“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

--San Francisco Examiner

--Associated Press

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

Hammerhead Aft Section - Real Life in the Drydock

I lied about the operations compartment's three man stateroom being my home-away-from-home. The truth is, this was home. The aft two thirds of the boat, the Engineering Department. At Frame 57 the operations compartment ends and Disneyland begins. When you walk through the upper level hatch at Frame 57, you walk into the shielded tunnel of the reactor compartment. Gamma, alpha and neutron radiation are going through your tissue like bullets, even with the plant shutdown. The sleeping monster beneath you makes the room intensely hot at sea, but pierside, the air conditioning is roaring, and the tunnel is a freezer. There's not much to see except a hatch to the interior of the reactor compartment, which is locked and covered with high radiation signs. You step through the tunnel aft hatch and go down the steps of AMR2 upper level, where AMR stands for auxiliary machinery room. AMR1 is aft of the torpedo room, but AMR2 is a compartment all its own, surrounded by a ballast tank, with electrical circuit breakers, starters and switchgear the size of telephone booths lining the aisles. Below the room is more of a chemical plant, with pipes and machinery. The main feed pumps are on the forward bulkhead, and in the center of the room is "The Bomb," the oxygen generator, which takes pure distilled water from the evaporator and turns it into hydrogen and oxygen (and when it has a problem, the problem blows a hole in the hull, hence its moniker). Other atmospheric control gear resides here, as well as the outboard, a small thruster that can be lowered into the sea to help maneuver the boat from the pier.

(continued below the diagram)
[Hammerhead Sub Diagram]

The aft AMR2 hatch leads to the engineroom. On your right is the ladder to the aft escape trunk, the airlock, and on your left is the maneuvering room (nuclear control room) with its steam plant control panel and throttle, reactor plant control panel, and electric plant control panel, with a wall of instrumentation behind it. The engineering officer of the watch stands duty here along with the reactor operator, throttleman and electrical operator. Outside and aft are the two huge SSTGs, ship service turbine generators, and aft of them are the massive main engines - steam turbines driving the huge reduction gear that takes the high speed turbine output and puts it to the slow speed shaft. You have to walk all the way around the reduction gear to get to the aft spaces, where the emergency propulsion motor and clutch are located, and aft to the shaft seals (a large metal casing around the 12" diameter shaft where it penetrates the aft bulkhead and keeps the water out despite the turning shaft). A young visiting midshipman or "rider" would be given food and sent aft to "feed the shaft seals." Beyond the aft bulkhead was the aft ballast tank and the sternplane and rudder operating mechanisms. The lower level was a series of catwalks between the pumps and condensers, probably the most desolate watchstation aboard. I lived in these spaces for years getting qualified aft, splitting atoms, and running the electrical division and mechanical division after giving up the communications officer job after the first year.

Michael DiMercurio
Princeton, New Jersey



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