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Oh, Shit. Robert Sheridan FawCawnahs Here's what today's (2/16/01) San Francisco Chronicle (Chronicle News Service) reports on this: Headline = "Japanese Boat Too Small for Sub to Detect, Navy Says."

The article states, "The bow of the Japanese trawler was heading directly toward the Greeneville and presented such a small target that the skipper and other crew members simply failed to see it, despite at least four periscope sweeps in the minutes before the collision, Navy officials said yesterday."

An admiral (identity withheld) said, "If the trawler had been moving across the Greeneville's course, the human eye would have picked out the movement. But because it was coming bow on, the crew just missed it."

"...its white painted bow was just too small to pick out in the 6- to 8-foot seas off the coast of Honolulu.

"Investigators are still puzzling over why the sub's sonar system did not spot the trawler."

"According to Navy officials, before the emergency ascent exercise submarine crews are required to do at least four sweeps of the surrounding horizon -- two at low magnification and two at high power."

"Cmdr. Scott Waddle and other crew members conducted the sweeps, according to Navy investigators. Weather limited visibility to about 5 miles that day. The range of the periscope is also about 5 miles. Navy officials estimated that the trawler was going about 11 knots."

"The periscope search was part of the routine before the Greeneville submerged to a depth of 400 feet and then rocketed to the surface with 16 civilians aboard. Less than 10 minutes had elapsed between the sweeps, the dive and the emergency ascent, Navy officials said."

"In addition to the periscope,the Greeneville also had a sophisticated sonar system that should have spotted the trawler."

"We still haven't sorted out the sonar issue," a Navy official said."

"Some former submariners have speculated that the Greeneville's sonar operators might have dismissed whatever noise they picked up as background clutter from Honolulu harbor and ships near shore."

End of article.

From this it appears that the trawler was some miles away from the Greeneville, in 6-8' seas, coming bow on, with a white hull. The white hull must have been indistinguishable from the white-caps I would expect to be all over the ocean with those seas. Greeneville then dives, the sonar operators failing to detect an oncoming craft, to 400,' and suddenly ascends, out of control, under the approaching trawler. A miracle of bad timing.

Is there anything in here that saves the captain?


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