zaterdag 5 juli 2014

Onboard a submarine

Last week, I could cross something from my bucket list. As the title already hints at, I was onboard a submarine. Ok, the submarine was not submersed in the ocean, it wasn't even in the water, but it was a real submarine, the Hr. Ms. Tonijn ("Tuna"). You can visit this submarine in Den Helder at the museum of the Dutch Navy. However, our project group (Vening Meinesz, I wrote about this) and I were guided by one of the officers that had served on board the Hr. Ms. Tonijn, who gave us an incredible tour inside the submarine.

The Hr. Ms. Tonijn was in service between 1966 and 1991 for the Dutch Navy, so it is a more modern version than the Hr. Ms. K18, but some technical details, as we will see, are almost similar. This three cylinder submarine was designed by ir. M. F. Gunning with the top cylinder, being the living quarters and visitable in the museum. The bottom two cylinders contained the massive diesel and electric motors, as well as the chemical battery compartment for the electric motors.

The Hr. Ms. Tonijn from above made suitable and safe for the visitors of the museum.
So, me being 2 meters tall, I thought to be very claustrophobic inside the submarine. However inside, I found it very cool and amazing. Ok, at some areas it was cramp and I got almost stuck, but overall I felt very good onboard the submarine. I might have spoken differently, if it was 100 meters underwater. Everything had its place and rules and the captain had a chair!

Captain's hut with his own chair (roughly 2x2 meters)
But as an engineer, I was mostly fascinated by all the technology onboard. The communications hut, the navigation hut, torpedo area and the control center. The heart of the ship is in the control center, where the ship is being sailed by several men. From here, the entire ship is commanded. It is also the place where the periscope is situated.

One of the periscopes of the Hr. Ms. Tonijn
Just like in the movies, it had two handle bars and could rotate around. Furthermore, this was one of the few places onboard that I could stand upright and move freely a little bit. So, me feeling like a little boy in a Lego shop, I tried out the periscope and..........IT WORKED!!!!!

The North Sea from inside the submarine
I felt like a real Captain Nemo and maybe also a Prof. Vening Meinesz onboard this incredible piece of technology. Solely designed to operate for many days under the Earth's oceans. I even pressed the button to launch Torpedo no. 7. (Un)fortunately it was not armed, so I did not shoot the German caravan that was passing by, traveling to the ferry of Den Helder. Before this act of bravery (or stupidity), our guide was telling us that the diving mechanism was almost similar to that of the K18. The levers and bars that controlled the ballast tanks for diving were designed and constructed in the docks of Fijernoord, which was also responsible for building the K18. So, by looking at these mechanism, I could go back onboard the K18, which I had studied and read about so much.

The diving mechanisms of the Hr. Ms. Tonijn were similar to those of the 35 year older K18. 
So, all in all a very impressive visit, where I learned a lot (yes, also that submarines do not dive to 5 km depths *blush*, see comment). I have grown aw and respect for the men onboard these incredible machines. Their companionship and seamanship is one of the best that you can find on the oceans of the Earth. But you have to be, if you eat and sleep in quarters like this.

Eating and sleeping quarters of the crew of the Hr. Ms. Tonijn
For me it was a great day full of little boys stories and wishes-come-true. It gave me motivation to continue my work on Prof. Vening Meinesz and his voyage onboard the K18. It gave me the strength to carry the K18 and its stories and bring it to the public, because those stories are fantastic!

Me holding the K18!
PS: Please also take a look at this website:, which is about the search for the only lost and missing Dutch submarine the Hr. Ms. O13.