Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Capt Maino des Granges, former OIC of NEDU, passed August 19, 2009 at the age of 91.

We are sorry to report that Maino des Granges has passed. He was a retired Navy Captain and in the 1950s he was the OIC of NEDU in the Washington Navy Yard. During his time at NEDU the dive tables that we used for over 50 years were developed. We've attached his obituary.

22Sep09 - As a youth growing up in Southern California, Maino des Granges developed a love of diving, inventing and building.

As a Navy officer and entrepreneur, he used his skills to come up with inventions to assist in diving and construction. As a retiree wanting to improve his golf game, he designed and built a collapsible driving-range cage and putting green in his yard, complete with sand trap.

Capt. des Granges died Aug. 19 after suffering a heart attack while attending a Padres game. He was 91.

Friends and relatives said Capt. des Granges was a quiet, unassuming, self-made man who enjoyed coming up with solutions to problems.

After enlisting in the Navy in 1936, he was selected for appointment to the Naval Academy in 1938. He was among those who graduated early because of World War II.

He graduated from the academy in December 1941 and was assigned to submarine patrol in January 1942. After completing three war patrols, he was able to attend submarine school. "He was pretty sharp," said friend and fellow Navy veteran Charles Bishop. "He was made commanding officer (in 1943) and was one of the youngest at the time."

In the 1950s, Capt. des Granges was officer in charge of the Navy Experimental Diving Unit in Washington, D.C. "He developed the Navy's first set of diving tables. ... Everybody that goes diving uses the diving tables he developed," Bishop said, referring to the invention of a handheld wheel computer that was widely used and served as the prototype of many dive computers used today.

Capt. des Granges was a "fearless, remarkable man's man," son-in-law Ned Chambers said. "I think I hit the father-in-law lotto. ... He was the most honorable, phenomenal human being."

Although he was given six months to live after undergoing melanoma surgery several decades ago, Capt. des Granges "just went on with his life and beat it," Chambers said.

He enjoyed tinkering around his home and yard into his late 80s. Chambers remembered getting a call from his mother-in-law several years ago when Capt. des Granges had fallen and dislocated his hip while building a concrete wall in his yard. "The paramedics were there and he was telling them, `Just pull it back in so I can get back to work.' "

"He was his own man," Chambers said, noting that Capt. des Granges' 1963 Plymouth bore a sticker on the front that identified him as a Navy captain, while a rear sticker identified him as a Libertarian.

After retiring from the Navy in 1966, Capt. des Granges became the owner and operator of Superior CATV Construction, a major installer of underground cable. The business had nearly 200 employees at one time and had offices in El Cajon and Huntington Beach. Capt. des Granges was active in the El Cajon Chamber of Commerce until he sold the company in the mid-1980s.

"He was energetic and innovative, and everybody who worked with him just loved him," said Wade Harris, who served under Capt. des Granges when he was division commander and Harris was an executive officer. "He was one of the finest naval officers I ever met. He had a quiet, unassuming personality, but he was outstanding at his job."

Maino des Granges was born Aug. 2, 1918, in Fullerton to Paul and Julia des Granges. He graduated from Fullerton High School.

He married the former Dorothy Beckley in 1942. They settled in San Diego in 1964, when he was stationed as commanding officer of the submarine tender Nereus. He was a member of the Yacht Club and enjoyed playing golf and bridge.

He is survived by his wife, Dorothy, of Point Loma; daughters, Jeanne Vivoli and Anne Chambers of San Diego; son, Paul of Portland, Ore.; four grandchildren; and one great-grandchild. He was predeceased by a sister, Pauline des Granges, a former director of the San Diego Park and Recreation Department.

Monday, September 14, 2009

This Day in Diving History -- September 13, 1939 -- USS SQUALUS (SS-192) salvaged

This Day in Diving History -- September 13, 1939 -- USS SQUALUS (SS-192) salvaged.

On 13 September, after long and difficult salvage operations, SQUALUS was raised and towed into the Portsmouth Navy Yard. The boat was formally decommissioned on 15 November, renamed USS SAILFISH, and recommissioned on 15 May 1940. This operation took close to four months to complete, had many firsts and started only two days after the rescue (see This Day in Diving History sent May 21st).

