Being in a sunless space, bereft of fresh air for last three years, does strange thing to people.
After picking up the entry permit from the project office our thoroughly serious and professional marine hull surveyor, Warwick Thomson, is intently checking that the tank has been gas freed correctly; he sorts out the essentials, gas monitor… check, camera, torch… check, chipping hammer… check, note pad and pen… check check. Clothed in his fresh, white disposable overalls, Warwick could be mistaken for a slightly dumpy cottontail but afflicted with the difficulties of Alice in negotiating the entry down the rabbit hole of No.3 fuel oil tank. In its shape, the fuel reservoir is a crescent moon prism, its inboard surface being the regular cylinder of the pressure hull, its outer more complex curve, being the thinner plated skin visible from the exterior of the sub. Internally, the space is complicated by a lattice of supports radiating from the inner to the outer lateral face.
After edging past the coming, Warwick heads to the side and upwards, inspecting the critical edge that, externally, has been of much concern (see blog, Day Two; Between the Times) but any disquiet felt over the potential state of the internal structure has been found to be misplaced. The area is in near pristine condition with only about two percent surface corrosion and no wastage of either the pressure hull or the outer tank shell. Nearly all of the corrosion present in the tank appears around and directly below the entry point where remedial work being undertaken will eliminate any further ingress of rain water. The continual harsh tap of hammer to steel, as our Professional troglodyte tests the integrity of any suspect area, acts as a reassuring heart monitor, but as Bunny Thomson makes his way outboard down the first ladder then crosses over to the second to head in, down around the tightening lower radius and out of sight, a mad high pitched cackle is heard.
“Tis the annular holes of the tooth brush that’s checked annually, hee, hee, hee”
Has he gone insane, overcome by remnant diesel fumes or has he partaken of the “eat me”, “drink me” temptations at the bottom of the rabbit’s hole?
The grimy white whiskered face of Warwick, appearing through the tank top, bearing a broad smirk, informs me the it is neither diesel nor potions that have caste this madness upon him, it is simply the latent-naughty child within, delighting in the novel adventure of being somewhere he shouldn’t really be. The regressed marine surveyor was just testing out the acoustics by sounding out a rendition of Spike Milligan, The Goon Show, circa 1958.
With few exceptions all the fuel oil & water ballast tanks as well as the free flooding areas have been found to be in remarkably good condition with little or no deterioration of the surface coatings. Even No 1 water ballast tank, open from the last docking, had but little marine growth. Although the discovery of a saucer sized oyster on the internal structure promised a rare treat, the thick sludge oozing beneath my feet made me think better of it. The sub hadn’t bottomed since being at the museum; the black tar like matter, slowly swallowing my feet, had simply formed by suspended, water borne particles, settling in the sedate confines of the tank. I instantly desired to send a sample off to some lab, perhaps a cure for cancer would be found in this concoction which smelt of three day old marinara with a case of sun stroke, but more probably, yet another cause would be identified.
There was an element of envy in losing out on the oyster, for it seemed that everyone else had been able to partake of the oceans offering. As the pump down of the outer dock drew to a close a mild frenzy took place at the base of the outer caisson. Plucking brim and flat head, from the grasp of the graving dock pumps a flock of labourers swooped upon there forlorn prey. It is a time honoured tradition here “the docking fish haggle”, where, using dockside Esperanto and gesticulations, each man argues for his fair share, a regular bonus for these unfashionable labourers who possess a sense of irony and love for the great Australian sport of tax avoidance; as one old hand gleefully explained.
“There’s no fringe benefit tax on this lot, mate”.