counseled on the best practices of escape training. The student is in the latest-generation of escape suit, an amazing piece of equipment that comes with its own inflatable liferaft, low-temperature thermal lining, a rebreather, a strobe light, a water baler, a hood designed to maintain some air and more.
The top of the escape training tank, where an instructor is holding on to a line that drops to the tank's bottom. The water is totally calm because the student that will be rocketing to the top hasn't entered yet from the chamber below.
Within a second, the student has popped up through the surface of the water, where he is grabbed by the instructor and brought carefully to the side where it is ensured that the student has no ill effects from the rapid ascent.
Here, the student has just breached the surface and will keeping rising out of the water.
There are cameras everywhere at the training facility, and here we see a still from a live video of the scene on the bottom of the tank when the two instructors are communicating with the student who has just come up from the chamber below.
The instant the instructors let go of the student, he rockets towards the surface. It's hard to see from this picture how quickly the student rises, but it takes no more than a second to reach the surface 37 feet above, which is a major reason the students are taught to expel all the air from their lungs as they rise.
This is the life raft that is clipped on to the escape suit. The raft floats, and has a series of features, all designed to help whoever needs it to keep dry and warm. There is a baler, thermal material, a sleeping bag-like sleeve, and a zipper that goes most of the way up someone's body.
A look up into the compression chamber that the students must climb in to. Inside, the chamber is filled most of the way up with water, allowing air to fill the top of the suit, under the hood. The, the hatch above is opened, and the student climbs up into the tank.
Inside the escape training building at the Submarine School is the chamber that is used to train the students for the pressure of being 60 feet below the surface. As well, the chamber is also the military's recompression chamber for the Northeast United States.
At the Submarine Force Museum, just adjacent to the submarine base, there is a large exhibit on the history of the U.S. Navy's under water fleet, as well as of the craft
Here is a representation of Bushnell's Turtle, the world's first functional military submarine, which, according to the museum, was "designed by American revolutionary David Bushnell in 1776. [It] was the first submersible ever used in military conflict. On 6 September 1776, an American soldier propelled the 'Turtle' through New York harbor and attempted--unsuccessfully--to affix an explosive charge on the underside of a British man-of-war."
Outside the museum, this display puts the comparison of the size of the U.S. Navy's earliest class of submarine (the Holland, in 1900) and the size of its largest class (the Ohio) in perspective. The Holland class was ten feet across in diameter, while the Ohio, the largest class of Naval submarine, is 44 feet in diameter.
Unlike today's Naval submarines, which are round, and have no real deck--save for what is added on when in port--the Nautilus, like earlier submarines, featured a flat teak deck. The deck has tracks onto which submariners could be latched, so they didn't fall off.
In 1950's-era submarines, three drivers (left to right) were required: a bow planesman, who controlled depth; a stern planesman, controlled angle; and a helmsman, who controlled direction. Today, that job is done by two highly trained pilots.