The decision to salvage SQUALUS was made almost immediately. The Navy felt it important to raise SQUALUS as she incorporated a succession of new design features. With a thorough investigation of why she sank, more confidence could be placed in the new construction, or alteration of existing designs could be undertaken. Furthermore, given similar previous accidents, it was necessary to determine a cause.

The salvage operation of the SQUALUS began on May 27, 1939 with the first operational helium-oxygen dive by Chief William Badders and first use of Sur-D procedures off of USS FALCON (ASR-2). This new breathing medium and decompression procedures were critical to the salvage operation due to the depth (240 feet). In the words of Commander Momsen:

"The greatest single development produced on this job was the decompression system. Divers were brought by stages, calculated to be safe, to 50 feet. From this depth they were brought quickly to the surface, undressed and placed in a pressure tank within five minutes after surfacing. There he was fitted with a mask and given pure oxygen for a time sufficient to remove all of the excess gas from his body. Fifty feet of salt water is equivalent to 1-1/2 atmospheres of pressure which added to the atmospheric pressure gives us 2-1/2 absolute. At this pressure the blood stream can handle in physical solution just about the amount of oxygen that is required by the body. Thus the blood stream as transportation is free to carry the greatest amount of the helium away to the lungs. Since the solubility of a gas in a liquid varies as the pressure, at a pressure of less than 2-1/2 atmospheres, the carrying capacity of the blood would be reduced, hence it would take longer to remove the gas."

There were only 2 cases of the bends in the entire job with a total of 628 dives.

Many of the procedures used on previous submarine salvage operations (like the USS SKATE) would be used on the SQUALUS. Lifting pontoons were primarily used, but there are some significant differences that made the SQUALUS operation noteworthy. The salvage plan called for raising SQUALUS with pontoons and her remaining internal buoyancy. To accomplish this, the salvage was planned and conducted in three distinct stages. Unlike previous pontoon salvage operations, control pontoons limited the distance the ship was lifted in any single lift. The reason for this is when pontoons and the vessel's own buoyancy are used, the exact locations of the centers of gravity and buoyancy cannot be determined; thus one end always rises first. If the rise of the upper end is not constrained, a sharp angle will result and air will spill from open bottom ballast tanks. To prevent a sharp angle, SQUALUS would be lifted a short distance, towed submerged to shallow water, and lifted again. To limit the distance the submarine was raised on each lift, the pontoons were arranged at different levels between the surface and the submarine. When the uppermost pontoons reached the surface, their lift would be lost and SQUALUS would hang in midwater, supported by her internal buoyancy and that of the submerged pontoons. The upper pontoons were known as the control pontoons because they controlled the height of the lift (see attached PowerPoint slide). After weeks of grueling work both by divers and topside personnel, all was ready for the first lift. Commander Momsen described what happened:

"At the end of fifty days work, the first lift was attempted. We raised the stern successfully then the bow. The bow came up like a mad tornado, out of control. Pontoons were smashed, hoses cut and I might add hearts were broken. It was the 13th of the month, July. Another 20 days of mopping up was required before we could again rig for another try. The second try was successful."

Pontoons were rerigged for the second lift so that more positive control over the bow was maintained. SQUALUS was raised 70 feet and towed toward Portsmouth until she grounded. The pontoons were rerigged for lifting in the shallower water and she was again lifted successfully and eventually towed to drydock (Sept 15, 1939); 113 days after it sank. The vessel was exactly one year old.

After reconditioning, repair, and overhaul, the submarine was recommissioned and renamed USS SAILFISH (SS-192) on 9 February 1940. Once sea trials were complete, she departed Portsmouth on 16 January 1941 and headed for the Pacific. Transiting the Panama Canal, she refueled at San Diego and arrived at Pearl Harbor in early March. The submarine then sailed west to the Philippines, where she operated out of the Cavite Navy Yard with Submarines, Asiatic Fleet. She was in port when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941. SAILFISH conducted 12 patrols and would be awarded nine battle stars for her service in World War II Service. It is especially note-worthy that several of the SQUALUS survivors served aboard SAILFISH during some of these war patrols.
During the Pacific War, the captain of the renamed ship issued standing orders if any man on the boat said the word "Squalus", he was to be marooned at the next port of call. This led to crew members referring to their vessel as "Squailfish". That went over almost as well; a court martial was threatened for anyone heard using it.

