Sunday, January 06, 2008

USS Cheyenne

One of the coolest things I've done since I've been in Hawai'i is getting a tour of a submarine at Pearl Harbor. Last Friday after work, Adam and I walked over to the submarine piers from my hotel room on Pearl Harbor Naval Base and asked for a tour. Since there's always a crew standing watch on Navy ships and boats (a.k.a. submarines), there were a bunch of guys standing around on deck and they were happy to show us around. We couldn't see everything because some of the areas on board are classified.

This is an aerial image of Pearl Harbor Naval Base. Right to the left of where it says Pearl Harbor are the submarine piers.

The submarine we toured was the USS Cheyenne. Here's a picture I got on google - you can't take pictures of the submarine piers so I don't have any of our visit. We got to walk right onto the deck where those guys are standing. It was a little scary! I thought I might trip over a rope or just slip and fall off into the water. I kept thinking, please don't fall... do NOT be that girl who fell overboard who had to be rescued!!

The second picture shows basically what the sub looks like docked at the pier. The propeller is classified so it can never be above water.

I looked but couldn't find an image on google to show what it looks like below deck. It was pretty cramped quarters. There are 160 men stationed on the Cheyenne - pretty crowded! They "hot rack" which means there are not enough beds to go around so they share - when one guy is working, another guy is sleeping and then they switch. They work six hour shifts. The bunks are pretty small already, with three piled on top of each other. There were even mattresses in the torpedo bay - guys end up laying them right across the torpedoes and sleeping down there! The handful of officers on board, including the commander, have somewhat better living conditions. The enlisted guys - probably at least 130 of them - share only a couple of toilets, a few urinals and two showers!!

There are three floors - the first deck down housed the commander's quarters and the bridge (where they do all the driving and monitoring and launching of torpedos). The second deck down was mostly bunks and more equipment. The third deck down housed the missile bay, the mess (dining area/kitchen) and more bunks. They had a couple of big screen tv's in the mess where they could watch movies, but our tour guide told us they also spend time reading, playing video games or listening to music. It smelled pretty rank when we were down on the third deck, since they were "pumping" (sewage) - yuuuck.

We learned all about the sonar and how they drive around underwater, and how they launch the cruise missiles. The missiles basically come out of the silos in a pocket of air and don't even get wet at all!! They shoot up from the sub and once they break the surface the engines ignite and they fly towards their target. The sub we toured is an SSN - a fast attack sub that carries cruise missiles as well as torpedoes. These subs are smaller, more mobile, and have a different mission than the larger ballistic missile submarines - the "boomers". Boomers are huge in comparison and can carry the nuclear armed Trident ballistic missiles. Those are also vertical launch by the same means the smaller missiles are. Pretty amazing technology. I'm hoping to get a tour of one of those while I'm here too!

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