Loose ends: Griffon, Miami, and more

Posted by Rebekah
Aug 08 2013

Lots of new information coming to light on a number of topics:

 

First, the submarine MIAMI, having hung in there for so long, will hang no longer.  Late last year, the Navy announced plans to repair and put MIAMI back out to sea, even if, as many supposed, they would have to partially cannibalize her decommissioned sister MEMPHIS, also in Portsmouth’s Shipyard, to do so.  MIAMI’s arsonist, Casey James Fury,, set the fires so he could go home due to anxiety about his girlfriend.  While he set the initial fire in the Crew’s Quarters, it soon spread to the Torpedo Room, Control Center, Auxiliary Machine Room, and Sonar Room.  These rooms are highly complex with thousands of components and interrelated and interconnected systems.  Fixing her would amount to gutting the MIAMI and rebuilding her most central and sensitive rooms.  That being said, MIAMI still had at least ten years left on her nuclear fuel, and until the fire, was in fairly good repair.  Moreover, submarines are under more demand than ever, but new boats cannot be built at the same rate as the older girls are scheduled to be decomissioned.

Cross section of an LA-class submarine (like Miami) with the fire damages highlighted. This may or may not reflect all the damage Miami suffered since some damage might be classified. Still, it’s a decent schematic of where most of her damage likely lies. It’s a large graphic, so click on it if you want to see it full-size.

So back in 2012, shortly after the fire, the Navy weighed the extra costs of repair against the cost of scrapping, against the personnel costs of keeping other submarines at sea longer while MIAMI holds her place in a drydock long after she was supposed to…on and on and on.  The submarine force is a thing of precision, in more ways than one.  Each sub’s crew, schedule, maintenance is all based on the movements of her sisters worldwide, all of which has to dovetail with the surface fleet as well.  MIAMI’s longer tenure in her drydock affected the next submarine scheduled to have maintenance in that drydock, which affected her mission schedule, which may have forced other shipyards to pick up extra jobs, or shuttling extra jobs, also forcing another submarine to pick up MIAMI’s future missions, while screwing up maintenance, crew rotations, and missions all over the place.  It was a nightmare, and each ripple of change had costs.

But submarines form a good portion of the backbone of the Navy, and many believe we need as many submarines as we can safely keep afloat.  All things considered, MIAMI was best put back to sea, and plans went forward.

Then this little thing called the sequestration happened.  MIAMI times ten.

Now the Navy had to reconsider MIAMI’s status in light of less money.  Then, more news came in–cracking.  In a highly controlled environment, like a submarine underwater, the slightest crack in any part of hull, piping, or componenent can end a submarine’s life, and that of her crew.  In 1963, a faulty pipe in the THRESHER likely lead to her sinking and the loss of her crew.  In MIAMI, cracking was now reported in pipes in air, hydraulic and cooling systems which run through the torpedo room and an auxiliary machine room.  More repairs.  More time.  More money.  More potential problems yet to be uncovered.  For every day MIAMI was in drydock, another surface ship or submarine may have to wait longer for necessary repairs and crew rotation.

According to the Navy, it was a hard choice, but now, instead of repairing a submarine, Portsmouth Shipyard will now scrap her, a process that requires fewer workers, so layoff processes are now in consideration.  The money that had been earmarked for her repairs, both this year and next, will be re-allocated to the standing fleet for their maintenance and upgrades.

After a long and respectful career, most of which is still buried under Top Secret classification, the MIAMI will be scrapped where she stands, in the dockyard where she burned.

She becomes the first submarine as well as the first nuclear powered naval vessel to be lost in a naval shipyard.

Godspeed MIAMI, you and your crew served your country well, and we thank you.

 

Following in MIAMI’s footsteps are nine submarines in various stages of construction: form the MINNESOTA, due to be commissioned in less than a month, to the ILLINOIS, WASHINGTON, COLORADO, INDIANA, SOUTH DAKOTA, and DELAWARE….all ordered and named, but whose keels are not yet laid.  Currently, construction takes sixty-five months, start to finish (Construction has likely started on some of these submarines, if not all, but the keel has yet to be laid), and is soon due to constrict further to 60 months.  (Way down from the 84 months a Virginia-class sub used to take!). Still, that’s five years from start to finish. MIAMI’s loss will be felt.

 

As I’m trying to tie up loose ends, I’ll touch on the Griffon’s “wreck”.  After delving 20 feet through Lake bottom, the surface sonar detected and was thought to potentially be the Griffon was…bedrock, so no ship there.  That doesn’t mean she’s not out there, nor that the “bowsprit” is fake.  It may indeed be a part of the Griffon, and the rest of her may be nearby–or may be broken up.  It’s possible, if she really did sink in that general area, that she broke up, either in the process of sinking, or over the intervening centuries.  So she may be found yet.

The “Bowsprit” had to be taken care of.  The archaeologists had two choices: take it or leave it.  Taking it would be problematic, as the State of Michigan claims ownership of the “bowsprit” and issues 30-day “leases” on it for research purposes.  Leaving the legal nightmare that is likely coming up behind, the bowsprit itself will need highly technical conservation to prevent its decomposition, and allow for study.  (See Development’s in the Griffin’s Dig, near the photo of the Mary Rose’s conservation for more information of what conservation will entail) Leaving it, however, was also problematic, as the bowsprit could be stolen by someone or even lost once again under Lake Michigan’s sands.

Not shockingly, they took it.  I hope we’ll hear more about any forthcoming tests or results on it.  Preliminary tests already suggest it’s the right age.  If more tests are done that can conclusively prove it’s from the late 17th century, then whatever that big stick is, it’s most likely part of the Griffon.  A small step forward, is a step forward!

Below, see a half-hour documentary made on-the-ground as it were about the recent Griffon dig and what they found.  Really interesting.  Locally produced.

Shipwrecked: The Search for Le Griffon

That’s all for right now.  But news is still forthcoming: MINNESOTA is due to be commissioned soon, the submarine command has transferred, and underwater archaeology is always changing and revealing new things!

Military Times Article about Miami’s scrapping decision

Article about Miami’s new damage

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