President Roosevelt visited during the salvage operations and formally commended the "devotion to duty, courage, skill, initiative, and self sacrifice" of the officers and men who salvaged the sunken submarine. Every Navy Diver who worked on the SQUALUS received an award ranging Congressional Medals of Honor (4), to Navy Crosses (49), to citations from the Secretary of the Navy (4).

1. "Back from the Deep: The Strange Story of the Sister Subs Squalus and Sculpin" by Carl Lavo
2. "Blow All Ballast! The Story of the Squalus" by Nat Barrows
3. "The Terrible Hours: The Greatest Submarine Rescue in History" by Peter Maas

Note: SQUALUS/SAILFISH's conning tower stands today as a memorial to the lost crew of the USS SQUALUS at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.


Friday, September 11, 2009

This Day in American History -- September 11, 2001

There is a "This Day in Diving History" email set to be sent today. It would be inappropriate to do so on a day that we should all be in remembrance of one event and one event alone....instead it will be sent on Monday. Doing a complete write-up of what happened 8 short years ago would be redundant for those that receive these emails. As soldiers and sailors in the world's greatest military, we have the events of that day firmly branded into our memories. Instead, here are some numbers that came as a result of 9/11:

1) Total number killed in attacks: 2,993. A little perspective here: This number is higher than the combined total of Navy Divers, EOD Techs and Special Warfare Combatant Crewmen (SWCC) personnel currently serving on active duty.

2) Number of firefighters/paramedics and police officers killed: 403

3) Number of U.S. casualties ISO the GWOT (as of June 24, 2009): 4,316

4) Number of nations whose citizens were killed in attacks: 115 (there are 195 total countries in the world today)

5) Bodies found "intact": 289

6) Body parts found: 19,858

7) Number of families who got no remains: 1,717

8) Estimated number of children who lost a parent: 3,051

9) Percentage of Americans who knew someone hurt or killed in the attacks: 20

10) Tons of debris removed from site: 1,506,124. This number is far higher than the combined dead weight of every aircraft carrier currently commissioned in the Navy.

11) Days fires continued to burn after the attack: 99

12) Estimated cost of cleanup: $600 million

13) Terrorist attacks on U.S. soil since 9/11: 0

In an age were second guessing has become second nature especially in the media and political realm, today should reinforce why we serve and sacrifice. In the words of Father Dennis O'Brien, US Marine Corp. Chaplain:

"It is the soldier, not the reporter, who has given us the freedom of the press.
It is the soldier, not the poet, who has given us the freedom of speech.
It is the soldier, not the campus organizer, who gives us the freedom to demonstrate.
It is the soldier who salutes the flag, who serves beneath the flag, and whose coffin is draped by the flag, who allows the protester to burn the flag."


"America will never run... And we will always be grateful that liberty has found such brave defenders."
George W. Bush
Official Navy Photo: September 13, 2001 from the deck of the USNS Comfort

Photographer: HMC (SEL) (DV/PJ/FMF) Michael S. Duff

Thursday, September 10, 2009

This Day in Diving History -- 29 August 1915 -- USS SKATE raised (late entry)

This Day in Diving History -- 29 August 1915 -- USS SKATE (F-4) raised.

The Navy's first deep-sea submarine salvage was of the USS SKATE (F-4), which was lost in approximately 51 fathoms (306 feet) while making a short submerged run off the island of Oahu, Hawaii, in March 1915. This was the Navy's first loss of submarine and crew.

