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Visit of the Retired Oberon Submarines in Halifax on 24 January 2006

 

 

The photos below were taken on January 24, 2006. It was heartbreaking to see those magnificent Oberon submarines rusting away in Halifax Harbour and waiting for disposal. From the jetty outward, you see Canadian submarines HMCS OKANAGAN and HMCS OJIBWA, British submarine HMS OLYMPUS and Canadian submarine HMCS ONONDAGA.

 

Scroll down to view the photos and my comments


Photo above - OKANAGAN, OJIBWA, OLYMPUS AND ONONDAGA


Photo above - OKANAGAN, OJIBWA, OLYMPUS AND ONONDAGA


Photo above - OKANAGAN, OJIBWA, OLYMPUS AND ONONDAGA


Photo above - OKANAGAN, OJIBWA, OLYMPUS AND ONONDAGA


Photo above - OKANAGAN, OJIBWA, OLYMPUS AND ONONDAGA


Photo above - OKANAGAN, OJIBWA, OLYMPUS AND ONONDAGA


Photo above - Looking up the forward hatch on the ONONDAGA


Photo above - Bunks in the gangway near the forward hatch. Not much space between the bunks. We slept in sleeping bags. We had to be careful when sleeping on the lower bunk. If an arm was stretched out during our sleep, there was always a danger that someone would walk on it.


Photo above - Lockers inside the middle bunk. Only one locker belonged to whoever had the middle bunk. The other lockers belonged to others. Hard to get at when someone was sleeping in the middle bunk. Note the limited space to the upper bunk. Turning in bed was sometimes a challenge. Note the light and the air fan which blew in our faces and gave us a feeling of fresh air while sleeping. When snorkeling in the North Atlantic, cold damp air would circulate throughout the boat and we curled up inside our warm sleeping bags. If the snorkel dipped below the surface a few times while we were sleeping, the change in air pressure sometimes woke us up with sharp ear aches.


Photo above - Inside the forward mess, looking at the hatch separating the forward mess from the forward torpedo room. The forward mess is where I spent most of my time when I was not on duty or sleeping. OKANAGAN had a dining room for the men but ONONDAGA and OJIBWA did not. Those of us who slept in the forward section of the boat also ate and played cards in the forward mess. I drank all my tots there. The tot was a ration of 2.5 ounces of 151 proof rum which was served daily before lunch while at sea. It was a tradition of the British Royal Navy which was carried over into the Royal Canadian Navy when it was formed in 1910. I still remember that fateful day, on March 30th, 1972, when the Canadian Navy discontinued this tradition. What a sad day it was when they dumped the left over rum in Halifax harbour. One thing to point out. Whileat sea, I never drank my tot when I had the afternoon watch, which was every third day.


Photo above - Stepping inside the forward torpedo room and looking forward toward the six torpedo tubes. The hanging rope was there to help us keep our balance as we stepped down into the room. The ladder in the forefront goes up to the torpedo loading hatch. The harnesses on each side were used to secure the torpedoes. This is the biggest compartment accessible to men in the submarine so the forward torpedo room was used as a cinema while at sea. The movie projector was installed just to the right of the rope and the movie screen was installed over by the forward torpedo tubes. Men sat on torpedoes, on the deck or anywhere to watch the movie.


Photo above - Here I am, back on boats after 33 years of absence. This was an emotional moment as I sat there with my head full of memories. I would have loved to wear my old uniform that day but it does not fit anymore. I wonder why. The uniform must have shrunk. I am presently sitting in the after section of the forward torpedo room. You can see the forward mess through the hatch.


Photo above - The six forward torpedo tubes. Imagine the pressure on one of those babies at a depth of 600 feet. There was a mechanism to prevent the breech door from opening when the muzzle door was open, or vice versa. If both doors opened while submerged, the submarine would be doomed. With such a large opening to the sea, there would be no time to shut all watertight doors.


Photo above - Looking up, you can see the forward escape hatch. It could be used to escape with the assistance of a DSRV (Deep Submarine Rescue Vehicle) attached to the sub on the outside. This method of escaping was possible only if we were found and if the angle of the sub was not too steep to allow the DSRV to attach itself to the submarine. There were also two other methods of escaping the submarine. One person at a time through the escape lock, or everybody at the same time by flooding the compartment, equalizing the pressure, opening the escape hatch and going up to the surface while exhaling all the way. When using this last method, everyone had a breathing apparatus connected to the B.I.B.S. system and were able to breathe underwater and to advance toward the escape hatch while waiting their turn to exit the submarine. As mentioned, exhaling all the way to the surface was important. This was not a controlled ascent with a pressure regulator as experienced by scuba divers. The pressure was equalized before leaving the submarine, so the air pressure in your lungs were equal to outside pressure at the depth you were. Failure to continuously exhale all the way to the surface would have resulted in death as the lungs expanded.


Photo above - Still facing the forward torpedo tubes but looking down at the deck. You can see where some of the torpedoes where stored on each side. Some of the men would use that space to exercise while at sea. I remember we had a stationary bike kept there on the OKANAGAN.


