Saturday, August 13, 2005


The conspicuous lack of blogging around here is due to the fact I'm currently on a family vacation. There's so little time to get on the 'net with all the stuff the "cruise director" (my wife) has planned for us. So until I get a chance to peruse the latest out there, blogging will be light and sporadic.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Love me Tender?

BZ to those who helped raise the stuck Russian sub.
I am very glad that the seven crewmen of the Russian bathyscaphe have made it to the surface and are presumably warm, dry and full of the wet stuff by now.

That being said, I thought the designation for their vessel quite interesting, AS-28. To an American submariner this would’ve bespoke a Submarine Tender (AS). I was inspired to see which one it may have been. Yet as my research has found there never was a U.S. Navy submarine tender with that hull number. Apparently the ship originally destined to be an AS with that number( USS Grand Canyon) was in fact converted to be an AD (destroyer tender). I have found a treasure trove of information on the AS at this website dedicated to the men and women who served on our submarine tenders.

Now we have all gotten a few things from our welded-to-the-pier friends time and again. Important items and services that were required to get underway. I myself had the opportunity to go into the IC shops on four different tenders during my time on the pond. Of those, only one still serves on active duty, the USS Emory S. Land AS 39. It is currently med-moored in LaMaddalena, Sardinia, Italy. Ah, LaMad…. Had some good times there.

But back to what was to be my point. Why are there only two sub tenders out there still working? Even through the drawdown of our submarine force we should still have more than two tenders, shouldn’t we? I know we got a lot of support from them on the piers in Norfolk let alone when forward deployed in the Med. Is there any plan to build another class anytime in the next few years? The two on active duty have over 25 years of service each. We’ve decommissioned nuke boats with less service than that! I wonder if this aspect of our current submarine force structure has had any attention paid to it at all. An article here suggests that if needed tenders in the Reserve Fleet could be recalled to active duty but that they may not be fully capable of doing things for the newer classes of submarines. I gather this mainly comes into play when using the tender’s cranes to load and offload weapons, everything else on the boat can just about be handled by an all-hands-not-actually-on-watch stores load. I wonder if anyone has thought of a replacement for these aging ships that will be able to carry out the services required by our current sub force as well as what may come in the future.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Russian Sub Stuck

I hope this doesn't turn into another Kursk tragedy.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Half Mast

Former Alaska governor Jay Hammond passed away yesterday.
Thanks for all you've done for this state and this country.

Here's an article for those who don't know the man's story; and here and here.

Monday, August 01, 2005

S boats

My last post started me thinking about all the history I've seen out here in the Aleutians and got me to wondering about submarine specific events up here. That led me to this page, where I learned a few things and gained some more respect for those brave men who rode the S boats.


The reds are in hot and heavy over at the secret hole. So much so that I was able to get my five fish in under thirty minutes Saturday evening. Well the five from Friday are smoked and those from Saturday are smoking as I type. This is my first time smoking anything but the first batch came out damn fine.
In other news I see that the new X-band radar is on it's way to Adak. The Anchorage Daily News has this article on it. This is gonna be good for their economy. Having been to Adak many times in recent years I can tell you that they really need it. I don't think the expectations that the people there had for the place after the Navy left were realistic. The place is almost sad to see. It's falling down around the peoples ears. After the Navy left, there was no maintenance done on anything out there, things are rusting in place, housing is blowing apart from the wind and weather. Imagine NOB Norfolk deserted and falling apart, that's what it's like out there as far as the infrastructure goes. A naval ghost town. There just hasn't been much of a reason for people to stay out there. The fish processing business has been meager to my knowledge, hardly enough to sustain the local populace. The biggest thing going until now has been the expansion of the small boat harbor, hopefully it will attract more fishermen. If it weren't for federal and state government there likely wouldn't be anyone there now.
Part of the problem is accessibility. No airline willingly fly's out there to make money. Alaska Airlines has a Federal essential air service subsidy to service the place but they only fly out there twice a week and there is no other carrier to get out there unless you spend around 10,000 for a charter flight. Their success rate into the place has been around 60%(I think I may be a little generous with this number). There are many reasons for that, not the least of which has been weather. Of course there are also mechanical and third party factors too. The FAA has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars improving the navaids and instrument landing system out there after inheriting poorly maintained and barely functioning systems from the Aleut Corp., which had in turn received them from the Navy after they had left town. What puzzles me is that even though Alaska doesn't get the subsidy money unless they land(roughly 11,000 per landing in Adak, at least that's the terms I saw in their EAS contract), they still refuse to try again the next day. Imagine being from Adak and have been on vacation and were returning from a month long trip to Europe. Now imagine making it all the way to Anchorage and boarding the plane to Adak on a Sunday. Next imagine flying to King Salmon, the halfway stop for the jet, and being told that they were not going to try for Adak but were instead returning to Anchorage. You'd expect to get on the next scheduled flight, right? Well unfortunately for you and every one else on board that isn't until Thursday! So find a place to stay at your own expense 'til then since airlines won't put you up for a weather hold. Of course they wouldn't try the next day, that's not in their contract and there's hardly any money in flying out there anyway!
I didn't mean for this to be such a rant. I just wanted to highlight some of the reasons that the sea based radar moving to Adak is such a good deal for the residents out there. Perhaps when it gets there Alaska will consider rebidding for the EAS contract when the time comes and adding more flights. More people means more demand and more money.
I do like Adak though, it's one of my favorite places in the Aleutian Chain. Lots of great fishing and excellent ptarmigan and caribou hunting. There's a lot of history there too.
From the spot on the beach in Kuluk Bay where the first U.S. Army commandos came ashore for a recon mission during WWII ( of course they were launched from submarines!) the historical marker placed there reads:
"On August 28, 1942, the U.S. Naval submarines, SS Triton and SS Tuna, surfaced 4 miles due east of this beach and disembarked a 37-man U.S. Army intelligence gathering unit lead by Colonel Lawrence V. Castner. The unit was known as "The Alaska Scout," or more affectionately as "Castner's Cutthroats." Their mission was to gather information about the Japanese troop strength on Adak and to report their findings to the landing force already on its way from Dutch Harbor. No enemy troops were found, and on August 30, a 17-ship landing force with 4,500 men and tons of heavy equipment arrived. Their mission: to build an airstrip and troop staging area in preparation for the retaking of the enemy-occupied Aleutian Islands of Attu and Kiska. "

The first plane landed on that airstrip two weeks later.

For anyone interested in this forgotten theater of WWII and its importance to the outcome, I highly recommend you read The Thousand-Mile War: World War II in Alaska and the Aleutians by Brian Garfield.