The Green Death
The Green Death
Unlike the telephone company, which used the same kind of battery that we used on the submarine, we tossed our battery around a lot. Oh, it was securely attached to the boat, and could not move around any. But we tossed the boat around a lot.
The rolling and pitching of the boat as we ran on the surface sometimes caused the battery to splash a little acid out of the porous ceramic breather caps. This acid tended to create a path for leakage currents to flow, and reduced the insulation resistance, which we referred to as "The Ground". We never wanted the ground reading to fall below 50,000 Ohms. We paid a lot of attention to the ground.
Whenever we were in heavy weather we sent an Electrician's Mate down into the battery wells every couple of hours to wipe up any acid spills he could find. He tended to slide around on the tops of the wet cells as the boat rolled and pitched.
Your favorite job, right?
One battery section of perhaps fifty cells was located below the Control Room. Sometimes a wave washed over the sail, down through the bridge, down through the access trunk, down through the conning tower, and into the control room. For years we thought that the only danger from getting this sea water splashing around in our control room was the hazard to the vacuum tubes in our electronics equipment. Once, however, the Electrician's Mate was in the battery well wiping up spilled acid when a wave came through. Sea water fell through the access hatch to the battery well, where the salt water began to mix with the sulfuric acid.
Dilute solutions of NaCl and H2SO4, when mixed, produce chlorine gas. Immediately. Chlorine gas is poisonous, and quite deadly.
We knew all the drills, of course, and we got everything cleared up in a half an hour, using self-contained breathing equipment. Those of us who got a whiff of chlorine blew our noses for a couple of hours. And we never had to turn in any paperwork on the incident.