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Commander HOOVER. It would be about 22 feet. The diver found the upper works badly encumbered with radio antenna wires and wreckage, and the bow covered with mud, indicating that the submarine had gone down bow first and plowed into the mud to a certain extent. This covered up the torpedo tubes. He rapped on the hatch leading into the torpedo room and received replies in the way of taps from the interior. He walked aft a certain distance, as far as he could, but he heard nothing from the after part of the vessel.
Senator STEIWER. Did he walk past the point of collision?
Commander HOOVER. Yes, he saw that-saw it roughly. Upon the return of the diver to the surface it was decided by those in charge to try to supply high-pressure air to the ballast tanks of the submarine from an outside connection which is fitted on each submarine, and blow the water out of the ballast tanks. They hoped by this means to float the boat immediately. This operation was based on the fact that submarines are designed to float with any one compartment flooded, provided all other compartments are dry and the ballast tanks empty.
Not knowing the extent of the damage, or whether or not the inner hull had been punctured, this was the correct procedure in order to raise the boat as quickly as possible.
The next diver went down with an air hose and connected on to the ballast tank blowing line on the side of the conning tower. High pressure air was sent down for a considerable period of time, until large clouds of bubbles came to the surface, indicating that all the blowing had been done which could be done; in other words, that the air was escaping as fast as it was being sent down.
In the meantime while blowing, considering the possibility that the submarine might come to the surface, the Falcon had to be moved to one side so she would not be struck.
Senator ODDIE. If she had risen directly under the Falcon it would have resulted in sinking both of them, would it not, because of the roughness of the sea?
Commander HOOVER. It would have sunk the Falcon too.
Senator ODDIE. I think at this point you should state what the condition of the sea was at that time.
Commander HOOVER. Yes.
Commander HOOVER. It was about 8 o'clock on Sunday evening. When the blowing of the main ballast tanks had failed to raise the boat, it was decided to send down another air line and make fast to what is called the compartment air salvage line. This is a line which
a runs along inside of the submarine, and can be used to supply air to the living compartments from outside by a similar connection to the one referred to just previously.
Senator STEIWER. What was the object of this maneuver?
Commander HOOVER. The object of this was, if possible, to get air to the men imprisoned in the torpedo room.
The number of trained divers on hand at this time was only three or four.
Senator STEIWER. Were they enlisted men in the Navy?
Commander HOOVER. Yes. The weather was getting very boisterous at this time, the wind was blowing at force 7 or 8. The most experienced diver was sent down then, although it was considered to be a very hazardous undertaking. His name was Michaels. He
went down at 7.49 o'clock p. m., Sunday. The Falcon was yawing back and forth, and rolling and pitching, making it very difficult to carry out any diving, or even to land the diver on the deck of the submarine. The stern of the Falcon was then being held in position by two mine sweepers, one on each quarter, with their anchors down, and lines between; Falcon's own anchors laid out ahead.
The diver had great difficulty in getting on the submarine, and before he was able to make the connection to this compartment salvage line, his air hose and life line became entangled and fouled in the wreckage. The heavy current, and the yawing and pitching of the Falcon, and the consequent necessity of paying out a considerable slack in these lines to the diver, looped them back and forth over the wreckage and over his body to such an extent that he was pinned down on the deck in a prone position. He telephoned up that he was fouled, and to send some one down to clear him.
Senator ODDIE. What was the temperature of the water?
Commander HOOVER. The temperature of the water was about freezing—34o, I think. The diver Eadie, who had previously gone down and made the other air connection, and was at this time exhausted and in his berth, was called upon to put on his suit and go down and clear Michaels, the weather getting worse all the time. This he proceeded to do; and after Michaels had been submerged for something over three hours, he was gotten to the surface.
Michaels was, of course, unconscious for the most of the night, and this occasioned the trip of the Falcon early Monday morning to Boston, to put him in the hospital. The weather was so bad at this time that it would have been an impossibility to carry out any more diving. I think the testimony will bear this out in every particular; and, as I say, the life of Diver Michaels was considered to be of the most importance at that time, since no more diving could be done.
