“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

Ship Control Panel - Oops, Ahead Flank

[IMAGE] This photo was taken from the attack center looking forward and port to the ship control panel, where there is an airplane-style control panel with a console set between two seats. On the right is the helmsman's station. When submerged, the helmsman will normally also control the fairwater planes by pulling or pushing the control yoke. Turning the yoke moves the rudder aft. The central console contains the hydraulic controls so that the ship control party can use normal or emergency hydraulics. The panel above has all the instruments that report angle, depth, control surface angle. Below the right yoke is the engine order telegraph, where the dial selects the correct speed for the maneuvering (nuclear control watchstanders) to make. The station on the left side of the console is the sternplane operator, who has more influence on ship's depth, which is why he only has that task. The seat aft of the console is for the diving officer, who supervised the ship control party and reports to the officer of the deck. Further off to port is the ballast control panel, where the ballast tank vents are controlled as well as the emergency blow system, hovering system and drain system. The chief of the watch (COW) takes his station here, trimming the boat's overall weight at the orders of the diving officer. The engine order telegraph below the right yoke has a sea story. We were in trail of a Victor Russian attack sub, sneaking behind him at 12 knots, dead quiet, rigged for ultraquiet, watchstanders tip-toeing, with main coolant pumps in slow speed (giant car-sized pumps that push water through the reactor core, which are quiet in slow speed but loud as freight trains in fast speed). The helmsman chose this time to cross his legs, and hits the engine order telegraph with his boot. The needle goes from "ahead 1/3" to "ahead flank." Now "flank" is 100% reactor power, all out, 30 knots and then some, with the automatic order to the maneuvering guys to start the pumps in fast speed. I was on watch aft that night, and we were in trail of the Russian, a little tense, and all of a sudden we get a flank bell. Holy shit! Ivan's coming at us, or there's a torpedo in the water, or he's heard us and is coming around to ram us. It was an emergency. I leaped out of my seat and stood over the reactor operator as he immediately reached for the handle to main coolant pump 2 and pulled to start it in fast speed. The pump doubled its speed, which causes a check valve in a 12" pipe to slam shut to keep from reverse flowing the other pump. BOOM! The checkvalve slammed, the noise resounding in the sea. The reactor operator a tenth of a second later starts pump 3 in fast speed. Another BOOM. Pump 4, then 5, two more booms. The throttleman starts cranking open the throttle, feeding steam to the ahead turbines - the main engines - carefully, avoiding cavitation when sheets of steam boil up from the screw low pressure side, the bubbles collapsing in the sea and screeching out noise. We climbed from 35% power past 50% as the pumps came to fast speed to 60%, 70%, 90%, then leveled off carefully but quickly at 100% power, the speed indicator forward moving from 12 knots to 15, 20, 25. The officer of the deck, my boss and friend Tim Mulcare, the navigator, hears the four check valve slams when rigged for quiet and feels the deck start to tremble and sees the speed indicator climbing. The helmsman still didn't know what happened. Tim grabs the phone to shout at me in time to hear me crisply report, "Conn, Maneuvering, all main coolant pumps running in fast speed, answering ahead flank!" "All stop!" Tim shouts. "Switch your pumps to slow speed!" Up forward all hell broke loose. The captain came running from his stateroom, the XO shows up, and we almost rammed Ivan ahead right on the rudder. "Right five degrees rudder!" Tim shouted, trying to keep us off the Victor submarine's screw. We had pulled abreast of the Victor after slamming 4 check valves and blasting fast speed pump noises out into the water. For the next ten minutes we waited, panicking, wondering if Victor heard us. Russians have a nasty tendency to try to turn and ram trailing subs, for the purpose of deterrence. But Ivan steamed on, oblivious. "Thank God Dmitri was on watch," Tim said later, the OODs having named each Russian watchstander, knowing their habits and routines. "If Sergei was deck officer, we'd be going home with a Soviet torpedo up our ass."

Michael DiMercurio
Princeton, New Jersey



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