A Dive on the NR- 1 Submarine

. . . Upon a Floating Island

by gene carl feldman

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The transfer from the shuttle boat to the Carolyn Chouest was carried out by jumping out of the shuttle and into a small, rubber boat called a Zodiac, or Z-boat in Navy-speak. When the seas are calm, the transfer is pretty simple. However, when the waves are high, the best analogy that I can think of is what it must be like to jump from one bucking bronco onto the back of another. Luckily, the weather was pretty kind and everything, including my camera and computer made the transfer without a hitch. After we came alongside the Carolyn and made our way up the wooden ladder and over the rail onto the deck, the crew hoisted the Z-boat out of the water and offloaded any of the gear that needed to be transferred aboard.

In addition to all the wonderful Navy and civilian crew members, there are two very important people on the deck of the Carolyn who are responsible for much of the coordination needed to make operations like this run as smoothly as they do. Cathy Offinger (left) has worked with Bob Ballard for years and can coordinate just about anything in this world that needs to be coordinated. On the Navy side, Lt. John Coombs (right) could always be found were the action was, and in all the time that I was onboard the Carolyn, never once did I see him without his communications headset planted firmly on his head.

During normal operations on the surface, or when moving from one dive site to another, the NR-1 is attached to the Carolyn Chouest by a very thick and incredibly strong tow rope. One end of this rope is wound around a large, bright orange deck winch, and the other end is fitted with a large, metal ball that fits between a pair of jaws on the bow of the NR-1, and can be released whenever the NR-1 is ready to dive. When the tow rope is released, the crew of the Carolyn hoists all 1200' back on deck and makes sure that it is wound properly onto the winch.

However, in spite of all this high technology and very sophisticated gear, it is nice to know that the more traditional sailor's skill such as rope splicing still plays a very important role.

When it was time to go, Dana Yoerger brought out a special passenger that Jon Howland and I were to take along on our dive. Keep your eyes open, because you'll never know where the little bear might show up. Jon and I went over the side into the Z-boat for our transfer to the NR-1.

MMC David Watson (left) carefully piloted the Z-boat around the NR-1. As we prepared for the transfer, I snapped as many pictures as I could because it is not too often that one gets the chance to do a 360 degree tour around a miniature nuclear research submarine in the middle of the ocean. As we passed across the submarine's bow, I could see CDR. David Olivier, the Officer in Charge of the NR-1 standing atop the bright red sail.

The Z-boat came alongside the lee side of the sleek, black hull of the NR-1 and EM1 Craig Rice kept a watchful eye on us. We quickly jumped onboard as the waves swept over the deck and threatened to soak everything and everyone. Squeezing our way inside the sail, I looked down through the narrow (31") hatch that provided the entry into our journey, as Jules Verne, the author of Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea referred to as " . . . upon a floating island".

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Gene Carl Feldman (gene@seawifs.gsfc.nasa.gov ) (301) 286-9428
Todd Carlo Viola, JASON Foundation for Education (todd@jason.org)
Revised: 18 April 1996