in the Water, But Not Down
diesel submarine HMCS Chicoutimi
was on her way from the British submarine facility in
to her new home in
this week when tragedy struck.
Canadians had purchased the 15-year-old
from the Brits, refitted it in
famous submarine shipyards at Faslane.
and crew of 53 were on their first at-sea journey following refit and sea
the HMS Upholder,
is a long-range Victoria Class diesel submarine, about 200 feet long, displacing
about 2,400 tons submerged. The Brits sold her to
as part of their commitment to an all-nuclear submarine fleet.
120 miles off the coast of
something went wrong in the sub’s main electrical panel. Fire broke out,
filing the small submarine with smoke and shutting down the propulsion plant.
normal circumstances this would be a serious problem, but at the time
was experiencing 30- to 35-foot seas and 35-knot winds. Without power, she was
wallowing helplessly, unable to position herself safely in the mountainous
waves. To make matters worse, nine crew members were down with injuries. The
Captain sent out a distress signal.
Irish ship LE Roisin was the
first on scene, but she suffered damage in the heavy seas and had to head back
to port. The Royal Fleet Auxiliary’s Wave
Knight, as well as Royal Navy vessels HMS
Montrose, from Faslane, and HMS
Marlborough, from Devonport in Plymouth, have been dispatched and on
the scene. They are being joined by two tugs, a Royal Air Force Nimrod from
Kinloss and Sea King helicopter from HMS
Gannet in Ayrshire. An RAF search and rescue helicopter is on standby
at Ballykelly in
, and a Royal Navy helicopter in
, in the
is also standing by.
the ocean still rules, and thirty-foot seas are making immediate rescue almost
is not in immediate danger of sinking, but its crew is being battered inside the
sub by the heavy seas and her inability to face the oncoming waves.
assessing the situation and will probably arrange to tow the
back to port. There are no plans to evacuate the crew, even if it were feasible
in the high seas. The injured crew are being treated on board, and – so far as
can be determined – the rest of the crew are in relatively high spirits as
they battle to save their new sub.
this morning, the submarine had already suffered one fatality, Lieut. Chris
Saunders, who died after being medically evacuated from the stricken submarine.
Another crewman was in serious condition in an Irish hospital.
is the fourth Victoria Class long-range patrol submarine purchased by the
Canadians from the British. All four have had technical problems, and Canadian
parliament members are calling for an investigation.
crew members just want to get back to port with terra firma underfoot and a good
Scottish ale in hand.
prayers of all sailors from all navies are with the crew of the