In 2013 I visited Kaliningrad, the Russian enclave on the Baltic Sea sandwiched between Poland & Lithuania.
As part of the open air maritime museum, there was the opportunity to scramble inside a decommissioned Foxtrot submarine.
This was a cramped experience up there with the Chu Chi Tunnels in Vietnam and one of the few occasions where together with being a flat race jockey or a limbo dancer, being short was a distinct advantage. It was kramped with a kapital K as the Russians may have said in describing the lack of space.
Small holes to scrabble through, tiny cabins with even tinier berths, narrow corridors to navigate. I wondered how the crew would have been able to scurry along in the case of a red alert – I would have created some bottleneck for sure if I had been aboard during such a drill!
Space was at such a premium that rooms had to be multi functional. The dining room doubled as a surgery, the kitchen & washroom were one and the same room.
I had never seen so many dials & wheels or levers & pulleys in my life. We counted at least eight torpedo chutes too. We imagined ourselves at ‘action stations’, aiming the explosives at an enemy ship. You could feel the drama and rush of adrenalin that must have flowed in such a situation.
One of the chambers contained a memorial to the victims of the Kursk tragedy that claimed the lives of all on board in 2005, suffocated in their undersea tomb. Unsuccessful rescuers could hear those trapped tapping on the sides of the sub, along with their muffled cries for help as they slowly passed-out. A harrowing thought.
This claustrophobic Foxtrot sub housed three hundred submariners at the height of its action. There must have been a frightful lot of ‘after you Claude’s’ or perhaps there was a passageway code of give way to the left?