He was kept in what is called a recompression chamber, which is part of the apparatus on the rescue ship Falcon, until he got to Boston. It would have been practically certain that he would have contracted pneu honia had he been taken out of this chamber and sent in an open boat to some other ship and carried to Boston.
Senator STEIWER. What time did the Falcon leave the scene of the wreck and proceed to Boston?
Commander HOOVER. The Falcon proceeded to Boston Monday morning at 6.30, and arrived there shortly after noon.
She got back to the wreck again that evening about dark.
In the meantime the submarine 5-8 was standing by close to the wreck, and communicating with it by means of her underwater signaling devices, and by tapping from the submarine S-4 she established the fact that there were five men and one officer alive in the torpedo room, and that the torpedo room was comparatively free of water.
They asked the men in the S-4 whether or not they had opened the valve to the compartment salvage line, previously referred to. The reply was that they had tried it but that water came out, which indicated to the rescue party that this line was open somewhere in the boat, or had been damaged in the collision, and therefore would probably be of doubtful utility later on when diving could be resumed.
Senator STEIWER. Let me interrupt a minute. The subsequent examination of the boat verified that conclusion as being correct?
Commander HOOVER. It did not. The line was intact.
Senator STEIWER. What was the explanation of the failure to get air through the line?
Commander HOOVER. The connection to this line was never made because the diver that went down to do it was caught in the wreckage.
Senator STEIWER. And they did not attempt it again after he was taken up?
Commander HOOVER. No, they could not make another attempt until diving was again possible, and that was three days later. By that time the men had died.
Senator STEIWER. Did they ultimately connect with it?
Commander HOOVER. They could have, but they did not. It was no use to, later on. Their best knowledge at that time was that the line was inoperative.
Senator ODDIE. Did they at that time have knowledge of the fact that the compartment salvage line was broken?
Commander HOOVER. That was the inference from the fact that the people in the submarine said, by signal, that upon opening the valve to this line the water came out of it.
Senator STEIWER. How is that accounted for if the line is intact? Commander HOOVER. I do not know.
Senator ODDIE. Was there not a break in the line, which allowed the water to come in from the compartment that was flooded?
Commander HOOVER. There may have been leaks into the line from some other part, enough to fill the pipe, and allow enough water to come out to make them think it was full and would continue to flow out. There are a lot of openings to this line in other places.
Senator STEIWER. That line is just a single installation on one side of the vessel only, is it?
Commander HOOVER. Yes. If you would like to know about the details of that line, I can make you a sketch and explain it.
Senator STEIWER. It might be well to have something like that in the record, if you can make a little detailed sketch.
Senator GERRY. I think so too.
Commander HOOVER. It is something that is a little hard to understand unless you have a diagram to help you visualize it.
Senator ODDIE. Have you any more questions on that line, Senator Steiwer?
Senator STEIWER. No.
Senator Oddie. Then, Commander Hoover, go ahead with your narrative.
Commander HOOVER. Diving was not resumed until Wednesday, at which time the wind and sea had gone down somewhat, enabling the Falcon to be moored and held in position over the wreck.
There is some criticism of the Navy about losing the exact position of the wreck during the storm. It seems that upon leaving the wreck Monday they had a new 4-inch manila line made fast, with a number of buoys on it, and also an air hose which was connected to the submarine, and was also buoyed. Wednesday morning these buoys were found to have been cut adrift; and it was later found that they had been cut by the sharp edges of the wreckage—both the manila cable and the air hose.
Dragging was at once resumed, and also divers were sent down in what was thought to be the immediate vicinity of the wreck. The position had been very carefully plotted by bearings from shore. But the bottom being soft, the divers could not move around to any great extent. The wreck was not located until well along in the day, when diving operations were at once resumed.
No signals had been received from the men in the S-4 since the night before; i. e., Tuesday evening. The rescue party was not sure that the men were dead, but were certain that they were at least unconscious on Wednesday.
