MIGHTY CULTURE

10 silly terms you'll only hear on submarines

Submarines are a little world of their own. With little more than 100 people aboard and submerged, running silent for months at a time, the crews of these nuclear powered undersea monsters begin to develop an entirely new culture of their own. Even non-submarine sailors can get flummoxed at the vocabulary the silent service sailors are capable of slinging.


1. Freeloading oxygen breather

A person taking a ride on the sub or a submarine sailor who doesn't pull his or her own weight.

2. Angles and dangles

When the sub takes a significant angle while submerging or surfacing, the boat is no longer moving horizontally. As a result, the ship's crew will suddenly be walking uphill or downhill at a significant angle.

3. Emergency blow

This is when the sub has to surface for an emergency. There are even special handles the crew can pull to initiate an emergency blow.

4. Noise

This is what it sounds like, but minimizing noise is the responsibility of every crew member. Most of the time spent aboard a U.S. Navy nuclear sub, the crew is likely trying to go undetected or are somewhere they aren't supposed to be. Slamming the toilet seat down at such a time could be very detrimental to one's health.

5. Ahead flank cavitate

The submariner's version of pulling chocks or popping smoke – also known as let's get out of here as fast as possible. Cavitation (creating bubbles in the ocean caused by the screws that propel the sub) is usually something to be mitigated, but when this order is given, no one cares about cavitation.

6. Baffles

This is where an enemy sub can hide directly behind another while moving without being detected. In The Hunt For Red October, the USS Dallas hides behind Red October by hiding in the baffles.

7. Dolphins

The Submarine Warfare qualification pin worn on Navy uniforms. Sailors without their dolphins are nubs, useless.

8. Mail buoy

This is a fool's errand perpetrated by saltier members of the crew on the newer guys, usually nubs. Similar to a Machinists' Punch. If you're in the Army, this would be like sending a soldier for Grid Squares or in the Air Force, prop wash. Except on a submarine, the new guy has to get in his foul weather gear, harness, and life jackets to go through the main hatch.

9. Portable air sample

This is another way to get at the new guys or the uninitiated submariner. Subs have little devices for testing the radiation in the air, but the sailors will still get nubs to take a trash bag full of air to the ship's command.

10.  Ramen fish and feet

According to submariners, this is what a submarine comes to smell like after just a few weeks.