The F-4 had a length of 142 feet, with a submerged displacement of 400 tons and a designed depth of 200 feet. After the accident, an oil slick and air bubbles about 2 miles from the harbor entrance lead to dragging operations that positively located the boat; there were no apparent signs of life. The submarine lay far deeper than any divers had ever descended with existing equipment and methods. In and effort to reach the boat on the day of the loss; two Navy Divers dove to a depth of 190 and 215 feet, but neither reached or sighted the vessel. The only chance of saving any possible survivors was to drag the boat into shallow water because no lifting gear could be made and rigged in the time available. Dragging would work only if the boat was not completely flooded. Sweeps were made by the NAVAJO and INTREPID to pass a wire rope around the hull and drag it into shallow water. An attempt at this was made the following day, but the boat could not be moved. Rescuing the crew appeared hopeless but one more attempt was warranted. A dredge was brought to the scene; if a portion of the submarine remained unflooded and buoyant, there was a possibility of moving the boat into shallow water by heaving with the dredge and towing with tugs. No progress could be made (one of the wires parted at its maximum load). This answered the question whether the F-4 was filled with water -- it was, and rescue effort was regretfully concluded.

Because the F-4 was the Navy's first submarine loss, there was an intense desire within the Navy to determine the cause of the casualty. There was also a huge public outcry for the recovery of the bodies of the crew. Naval Constructor LCDR Julius Furer, who was in Hawaii for the construction of the new Naval Station at Pearl Harbor, was placed in charge of the technical side of salvage. After evaluation the situation and consultation with Navy Salvors, it was determined that multiple short lifts and tows were the only feasible way of raising the boat. Faced with a lack of specialized equipment for the job and a base under construction in Hawaii; Salvors were forced to do what they do best - improvise with what was on hand to get the job done. Two sturdily constructed 104x36 foot barges belonging to a local construction company had the strength to support the downed submarine. A lifting system was built using I-beams planned for a coal storage facility, sugar mill shafts were used as windlasses along with miscellaneous machinery that was either available or made for the job.

Knowing that the positions of the lift slings would be crucial to the success of the salvage and that their positions could only be verified visually, five of the Navy's top Divers were ordered in from the Navy Yard. At the time the Navy Yard was responsible for the test and review of all diving equipment and techniques. These divers were Gunner Stillson, Frank Crilley, Stephen Drellishak, Frederick Nilson and William Loughman. Chief Crilley made the first dive just two days after arrival. He reached the F-4, more than 300 feet down, and reported that the boat was upright but the slings would have to be moved. The difficulty of working at this depth cannot be overstated. Keep in mind that all of these dives were conducted with air -- breathing HE02 had not been discovered yet. The futility of attempting to work at these depths was demonstrated when a diver remained on the bottom for thirty minutes trying to pass a small reeving line. He was unaware of fatigue on the bottom, but collapsed from exhaustion on the surface and did not regain strength for several days. In another instance Chief Loughman became entangled in a steel hawser at a depth of 250 feet down breaking his hip in process. Loughman fell unconscious and GMC Frank W. Crilley dove in after him, disregarding personal safety. He found Loughman and worked for an hour and a half to free him. For his heroism, Crilley became the first Navy Diver to be awarded the Medal of Honor on February 15, 1929. For more info on this heroic rescue see the "This Day in Diving History" email sent April 17.

After multiple lifts over the course of months the submarine had been moved to 48 feet of water by June. The problem was now how to move her in one lift through Honolulu Harbor with out breaking the sub up which would totally block the harbor. It also had to achieve a depth of 25 feet or less to fit into existing drydocks. In order to accomplish this, Salvors developed what would be known as the submarine pontoon salvage method. To do this, chains were moved under the boat and attached to huge pontoons that were built for this operation. These pontoons were 32 feet long with a lifting capacity of 420 tons and were built with wooden sheething all around to prevent impact, chaffing, or puncture to the hull due to frequent contact. On 29 August, the pontoons were blown dry, the submarine was towed into the harbor and placed in drydock. It was immediately discovered that the cause of the accident was leakage through rivet holes where the rivets had been eaten away by battery acid. This resulted in immediate design changes to all U.S. Navy Submarines.

The methods, lessons learned, and equipment employed in this operation would be used during the raising of the USS SQUALUS (SS-192) years later.

Note: For more reading about this historic salvage operation check out the following hyperlink to UnderSea Warfare Magazine