Photo above - I have now turned around and the forward torpedo tubes are behind me. You can see the ladder going up to the forward torpedo loading hatch. You can also see the hatch going into the forward mess, the hanging rope behind the ladder and the seat where I sat earlier.


Photo above - Walking aft in the forward torpedo room, you can now see the braces strengthening the forward torpedo loading hatch above the ladder. Because of the angle of the torpedo loading hatch, the hull was weakened there and braces were used to make the hull stronger. Someone told me that putting pennies between the braces and the hull before diving to a depth of 600 feet would result in flattened pennies due to high pressure and compression of the steel hull. I never tried it but I believe it. It is hard to imagine that a hull made up of steel would compress due to pressure. A submarine always tries to achieve neutral buoyancy and many factors can affect it. A submarine that has a neutral buoyancy at a depth of 100 feet must pump out water when diving to 600 feet otherwise it becomes too heavy and  negatively buoyant. This is because the steel hull contracts as the submarine goes deeper and displaces less water. The process must be reversed as the submarine rises and water must be pumped in to add weight inside the sub and maintain a neutral buoyancy.


Photo above - Bunks in the Chief & Petty Officers Mess.


Photo above - The garbage ejector near the galley. It was used to get rid of garbage while submerged. The principles which applied when operating a torpedo tube also applied when operating the garbage ejector. After inserting garbage bags, the tube had to be flooded and pressure had to equalized to the outside. After the garbage had been ejected, the process was reversed and the tube was vented inside the submarine. Similar to torpedo tubes, a safety mechanism was in place to prevent the opening of outside and inside doors at the same time.


Photo above - The galley. We eat good in the Royal Canadian Navy. Even on submarines, I never had a complaint about the food. I remember serving in the Standing Naval Forces Atlantic for NATO when I was on destroyer HMCS Gatineau before volunteering for submarine service. We had American, British, Dutch, French and German ships working with us and we regularly exchanged sailors during exercises. Sailors from the other Navies wanted to come over to the Canadian ship because of the food. The French ship was popular for the wine onboard and the Dutch ship had pop machines full of Heineken beer but they were short of fresh milk which we had plenty on the Canadian ship. You can imagine the exchange that sometimes took place.


Photo above - Standing outside the galley and looking aft through the hatch. The officer's wardroom is to the left of the gangway. The end of the gangway is the entrance to the control room.


Photo above - Inside the officer's wardroom


Photo above - Inside the officer's wardroom


Photo above - The sonar room.The "ears" of the submarine. If you have watched the movie "The Hunt for Red October", you know how important Sonarmen are on submarines. Remember the efforts of Sonarman 2nd Class Ronald "Jonesey" Jones onboard USS Dallas as he uses his skills and talents to detect the man-made noise from Red October's new propulsion system. I would say that some of our Sonarmen in the First Canadian Submarine Squadron were of same caliber as Jonesey.


Photo above - This is where the submarine movements were controlled hydraulically. Depth of the submarine was controlled by moving the forward hydroplanes. The angle of the submarine was controlled by moving the after hydroplanes. Port and starboard movements were controlled by moving the rudder. All of these movements were controlled simultaneously by one man. He had quite a challenge when snorkeling in heavy seas to recharge the batteries at periscope depth. The diesel engines took their air inside the submarine and there was no problem as long as the snorkel was kept above the surface. Whenever the snorkel dipped below the surface, the air being sucked in by the diesel engines would not be replaced through the snorkel and air pressure would quickly go down inside the submarine. If the man controlling the movements of the submarine was unable to quickly bring back the snorkel above the surface, emergency shut down of the diesel was required before air pressure was reduced to a dangerous level.


Photo above - Looking aft from the control room. You can see the hatch going into the engine room at the other end. The wood frames on your right are the heads (or washrooms). On your left is the S/HF/DF mast and the Snorkel Induction Mast.


Photo above - This is the hydraulic control to raise and lower the Communications Mast, used for HF ship-to-shore radio communications as well as VHF and UHF communications with other ships and aircrafts. This lever was located just outside the Wireless Office door.


Photo above - Here it is again. The hydraulic control located outside the Wireless Office door to raise and lower the Communications Mast.


Photo above - The famous Emergency Flap Valve to prevent water from entering through the diesel engine exhaust system. To minimize detection, the exhaust mast was always kept underwater to prevent smoke from rising into the air. Constant exhaust pressure was maintained to prevent sea water from entering via the exhaust system. If pressure dropped and water started coming in, the Emergency Flap Valve would automatically shut to prevent a disaster. It was located just outside the Wireless Office where I worked and it made quite a bang when it automatically shut down. It took a while to get used to the noise. The Emergency Flap Valve could also be shut manually if required.


 

 

I also took 8 photos inside my little domain, the Radio Shack, also known as the Radio Room, the Wireless Office or the W/T Office. These photos can be seen on the following page:

 

OBERON SUBMARINES - THE RADIO ROOM

 

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