The Mighty Viking

Conquering those things we must, one story at a time

Your Tiny House is… nice

USS Shark, SSN-591


This is a photo of the USS Shark, taken as it was leaving Toulon, France sometime in the mid-80s.  

In the space of less than an hour from this photo, all the men you see here, plus another 95 or so already below, would disappear below the waves – on purpose.  

This boat would be their home – my home – for the next several weeks.  Everything we did: eat, sleep, work, clean, drill, study, clean, drill, dream – all of it was done within the confines of this 250ft long, 31ft wide waterproof chamber.  For weeks, sometimes months, we lived beyond the reach of the sun, alone with machinery and equipment that made this boat a deadly weapon of war.  Torpedomen watched over their “fish” in the bow, Reactor operators kept the water hot for the turbine engines aft, and in between, a maze of electronics and machinery was wrought together into a single, deadly organism.  

In the space of that 250ft, 100 men and countless valves, switches, controls and sensors disappeared together, operating unseen to the outside world, melding into a single, ominous threat to any and all those who threatened the freedom of our homeland.

In the space of that 250ft, we were fed.  In that 250ft, we slept in shifts, taking turns watching, and trusting.  We fought against the sea, and against an uncertain enemy.  We fought boredom and isolation from family – indeed from the world.  We receved little to no news of the outside world.  We searched for an enemy no one else could find.  We talked together in the idle moments, of love and hate, fear and joy, and we did it in an open and honest way normally reserved for a man’s most intimate companion.  We spoke of plans for a world we could only hold in our memory by faith until the next port of call.

And Toulon, just another port city in France, called us what every other port called us – scallawags, bastards, drunkards, and worse.  They sent the Shore Patrol after us, and tried sometimes to push us out of their towns, back to the Sea, back to the hidden confines of our boat, as if that would teach us a lesson.  

But back in this boat, this small space with less than 3 feet of length for every man – we simply laughed at their fear, and went back to doing what no one else wanted to do.  We went to the dark places, scoured the deep to flush out enemies to the communities that didn’t want us around too long.

Some of us watched the portents written on haunting green luminous screens, telling us what our natural senses could not – the sounds of sea creatures, of rain squalls over the horizon, of fishing boats winching their nets, tankers plodding along through the waves – and of the odd imbalanced beat of a single imbalanced blade in a hydraulic pump thousands of yards away.  And with the even-toned report of that almost-imperceptible pulse of another submarine made, we would smile a bit, slip into a profound, practiced, deadly silence, and turn together towards our intended prey.

This 250ft long submersible craft was our home, our refuge, and our weapon.  It could not, at any moment, be thought of alone as any one of those.  There were moments when the lines between individual and crew, of crew and boat, even of man and machine, seemed to blur.

And in ports like Toulon, with its naïveté of the dangers that lurked out there, with its names for us, its low opinion of our character…we found our purpose.

 

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6 Responses to “Your Tiny House is… nice”

  1. EJ Meyer says:

    That (the Shark) was my “tiny” home…that med run (1984) was my last run on the Shark..

    • Steven Vargas MM2(SS/DV) says:

      I remember that Med Run, met up with the crew in Lespezia (sp?) first and last med run. We also went to La Madellena “The rock”. And remember we met the German crew from the French sub Saphire with the German COB

  2. Bob Hunzeker says:

    You have captured the heartbeat of patrol. On my boomer out of Rota, I could only dream of a Liberty in Toulon, FR. Well done, shipmate.

  3. Retired Bubble Head says:

    Agree with BodieP… it is poetry and causes memory to flash back to glory days.

  4. BodieP says:

    This…this is poetry. This needs to be in a book.

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