Below the surface

Apr 12, 2009

A couple weeks back, there was this news about submarines colliding, which followed \ reports a month or two earlier about American subs colliding.

That news reminded me of an early evening on the Frederiksted (St. Croix, USVI) pier, as my family and I watched a U.S. Navy sub glide up in preparation for docking for the night. The captain had seemingly given command of the ship to an underling, because when the sub came in too fast and rammed the pier — making us all jump back in surprise — he quickly ordered the sub in reverse. The second attempt went much more smoothly.

I spent a lot of time on that pier during my first months on St. Croix. I was 13 years old and fascinated by warships. The F’sted pier got a steady stream of visiting ships, in our waters to test their radar and sonar systems. When I wasn’t touring the visiting ships, I was in the Frederiksted library poring over the encyclopedic Jane’s Fighting Ships, or at Rainbow Beach a mile up the coast, reading a tattered copy of Run Silent, Run Deep.

On one tour of a sub, as my dad and I were in the control center, a sailor scurried into the room and began taping cardboard over various sensors and screens. “You’re not supposed to see this,” he said. There’d been other tour groups through the sub before us, including, most likely, the regulars — the lesbian couple who always had their cameras and telephoto lenses ready even before the ships were visible on the horizon, and a few silent men I imagined to have foreign accents.

Another St. Croix memory is in this post.

Anton Zuiker

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