Saturday, February 11, 2012

as nukes go by

As I was in transit late Thursday morning, and at the entrance to the innermost domains of the Enchanted Forest, I found myself stuck on the Hood Canal Bridge.

This is by no means an unusual occurrence, and when it happens one always hopes that the drawbridge is opening for some little one-masted fishing vessel or some such, rather than for one of the nuclear submarines which travel in and out of the pod at Bangor. The bridge opens when these fearsome weapons of mass destruction are still far to the north of the draw span, and it won't close again until the vessel is several miles or knots or sea furlongs or whatever the aquatic measurement is to the south, and this necessitates a travel delay of at least half an hour.

At first I thought it was going to be a quick stop as only one little vessel, less than twenty feet long, was in view, but it turned out to merely be one of the pilot fishes that inevitably accompanies the nuke. And eventually the long, vaguely shark-like shape of the silent monster hove into view, its tower and tail fin the only parts visible above the surface, with the rest of its dark mass riding just below the water. I walked to the south side of the bridge with my cell phone to snap a picture of the sub as it headed down the canal accompanied by its small retinue, framed by a backdrop of the cloud-enshrouded Olympic Mountain range.

I don't know, but if I had to guess I'd say we were witnessing the passage of an Ohio-class nuclear submarine, which is nuclear because it is both powered by a nuclear reactor, enabling it to remain submerged and at sea for months at a time, and also because it carries nuclear weapons -- up to 24 Trident II missiles, each missile equipped with up to four MIRV's (multiple independent re-entry vehicles). Each MIRV costs $31 million and is tipped with a nuclear warhead. Submarines like this one carry about half of the total American active inventory of strategic thermonuclear warheads, according to the article on Ohio-class nuclear submarines in Wikipedia.

"Our world," said the famous World War II American general Omar Bradley after hostilities had ended, "has achieved brilliance without wisdom, power without conscience. Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants.”

Photo ©Dave B; click on the picture for a larger view.

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