Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Have they found the USS Grunion?

There is more to this than finding a lost sub. Read the whole thing, this is also a story of the love a son for his lost father.
Until a few years ago, the clues were too sparse to justify a search, said Abele, whose father, Mannert Abele, was the Grunion's commander. "We really didn't do anything about it because there was nothing, no information," Abele said. "What were we going to do?"

Abele and his two brothers all married and had children. Bruce, the oldest, started working in computers in the late 1950s and later invested in Boston-area real estate. Brad, the middle son, owned a management recruiting business and John helped found the multibillion dollar medical equipment company Boston Scientific Corp.

They contacted Robert Ballard, discoverer of the Titanic. He declined to participate in a search, but briefed the Abeles on the complications of searching for deep-sea wrecks. Geological formations sometimes conceal a vessel; it could be perched precariously on an undersea cliff; the water pressure and landing impact could have broken the Grunion into small pieces, making it harder to find.

They also hired a marine survey firm, Williamson and Associates, for an expedition in August to Kiska. The Seattle-based company focuses on mapping ocean and river bottoms for oil and cable companies, government agencies and academic institutions and, occasionally, explores for wrecks. Williamson at first told the Abeles that surveying the tip of the Aleutian archipelago would be too expensive, Bruce Abele said, but after six months of negotiating, the firm agreed to send sonar technicians and equipment aboard a Bering Sea crab boat to the frigid waters licking the base of Kiska volcano.

The U.S. Navy, citing lack of resources, is not involved in the search and the Abeles prefer to keep the cost to themselves.

The Aquila, carrying more than a dozen crew members and sonar surveyors, set out from Dutch Harbor on Aug. 6, said Pete Lowney, a family friend from Newton who joined the crab fishing fleet in Dutch Harbor more than a decade ago. Lowney has fished king and snow crab for years under the Aquila's captain, Kale Garcia.
In mid-August, the sonar picked up a 290-foot-long object with the sharp angles and jutting shadows of something man-made wedged into a terrace on the steep underwater slope of the volcano. The Grunion, however, was 312 feet long. The Williamson team believes the bow may have plowed beneath a mat of thick sediment, hence the apparent shortage of about 20 feet. Skid marks show the vessel slid to rest about 1,000 meters from the surface, Wright said.

Over the years, earthquakes along the tectonic subduction zone could have piled on more debris, he said. Wright, a retired Navy captain who has worked with Williamson since 1986, is 95 percent sure the shadowy images are those of the vanished sub. The Grunion is the only known sunken vessel in the area and the sonar captured the distinct outline of a submarine conning tower, he said.
Sure looks like it. Good that we are finding the final resting place of our Shipmates. We have better records it seems, of lost German U-boats than our lost submarines. Rest in peace.

There are important lessons out there for this though. We forget the lessons paid in blood. Right now, how often do you hear about a lack of realistic testing of warshot torpedoes and other front line weapons. Not cherry picked test weapons, tweaked to perfection. No, a random warshot of a Mk-46/48/50/54 against a moving target in real littoral water? How about our other weapons coming off ships? I don't worry too much about the Air side of the house, they have operationally tested about everything in the last half decade.
Yutaka Iwasaki, who translated and sent him a report written in the 1960s by a Japanese military officer who served in the Aleutians. A maritime magazine had recently reprinted the report. It described a confrontation between a U.S. submarine and the officer's freighter, the Kano Maru, on July 31, 1942, about 10 miles northeast of Kiska — the Grunion's patrol area.

The sub dispatched six or seven torpedoes. All but one bounced off the boat without exploding, or missed, the officer wrote, although the hit knocked out his engines and communications. He said he returned fire with an 8-centimeter deck gun, and believed he had sunk the sub.
The dud rate took a long time to fix. The sub side of the house is doing better than the surface from what I hear, though the testing I have been part of have not been against anything realistic (and don't tell me about simulators - doesn't count). How many more were lost because people did not do their job prior to '41? What is our excuse? Is the LCS ready for a shore launched C-802 when 7 NM off the coast of a hostile shore? Is it?

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