Submarine Escape Training Tank

Submarine Escape Training Tank

Written by David Barth January 18, 2001.

Submarine Escape Training Tank
Submarine Escape Training Tank.
[Photo taken in 1961 by David Barth, ETR2 (SS), Plank Owner, USS Lafayette SSBN 616].

During Submarine Escape Training Tank qualification in New London, Connecticut, about 1963, the crew was ushered into a side room of the tank at the 50 foot level. I was in a group of about ten, including one of our shorter shipmates. The water rose fast and as it did, we noticed that the water had risen to the short sailor's chin. The guy on the other side of him grabbed one arm, and I grabbed the other to hold his head above the water. He couldn't have drowned because each of us wore life vests, but it might have been embarrassing for him to be floating around.

Each of us lined up to climb into the main tank, one at a time. We took a deep breath of air, ducked down below the water to pass through the door, grabbed a bar on the side of the main tank, and, when tapped by the lead person, let go so that our life vest would take us up to the surface.

On the first qualification ascent we used the "blow and go" technique where we went out the door into the tank and began to blow air as we rose to the surface. Safety divers in the tank watched each person to ensure that bubbles constantly came from his mouth. If a person were to stop exhaling, the reduction in pressure as his body rose could cause injury to the lungs. If this happened, a safety diver could grab a person and pull him into a small side room on the tank.

More than a year later when we returned for the requalification, the Stenke hood was in use where you hold it over your head and yell "ho, ho, ho" all the way up. Again, the safety divers were there in case someone stopped yelling. The Stenke hood was safer because the divers didn't have to position themselves to watch bubbles from each person. Instead, they could hear the "ho, ho" without maintaining a visual contact on each person.

When I reached the surface and climbed out, someone asked, "Hey, Dave! Did you see the neat paintings of cute mermaids on the walls of the tank?" I never did see them, I guess I was to concerned about safely getting to the surface. Come on guys, were there really mermaids painted on the inside of the tank?

View looking down into the Submarine Escape Training Tank
View looking down into the Submarine Escape Training Tank.