Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Life in the "Fat Ship" Navy – Part III

Previously, on "Life in the 'Fat Ship' Navy": Life in the "Fat Ship" Navy – Part I Life in the "Fat Ship" Navy – Part II Life in the "Fat Ship" Navy – Part IV Life in the "Fat Ship" Navy – Part V The activity is fast paced, yet controlled chaos. The myriad of issues that are arising, are being handled almost subconsciously at this point. Most of the Ship’s organization are at their maximum output, while others are doing what they always do. Deep in the bowels of the ship, just about half way between the bow and the stern, and several decks below the Main Deck is Fuel Control Central. Here engineers work for a seasoned warrant officer, who manages the flow of cargo fuel to the ship’s alongside. Not only does he have to select the tanks to pump from, it is crucial that he balances where he takes fuel from. Despite how gracefully the ship appears to handle it’s load of about 8.5M gallons of fuel, poor decisions could possibly cause the Ship to "hog" or "sag," putting dangerous stresses on the keel. Hogging is when there is little fuel in the midships area, with the remaining liquid distributed in the forward and aft tanks. The stress of hogging cause the bow and stern to settle lower in the water, bending the keel up in the center. Sagging is the opposite. Little liquid is forward or aft, so the weight is concentrated in the center area of the keel. Both conditions are to be avoided. Even if they don’t cause a catastrophic failure this day, extended period of this type of shifting to flex the keel reduces the life of the hull. The corpsmen wander the deck of the ship, wearing white "float coats" with large red crosses. White plastic hardhats and green medical bags adorn them. The Ship’s doctor is also wandering about, just in case of an accident. In the cargo magazines below, Gunner’s Mates and Boatswain’s Mates, with Storekeepers, located the cargo ammo to transfer it, inventory the projectiles, powders, missiles and small arms ammo by production lots. They segregate the items by the unit they are to be delivered to. It’s hot, it’s loud and they are handling pallets and “coffins” of explosives. The accounting is critical for two main reasons, one obvious, and one more subtle. The first is to account for this expensive and dangerous material, the second is to be able to find specific items, in the case of a safety issue, or a need to send your ammo to some place that needs it. It wasn’t unusual to receive messages indicating lots of ammo had gone out of date, or determined to be unsuitable for use. You have to be able to track down all that hasn’t been expended and mark it to make sure it’s not set out for use. The ammo if forklifted onto the ammo elevators and sent up to the cargo deck for staging. In After Steering, a space, like Fuel Control Central, deep in the bowels of the ship, except it is deep in the stern, in the space right above the massive two rudders that protrude into the sea to provide directional control for the Ship. Under normal operation, the bridge helm as direct control of the rudders via electro-mechanical connections to After Steering. There are large cables that run almost the length of the ship for this purpose, one on the port side of the ship, the other to starboard. This provides redundancy in the event of battle damage. Large switches on the forward bulkhead of After Steering control which one is being used. In After Steering, a pair of hydraulic motors are mounted to each rudder. This provides another layer of redundancy for this critical function of steering. The space is manned by an After Steering Safety Officer, a quartermaster, who is a qualified helmsman, and an electrician. Under normal circumstances, they have nothing to do. In an emergency, they immediately must take control of the rudders and steer the ship safely, without the benefit of being able to see where they are going. Rudder orders can be relayed by "pointer," a small arrow head that indicates on a degree scale how to place the rudder. “"fter Steering, take control of both rudders, steer by pointer" would be passed on the sound powered circuit. A gyro repeater is also provided in this space, where a helmsman could watch I, so the Bridge has the option of telling them to take control and to steer by gyro. The hope nothing too exciting happens. The "rudder horns," the large round tube that penetrates the hull and is the attachment point for the steering engines have access plates, held in place by studs and nuts. The labeling on each of them reads "Contaminated Dead Storage." It is a grim reminder of the world we exist in. It would provide a very isolated area to store those who may have died as a result of radiation sickness and couldn’t be decontaminated, or those who may have been exposed to bio agents and might still be infectious. (to be continued) Thanks to Mudville Gazette's Open Postings!

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