|Branlund took time from his vacation to the Hawaiian Islands to return to COMSUBPAC where he worked as an instructor at the Dive Tower.||The attack submarine USS Los Angeles (SSN-688) prepares to depart Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, for a Western Pacific deployment. The Dive Tower can be seen in the background as it appears today.|
“We were the guinea pigs to test two different designs of submarine escape suits. They realized the Steinke Hood was not sufficient to protect Sailors from environmental exposure once you reach the surface. The suits we were testing, we would float for four hours at a time in the open ocean,” said Branlund.
Although an updated variation of the suit with a one-man raft was approved recently, Branlund noted that an earlier version with the raft was not. “One of the concerns was making a safe ascent if you were unconscious. If you’re unconscious and lying in the water, ain’t no way you’re getting in a raft,” exclaimed Branlund.
|Branlund is pictured here more than 35 years ago in an experimental submarine emergency escape suit.|
Although the real estate developer and businessman had returned to Hawaii before, he didn’t have the opportunity to see the tower again until recently. “I have been back to Hawaii twice but I never got the chance to revisit the dive tower like you guys allowed me to do,” said Branlund.
Back in the company of Sailors on his tour, Branlund felt compelled to tell a sea story. Branlund and his shipmates discovered they had the power to make it rain when there was no precipitation in the forecast.
“One of the fun things about working for COMSUBPAC was he could never figure out why it was raining when there weren’t any clouds in the sky. There was a fill valve in the escape tank and when we allowed it to overflow it came out from the top, and somehow it was always raining,” Branlund concluded with a smile.
JOC Rush serves in the Public Affairs Office of the Commander, Submarine Forces Pacific
Pearl Harbor Submarine Diver Training Tower
Built in 1932, the 100-foot tall Pearl Harbor Submarine Diver Training Tower was used for over 50 years to instruct Sailors in submarine escape techniques.
Essentially the tower was a vertical tube filled with water and used to simulate a Sailor’s ascent from a disabled submarine. Sailors would don the Steinke Hood in an airlock beneath the water-filled chamber, a flood valve would be opened and the chamber would fill with water until the pressure equaled the pressure at the bottom of the chamber. Once the Sailors exited the airlock chamber, the buoyant air pressure in their Steinke hoods allowed them to slowly rise to the surface.
In 1983, the tower was drained and converted into a crow’s nest conference room by RADM Jack Darby. The room atop the tower is called “The House that Jack Built.”