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Blow and Go!
By Bob Stockton
Saturday, January 07, 2012
Rated "PG" by the Author.
The author experiences submarine escape training first hand.
Blow And Go
©2010 Bob Stockton. Excerpted from 'Listening To Ghosts' (Xlibris Press) by Bob Stockton. Unauthorized use is prohibited.
By 1957 the Navy had abandoned its primary shallow (300 feet or less) submarine escape device, the Momsen Lung as being too complicated and dangerous and had placed its shallow water escape training efforts on a simplified “Blow and Go” technique that required no external breathing device. This was the system that we were required to learn and demonstrate in order to stay in the
program. The science behind Blow and Go is that under pressure the lungs are compressed equal to the pressure found at the particular water depth where the individual is located. It simply becomes a matter of dispensing with that lung pressure while rising to the surface by tilting one’s head back and expelling the air from one’s lungs by blowing as hard as possible. As the air in the lungs is expelled the danger of the lungs expanding and bursting on ascent is eliminated.
And you know, it works!
The class was taken to the training cupola which, among other devices consisted of a one hundred foot cylindrical tank filled with water. Inside the tank were three platforms at eighteen, thirty-seven and fifty feet. Each platform was connected to an airtight chamber by a watertight hatch-like door. Several of us at a time were placed in the first chamber which connected to the eighteen foot platform. Valves
were opened and water was allowed to enter the chamber until the pressure equalized with the water pressure in the tank, usually when the water had risen to roughly shoulder or mid chest length. As my lungs were compressed by the water pressure, breathing in the chamber became labored. It was as if a weight was thrown on my chest. An instructor then opened the watertight hatch leading to the tank and I stepped out onto the platform in the tank. Two instructors in scuba gear were waiting in the tank to correctly position me and hold me onto the platform (one does have some positive buoyancy due to the compressed air in the lungs). One tap on the shoulder was my signal to cross my legs at the ankles and tilt my head as far back as it would go. The next tap was a signal for me to begin expelling the air out of my lungs as hard as possible. I felt a slight panic as I was blowing with all my strength and the damn instructors still hadn’t released me. For a moment I knew the fear a person feels just before drowning. Finally both instructors agreed that everything was O.K. and I was released, shooting up to the water surface like a cork, blowing the air out of my lungs as I ascended. Sucking in that first gulp of air on the surface was a thrilling experience! Hell, I’d made the first level. Bring on the thirty-seven footer!
The next step for those that passed the initial escape test was a required ascent from the thirty-seven foot platform. Same drill, same initial panic, same successful ride to the surface. Having passed that requirement I was certified and was not required to do the fifty foot escape. It was strictly a volunteer trip. “What the hell.” I thought, “Might as well be a grizzly,” and raised my hand to volunteer for the deepest one.
Down we went to the fifty foot level. Water was let into the chamber and the pressure was equalized with the outer tank. It was really difficult to draw a breath. It felt like there was a piano on my chest. The hatch opened and I stepped out onto the platform, took my position and began to blow. The instructors released me and up I shot. Everything went exactly as before until I reached a level about twenty feet from the surface. I was sure that I had run out of air and was going to drown. I began to move my arms and legs frog style frantically to get an additional push to the top. I wasn’t going to make it. I had no more air.
And then I broke the water surface with a gasp that you could have heard in Canada! I shot a glance over at the scuba instructors who were following me to the surface.
They were having a good laugh.
Site: Navy Publishing
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