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Survival

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About this book

True Stories
Survival

  • Ten thrilling true stories of survival against all the odds, perfect for readers who prefer real life to fiction.
  • From shark attacks and blazing airships to exploding spacecraft and sinking submarines, these are real-life stories of people who have stared death in the face and lived to tell the tale.
  • Each gripping story is illustrated with maps and line drawings and the Usborne Quicklinks website directs readers to carefully selected websites to find further information, photos and videos online.


Read an extract

Survival

Dive to disaster

Just off the coast of New Hampshire, USA, the submarine Squalus (pronounced Skway-lus) sailed briskly along the surface of the Atlantic Ocean. It was 8:40am, on May 23, 1939. Brand new, Squalus was undergoing sea-trials before she was delivered to the US Navy.

As she cut through the choppy sea, her captain, 35-year-old Lieutenant Oliver Naquin, stood face to the wind and spray on the conning tower. The previous 19 test dives he had carried out with his ship had all gone to plan, but the next procedure would test both the 56 men in his crew, and their vessel, to the limit. Squalus was about to carry out a practice crash-dive, an emergency procedure where a submarine under attack on the surface submerges as quickly as possible.

Naquin called down to his radio operator, ordering him to report their position to the submarine’s home port of Portsmouth, New Hampshire. When he was satisfied all was well, he took one final breath of salty sea air then hit a button on the bridge which sounded the crash dive alarm. As a klaxon reverberated around the narrow ship, he hurried below to the control room, closing the upper and lower tower hatches as he climbed down into the depths of the submarine.

Inside the control room, men stood alert by dials and instruments, immersed in the intricate sequence of events that would take his submarine smoothly under the water.

Naquin called out a series of well-rehearsed commands:
“Secure all vents.”
“Rig sub for diving.”
“Flood main ballast tanks one and two.”
“Open valves – bow buoyancy tanks.”
“Main tanks three to seven – stand by.”

Everything was going like clockwork. Standing next to Naquin was his chief officer Lieutenant Walter Doyle. His eyes were glued to an instrument panel known as the “Christmas tree”. As all outside vents and hatches were closed, a set of indicator lights changed from red to green to show that the ship was sealed against the sea.

Naquin caught Doyle’s eye and smiled briskly. The ship’s ballast tanks rapidly filled with water, and Squalus swiftly sank to 15m (50ft). On the surface, less than a minute after Naquin had sounded the alarm, all was calm. It was as if the submarine had never been there.

Squalus settled underwater and Naquin and Doyle congratulated themselves on a successful operation. But then a strange fluttering in Naquin’s ears made him startle, and he realized immediately that something terrible was happening to his ship.

An instant later, a terrified sailor looked up from an intercom and shouted, “The engine room is flooding!” Naquin gave the order to surface immediately. Compressed air hissed into the flooded ballast tanks and the stricken submarine began to rise. Her bow broke the surface, but tons of water were now cascading into the rear of the ship. The weight in her stern dragged her sharply down, and Squalus was swallowed by the sea.

Inside was mayhem. In flickering light, tools, fittings, even torpedoes, unhinged by the steep angle of the dive, rained down on hapless sailors. Those who had not anchored themselves in a secure perch, tumbled along the ship and into bulkheads that separated each compartment. In the flooding rear section of the submarine, soaking men struggled to escape before heavy, steel, watertight doors were slammed shut to block off the rising torrent.


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