Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Escape Tower Training

The water was warm and blue and I just lay back and relaxed. Looking up I could see a small white circle of white light. The instructor released his grip on my life jacket and I started ascending through the water heading for the small circle of light, which with each passing second was getting bigger and bigger. I was slowly revolving as I rose through the pristine waters. I could feel the rapid expansion of air in my, lungs as I headed upward, but I was shouting HO, HO, HO, over and over again as I expelled the air, keeping it from rupturing my lungs and possible killing me. I wasn't worried as I turned and turned, as everything was happening just as promised by our instructors. Suddenly I was being jerked around and found myself face to facemask with an instructor as he held me and watched as I expelled the air. Apparently I was doing OK because he quickly released me and I started back on my rapid ascent to the now rapidly expanding, circle of light above me. As I rotated I could see the inside tank walls were painted blue and then the beautiful shape of a mermaid appeared. Above me I could see more instructors and more paintings on the tower walls all lending a surreal appearance to an out-of-this-world experience. Moments later I crashed through the surface and two instructors grabbed my lifejacket and continued the upward motion the lifejacket had given my body and plopped me on the deck. I think I was almost in a hypnotic trance from the experience and relived it again and again as I stood watching other classmates being plucked out of the tank.

This was the escape training tower at Submarine School and it was a critical point in out training. If you didn't make it thought the tower training you didn't advance any further in Submarine School.

The Submarine Escape Tower was really a test for everyone that wanted to be a submariner. For me it was major as I had claustrophobia. Remembrancence of the event was that we entered a tank at the 100' level, I believe. The hatch was closed and we were all standing as tight as we possible could because of the size of the group. The tank was flooded and as the water rushed in the pressure increased and we were constantly closing our mouths, pinching our noses and blowing hard to equalize pressure. The downside to all of this was, if you didn't equalize, your eardrumbs would rupture. I was way to busy with this task to worry about claustrophobia. Three shipmates in my group either ruptured eardrumbs or were shouting out with pain and had to be removed. The water flooded in up to my chin and then to finalize the pressure with that on the inside of the tower, pressurized air was used. I remember it got very cold inside our now shrinking tank. The hatch into the tank swung open and one by one we moved up to the instructor at the hatch. We had life jackets on and they were inflated and then I ducked into the hatch to the inside of the tank holding on to the top of the hatch. We were required to constantly shout ho, ho, ho, to expel the air in our lungs that was now rapidly expanding as we rose in the tanks. If you didn't shout ho, ho, ho, a diver instructor inside the tank, watching your progress, would reach out and grab you. Holding you until you were properly shouting. If you didn't blow out, your lungs would rupture. If you didn't equalize then you were placed inside an umbrella shaped device where you would be able to breath normally as you slowly rose with an instructor to the surface.
As I stood on the deck above, excitedly recalling my trip I realized that I had been through the whole event without even a hint of claustrophobia. The object of this training was to be able to escape from a suken submarine if necessary. This was called "Blow and Go"

Years later, in Pearl Harbor I would again make a trip in the escape training tower but this time from 100' without a lifejacket as it was a free ascent and this time I had a lot more time to view the sights inside the tower as I went up. I would slowly blow out air as my lungs expanded and I never once sucked in. Another beautiful experience courtesy of the USN.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Ahmen Brother!!!!

Pete Eldridge, MSCS (SS) and former COB.
Retired a whole career ago! Damn don't it fly by!