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By Kay Winnit

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It is a fact of physics that submarines cannot compress water; instead, water compresses a submarine. But engineers had designed Thresher to withstand the pressure, and the crew and civilian technicians continued to check everything to make certain the ship remained watertight. At 9:12 things began to go wrong. At the test depth of 1,000 feet water began pouring into the ship. A pipe fitting had burst in the engine room, and seawater used for cooling the nuclear reactor was spraying everywhere.

The IRON COFFINS, PIGBOATS, AND FBMS major military powers operate attack subs of various types, as well. These vessels operate year-round in the oceans of the world. Still, as technologically advanced as submarines now are, as long as nations continue to build and operate these vessels there will be accidents. All submariners train against such an eventuality and rely on that training to help them to survive if and when an accident occurs. Nuclear submarine disasters add another level of difficulty to the problem: the nuclear fuels and weapons on board consist of some of the deadliest poisons known to man.

In the construction of materials used for military purposes, rigorous specifications must be followed. Because military equipment must function in all types of weather conditions, as well as under enemy fire, construction standards must be high. If, for example, the sleeve of a winter army coat falls apart at the North Pole or a substandard pipe bursts on a navy submarine at 1,000 feet below the ocean, it becomes a matter of life and death. Still, accidents and mistakes happen with submarines because shipyard workers and navy crewmen are human and therefore fallible.

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