Thales of Miletus lived over 2500 years ago, one of ancient Greece’s “Seven Sages”, he bequeathed to the world many ideas in the fields of politics, ethics and business, but from my desk here at Garden Island, his cosmological beliefs and his contribution to geometry are primary in my mind. The Thales Group, the company that now operates the docking facilities at GI has a world wide presence whose origins lie in electronics. With the company’s comparatively recent entry into shipbuilding came the adoption of the name Thales and seems no where more appropriate than right here. According to Aristotle, Thales believed that everything had water as its origin, an idea that perhaps resonates better in contemporary Australia than in ancient Greece, he is also recorded as measuring the height of Egypt’s pyramids by the length of their shadow. The meshing of ideas in the mind of one ancient polyglot is embedded in the actions all who labour under the banner of Thales. Through the application physics and maths we affect change on a maritime subject but perhaps it is only ideas that are beyond the reach of entropy and we work in vain to protect Onslow from the ravages of this temporal existence?
Like a vestige of Atlantis rising through a receding tide, the steps and galleries of the dock glisten, a fine slurry settles upon the floor, the saturated pores of the concrete walls linger longer in a moist state. Bright orange lines squiggle across the opaque water whose umbilical purpose is only revealed on the occasion of a tethered aquanauts surfacing. They prowl the depths sending dispatches to the watchful dock master on the progress of descent while shoreside workers ease lines aligning the sub on the accumbent plane. Eight hours of pump out has delivered Onslow gently to her cradle, soft wood crushing pieces, on hard wood blocks, atop stubby concrete plinths bear her two thousand odd tonnes. In the deepening quiet of twilight easy conversation flows, with the light ship and floating dock yet to settle on their blocks, I regret that domestic duties will eventually call us all from this meditative place.
Monday brings a more vociferous labour to the dock. The marine debris has been washed from the dock floor, and hired cherry pickers have been lowered in. Seeing CLS4 and Onslow, all revealed, forces a child-like response, like the inadvertent glimpse of your aunt’s stockinged leg; innocent, inappropriate and totally fascinating. From the dock floor the curves and camber noted on the flat, black and white plans, inflate to the third dimension. From astern to above, the sight of the rudder, planes and shafts back dropped by the ninety metres of shadowed hull inspire modesty in regards to the achievements of any individual and awe in those of the collective. The 3 000 PSI water blast that will deforest the majestic curves of their wilting marine flora and crusty flora, is but an overture to the banshee like scream of the ultra high blast to come, a skin peal that leaves Onslow’s steel skin bare with a rust red flush. In between, garnet grit is used to prepare areas where the wielding of the water lance could easily result in the severing of a limb. Although grit blasting is applied to only limited areas, its consequences are to transform the dock into candy pink desert. Soft drifts hold the foot marks of labourers and cirrus like plumes are swept up from above as if from the crest of a great dune. With all this commotion getting onboard the submarine has been problematic and thus much time has been spent fine tuning the plans for some of the other works that are to be carried out.
Glen Thornton (Senior Technical Supervisor, Hoses/Projects, Weapons Systems, In Service Support. Naval) is the coolest man on the island. His philosophical frame work is based upon the following axioms: beards are cool, white overall topped with a green hard hat are cool and despite being already dead, Steve Mc Queen was a sell out for doing those anti-smoking ads in the eighties. With the aid of a race horse rolly on his bottom lip he rallies his intellect to the problem at hand.
“If we can locate ABR 2226-6 along with PIL SCP/10/1, we could, using the ULs, find out the weight of a MarkVIII mod 2 and then test SWL for the lift.”
The ensuing mass nod approved of the plan, unsaid was the general agreement that challenging Glen’s encyclopaedic knowledge of naval publications and acronyms was beyond anyone present. Glen is applying years of experience with O boat weapons systems to, amongst others, the tasks of moving a torpedo in the fore most compartment of the submarine and the resealing of the torpedo tubes. In normal operation the bow caps of the tubes are kept tightly sealed by hydraulic pressure, hydraulics are also used to manoeuvre the torpedoes in the for-ends. In the absence of a functioning telemotor system Glen has formulated a number of different strategies for the completion of these tasks. Appropriately, the approval of Thales’ engineering department is required before any plan is implemented. Glen concedes the point but at times he displays an attitude towards the engineering department which is like that which an artist might have towards a critic, or, that which the boys from Orange County Choppers would have for a vehicle inspector, acknowledging their value yet questioning their judgements.
Will Glen get his way or is it back to the drawing board for Mr Cool? And will this writer stop trying to be clever? All will be revealed in the next exciting episode… or not.