Deep Thoughts from years spent on a Trident submarine.  
Human Adaptability

I remember someone saying, "yeah but you will look back on these times, years from now, and think how great they were." Well, that did not happen. I remember my first captain telling me, "during these next few years, you will be doing some of the most important work of your life." Well, that may have been true. But I donít think the crew thought about that much. At least we never talked about it.

On the sub, we spent a lot of time doing mundane things like cleaning up and filling out paperwork. There was intense competition. People would turn on each other all the time. Many people hated the Navy and each other. Sometimes hate was all that kept you going.

Yet incredible feats happened. We had no other option.

  • Once on watch I was listening to some whales on the sonar speaker. Then all these other fish started making noises. Then I heard something like a chicken clucking. Then I heard a cow. Then the sonar guys started singing "Old McDonald had a farmÖ" They had been messing with me the whole time. They had exactly mimicked the whale and fish noises with their voices.
  • We had a Master Chief who could quote large portions of the reactor plant manual verbatim with page numbers and everything.
  • Guys could predict the positions of multiple ships by calculating in their heads with trigonometry thumb rules. They could do this faster you could read them the information off a computer screen.
  • I developed a short-term memory of about 30 seconds. I could playback in my head everything that happened in the past 30 seconds in exact detail. Even dial readings I was not paying attention to or conversations I overheard but was not conscious of. Iíve since lost this ability.
  • When the evaporator would go down and there was a shortage of water, the reactor got first priority. The crew could go without water; the reactor could not.
  • Most of the crew was on an 18 hour day. They were on watch 6 of every 18 hours, then had a six hour maintenance shift then six hours to eat and sleep. Somewhere in there training got scheduled. This cycle took no account of what might be a normal human biological cycle yet everyone adapted.
  • The ship had no sunlight, open spaces, fresh food, alcohol, family or women. Everyone adapted to these depravations. If we were ordered to stay at sea indefinitely, I am sure the ship would break down long before the crew did.

Even with the latest and greatest technology, there is no substitute for the human being in adaptability and reliability. Machines break while people adapt. Itís truly awesome to witness.


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