I now know how to escape from a sinking submarine. Not a particularly useful life skill, I said to my mother, who promptly replied that you never know. What a ghastly thought. The bottom line is HMAS Ovens, the submarine museum (or should it be museum submarine?) did teach me a thing or two. First of all, I’m still terrified of ladders and I’m never doing that submarine tour again. I hate the smell of engine oil. I could be claustrophobic…maybe.
Barring all that, the submarine was quite fascinating really. I’ve been inside a submarine before – INS Kursura on Vizag beach – now that was a real crush because there must have been more than twenty people in it at a time. This tour takes only ten people, and even so our guide rather apologetically warned us that we might be stepping into each other’s personal space – not to mention stepping on toes, bumping our heads and generally knocking into various valves and pipes. The said valves are all made in Manchester though, and look extremely sturdy. I realised by the end of our hop-crouch-squeeze through the submarine that my elfin Chinese flatmate was probably the fittest of our group to enter the submarine service.
“Is there a height limit?” I asked the guide, Terry, after having nearly giving myself a new bump on my head. I’m pretty sure there’s a height limit in the Indian Navy.
“No,” he replied. “Although, if you’re nearing six feet then it might be gently suggested that you try a different service.” Apparently even women can join up these days…can’t imagine why they would though. Then again…five months at sea and so many men…hmm.
We began with the eighteen torpedoes that the sub could carry, moved through the living quarters, picked our way carefully past periscopes – never knew there was more than one – and ended with the officer’s quarters in the stern. Our tour guide left nothing unexplained, making sure we learnt how to make torpedoes count, what happened in an attack, and how to expel garbage submarine-galley style. My final verdict – British/Aussie submarines are bigger than Russian/Indian ones
As for how to escape from a sinking submarine? Well, you put on an orange diving suit that helps release air slowly. You breathe in air from a pipe that runs over your head. Then, when the danger has passed (and you’re probably neck deep in water by this time), you slowly exit through the escape hatch and pray you don’t get the bends. Useful to know? I’m not sure…I still haven’t learnt to swim.