On August 30, 1920, the S-Five, the newest addition to the U.S. Navy's fleet of submarines, left Boston for Baltimore on her first cruise. Two days later, the crew commenced a practice "crash dive" but a combination of errors and poor mechanical design sent 75 tons of seawater charging inside. Narrator Michael Butler Murray's authoritative, well-paced performance builds a heart-pounding picture of the panic inside the submarine as she submerges to the ocean floor at a depth of 180 feet. Murray's pauses and emphasis on words intensify the drama and suspense as the crew scramble to save themselves as their air and water run out. Listeners won't be able to tear themselves away from this gripping true story.
Hanging on display in the United States Navy Yard in Washington, D.C., is a battered and scratched steel plate, two feet in diameter, edged with more than one hundred little semicircles. For more than 80 years, people have wondered how it came to be there and at the story it could tell.
Under Pressure: The Final Voyage of Submarine S-Five is that story. On Monday, August 30, 1920, the S-Five, the newest member of the U.S. Navy's fleet of submarines, departs Boston on her first cruise - to Baltimore for a recruiting appearance at the end of the week. Two days later, as part of a routine test of the submarine's ability to crash dive, her crew's failure to close a faulty valve sends 75 tons of seawater blasting in. Before the valve can be jury-rigged shut, the S-Five sits precariously on the ocean floor under 180 feet of water.
The salt in the seawater combines with the sulfuric acid in the sub's batteries to create a cloud of chlorine gas. They have little air, no water, and only the dimmest of light by which to plan their escape. By shifting the water in the sub toward the bow torpedo room, the crew is able to stand the 240-foot-long sub on its nose, bringing it close to vertical, and, using trigonometry, he calculates that at least part of the boat's stern is now above sea level. In a race against time the crew starts cutting a hole out of the highest point in the sub: the telephone-booth-size tiller room. With no acetylene torch, no power tools -- nothing but ratchet drills and hacksaws -- the crew must cut through nearly an inch of strengthened steel or die in the attempt.
An incredible drama, a story of heroism and of heroes, Under Pressure is that most remarkable of books, a true story far more dramatic than any fiction.
©2002 A. J. Hill (P)2013 Audible, Inc.
I am an avid listener. I listen between 75-100 hours per month on my iPhone: 60% fiction to 40% non-fiction.
I had never head of the S-Five before this account. I am a long time submarine book fan. It started for me in eight grade when I read "Run Silent, Run Deep." Since then, I have always been drawn to stories about submarines. When I saw this book come out on pre-order, I eagerly awaited it. I was not disappointed.
The story is terrifying and uplifting all at the same time. Hill does an excellent job as author giving just enough material to keep you interested but not too much to overwhelm the interested. Murray does an excellent job in narration. You can easily listen to this at 1.5X or even 2X.
This book will appeal to historians. Although this is a true story I think it will also appeal to science fiction readers. I recommend this book. give it a read.
"In Deep Trouble"
Submarines are dangerous environments and were especially so during the fledgling years for the submarine back in 1920 when this account is from. This book tells the sobering story of the downing of U.S submarine S-5 and the incredible feats of ingenuity, endurance and determination as well as courage exhibited by the crew of the sunken submarine. People should not be put off by the fact this story is based in the complex machinery of a submarine as this is a human interest based account. Sure, there are some technical aspects to this but it's the gruelling and terrifying ordeal of these 40 men trapped in a doomed submarine that could prove to be their steel tomb that's covered so well here.
Reading this made me wonder just how many lost crews in similar situations had worked so hard and had been so desperate before they died such as the doomed survivors of the sinking of the Russian nuclear submarine, Kursk back in 2000. This book places the reader right into that sunken submarine and gives us an insight into the terrible conditions and plight of the men trapped some 180 feet below the waves with little hope of rescue. Although submarines were still a developing technology and were rather primitive by today's standards back then, it still amazed me just how poorly and thoughtlessly designed some critical systems were on those submarines. As ever and still a problem today, fixes and changes usually only come about after fatalities despite lengthy recommendations and lobbying for such changes beforehand.
The narration is competent if a little grating on the ear at times. In fact, as I came to the end of the book I realized that his voice rather reminded me at times of the actor Dan Acroid.
I did notice a couple of technical errors in the book though. It was mentioned that 37 gallons of fuel capacity was available to these type submarines but it is clear that 37 gallons would not get you over 5,000 miles and that it must have been perhaps 3,700 gallons. Also, it specified that one of the rescue ships was shorter than the S-5 at 257 feet but the S-5 was stated as being 231 feet long so an obvious error. Tiny errors aside, this is an enthralling study in the human condition when under extreme stress and the desperate measures taken to strive for survival against all odds.
Incidentally, to those who might be interested, at the end of the book a case involved a sister submarine, the S-51, it's sinking and salvage alluded to is covered in another book available on Audible entitled "On The Bottom: The Raising of the Submarine S-51" which tells the incredible tale of courage, daring and determination from the salvage crew working to raise the wreck and entombed bodies of the crew of the lost S51.
A good read and one that makes you think twice about what you might think of as a "bad day" at work.
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