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“Compelling and visionary. DiMercurio’s characters run as deep as his submarines themselves!”
--Joe Buff, author of Crush Depth and Thunder in the Deep

"DiMercurio really knows his subs...his characters step right off the sub deck and onto his pages."
--Larry Bond

"A Master Rivaling Tom Clancy."
--Publishers Weekly

"Terrific."
--San Francisco Examiner

"Thrilling."
--Associated Press

"Superb storytelling."
--Virginia-Pilot/Ledger Star

Hammerhead Forward Section - Life on the Deckplates

Although this submarine diagram was drawn for Voyage of the Devilfish to show the insides of what I called a Piranha-class submarine, it is actually the Sturgeon-class submarine Hammerhead. The day I stepped aboard I came down the forward weapons shipping hatch aft of the sail and lowered myself past the thick hatch seating surface to the lower hatch ring and down a tall ladder until I stepped off on the deckplates of the operations compartment's upper level. It was a passageway lined with Formica wood grain, no more than two-and-a-half feet wide, leading far aft to a hatch to the reactor compartment tunnel and forward to the navigation binnacle. I knocked on the door of the executive officer's (XO's) stateroom, and met the XO. Imagine Ed Asner in working khaki's wearing commander's oak leaf pins of rank. He was a ball of energy, his stereo playing The Doors, a frown etched permanently into his forehead, but unlike Ed Asner's gruff-but-tender inside, he was gruff-but-gruff inside.

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[Hammerhead Sub Diagram]

He lead me forward to meet the captain, a Southerner from Georgia who was sitting in his stateroom bellowing into his phone. Down the ladder to operations middle level, the stairway twice as steep as the one at home, then a U-turn to duck into a door to Officers Country, another slim passageway fore-and-aft with staterooms on the outboard side, the officers' head forward, the wardroom aft. The middle stateroom was occupied by the chief engineer. I met the navigator in his aft stateroom, the boss, and then went to the wardroom - a conference room - to await the captain. Busy, intense officers streamed in and out, none of them happy. Chief petty officers came and went, and if the officers were intense, the chiefs were wound tight as drums. The captain came in, introduced himself, and proceeded to chew me out for an hour, and I watched in astonishment as he rose and disappeared. I began wandering around in a haze, meeting the other junior officers (JOs) and the radio chief, who took me on a forward tour. Radio was back on the upper level, where the control room and attack center and conn occupy the space under the sail. Back in the middle level was the crew's mess and galley opposite Officers Country. In a tiny closet half the size of a powder room on the starboard side was the three-man stateroom, where there were three coffin-like bunks and three cubbyholes for storage. My new home-away-from-home. The lower level contained the torpedo room and auxiliary machinery room. Through the middle level's hatch forward was the bow compartment, with its upper level occupied by the chiefs' quarters (the "goat locker" since the chiefs are the old men of the boat) and the crew quarters, where coffins were stacked four high. The compartment's stink went far beyond unwashed socks due to the intense smell of sulfury diesel oil, since the space on the level below was the home of the emergency diesel. Up in the overhead was the forward escape trunk, the airlock exit from the ship. And although Hammerhead was big enough to be a "ship," it was called a boat because of submarine tradition, something I would run into time and time again. The bridge was where we would conn the ship on the surface, with fairwater control planes for depth control. The planes could rotate to the full upright position for breaking through the ice. A framed picture in the captain's stateroom showed Hammerhead's sail having penetrated meter-thick ice, the captain standing proudly there at the North Pole. Another old Navy tradition that had been handed down from the Age of Sail dictated that at no time could a Navy officer put his hat on a table unless he'd been to the North Pole - the rule designed to keep hats off tables - but in the nuclear age, sub officers would routinely come into the wardroom and toss their hats on the table, the silent way to show that they had been there, under the ice, and had lived through being at latitude 90 north. As I walked through the boat that first day, all I could think about was how incredibly cool it would be to take Hammerhead north to the polar icecap and duke it out with our Soviet counterpart, and how great it would be if I could write the story of how it happened.

terminalrun.com
Michael DiMercurio
Princeton, New Jersey
E-mail:
readermail@terminalrun.com

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