|"Near Catastrophic" incident on sub probed
Mon, August 14, 1978
The Lowell Sun
Boston (AP) The Navy is investigating events that led to the breaking of a propeller shaft of a nuclear sub while she was
submerged, including allegations by the crew that they would be hesitant to ever serve under the skipper again, according to a
report in a Boston newspaper.
The submarine Tullibee broke its single propeller shaft June 16 while submerged in the Mediterranean Sea. The engine room
flooded and some crew members said they were lucky they made it out alive. The sub is now in drydock in Rota, Spain, for
The Navy, which termed the incident "near catastrophic," is investigating reports that crewmen told the captain, Cmdr. Charles
Arnest, that the shaft was cracking in seven days before it broke, according to the report. Cmdr. Arnest did nothing about the
crew's warnings and omitted any reference to the warnings in his report about the incident, according to allegations by some
crewmen reported by the newspaper.
Crewmembers contacted by the newspaper said the breaking shaft was the latest in a series of alleged incidents they say
make them hesitant to ever serve under Arnest again.
THE NAVY, in a two-page statement, disputes the various incidents but says the shaft breaking and the unheeded warnings are
being investigated by the Navy Judge Advocate General.
According to the crew members interviewed by the newspaper, the engine room crew noticed sand leaking from the shaft's
bearing on June 8, shortly after the Tullibee left Naples, Italy. The shaft is a hollow tube filled with sand, which gives it stability.
The engine room crew assumed the shaft had cracked inside a bearing because sand was leaking through the bearing and
piling up in the bilge.
The crewmen showed the sand to the captain, who said it wasn't coming from the shaft. "His exact words were, 'No, no, that's
just sand from the Naples harbor,' " one crewman said.
The crew said the captain came under immense pressure once the shaft broke on June 16 and the engine room flooded. The
sub couldn't surface immediately because destroyers were manuvering overhead. Arnest ordered the ships away but had to
wait a few minutes. The engine room flooded and the stern dropped about 15 degrees. However, the crew said Arnest kept "a
very cool head."