While waiting for the storm to go down, a connection had been prepared to fit on to a listening device, which is in the top of the torpedo room. This device, if it happened to be open inside the boat, would afford a direct connection between the outside and the inside of the torpedo room through a pipe about a quarter of an inch in diameter.
The first diver that went down on Wednesday afternoon took with him the fitting to connect on to this listening device; and as soon as it was made fast, the air hose was clamped on, and very shortly air was pumped into the torpedo room. The pressure on the line was allowed to equalize, and the gauge showed that there was practically no pressure in the torpedo room.
Senator STEIWER. What did that indicate?
Commander HOOVER. It indicated that the torpedo room was practically dry, Having only one opening through which to supply the air, it could not be exhausted at the same time it was being supplied, consequently the method was adopted of forcing air in for å while until the pressure reached about 4 pounds to the square inch, and then allowing it to escape, which would, by a reasonable amount of circulation, change the air in the torpedo room and freshen it. This was carried out for about 45 hours.
Senator STEIWER. Had there been life in the torpedo room, would it have been observed by that method?
Commander HOOVER. Yes; that should have brought the men to life, provided they had not succumbed to other hazards.
Samples of the air in the torpedo room were taken shortly after the connection was made and it was found to have a very high content of CO2.
Senator ODDIE. What is the fatal content; what is the percentage at which it will cause death?
Commander HOOVER. I believe that depends on the length of time that
you use it. Senator ODDIE. Three or four per cent?
Commander HOOVER. Three or four per cent is considered to be entirely too much. I think the percentage found was seven or eight, and it may have been higher, because the sample was not taken under the best conditions.
On Friday the Secretary of the Navy and the Chief of Naval Operations arrived at Provincetown, and it was decided to give up the idea of rescue of the personnel, and to proceed thenceforth as a straight salvage project. Senator ODDIE. To raise the ship?
Commander HOOVER. To raise the ship; in which, of course, the element of time does not enter so much as in rescue work.
The salvage work was pursued vigorously, interrupted frequently by bad weather, extreme cold, some difficulties incident to the depth and the mud, etc., until March 17 on which date the S-4 was raised and towed to Boston, where she now is.
Senator STEIWER. In dry dock?
Commander HOOVER. A board of investigation met in Boston immediately upon her being brought there, and a few days later the court of inquiry, which had convened previously while the vessel was still on the bottom, reconvened and considered the new evidence.
Senator STEIWER. Taken by the board of investigation?
The bodies of 32 of the crew and officers were taken out by the divers during the salvage operations. They were all found in the engine room and the motor room, which are the after compartments in the ship.
Senator STEIWER. Are they adjoining rooms?
Commander Hoover. Yes; adjoining. The door was open between them.
It is thought that the engine room and motor room were dry, or at least reasonably dry, for some time after the accident, but that the crew became unconscious or died from the effects of the CO2 in the air prior to the arrival of the divers the next day, this from the fact that the first diver who went down could clearly hear the signals from forward when he was on the afterpart of the submarine, but heard nothing from the after part.
The positions of the bodies in the engine room and motor room indicated also that the men had plenty of time to lie down and cover themselves
up with clothing and canvas; and, in fact, one man was found in a cot.
Senator STEIWER. In what?
Senator ODDIE. Is there any evidence to show that gas was formed by the water coming in to the switchboard in the battery room or in contact with any of the wires or electrical aparatus?
Commander HOOVER. There is no direct evidence on this, or even signs of it, in the boat.
Senator GERRY. They were not killed by the chlorine gas from the sea water hitting the batteries?
Commander HOOVER. I think not.
Senator GERRY. They were killed by the CO2 rather than by the chlorine gas?
Commander HOOVER. Yes.
Senator STEIWER. I take it you are not a medical man, but just speaking in an approximate way, what is the effect of that CO2 gas?
Commander HOOVER. They say that the effects come on very gradually and induce no discomfort whatsoever on the personnel. X man gradually loses consciousness and dies while unconscious.
Senator ODDIE. He gets drowsy?
Commander HOOVER. Yes. The testimony seems to indicate that the men in the motor room and engine room died from drowning, in