The Bump: It was twenty years ago today

2013 March 20
by Don Hammack

The date: 3/20/93
The time: 0546Z
The place: The Barents Sea
The event: A little bump between the USS Grayling and a Soviet ballistic missile submarine.


Twenty years ago today, a few of my great friends in life and I nearly became fish food off the northern coast of Russia. Those of us that were there can fill in the blanks in this heavily redacted copy of the investigation report, but then we’d have to kill you. I’m grateful for a strong boat and stronger shipmates who helped get us all back safely.

I had just gotten off watch, and I was waiting in the wardroom for my breakfast before the usual post-watch reconstruction and report writing. It was the day the real eggs ran out on board, so as the plate of fake eggs was put down in front of me there was a loud noise, the ship moved abruptly and the plate of fake eggs slid off the table. The captain cursed and ran out, followed quickly by us. All the submariners on our boat and the Soviets’ boomer made it back to port safely, with what I’m sure were investigations and lengthy shipyard time on both sides. I can vouch for meeting an admiral or two and the early morning shuttle boat rides on the Cooper River (plus an encounter with a deer with driving on the Naval Weapons Stations, or Bump 2.0).

So, I’d like to salute all my shipmates, especially our recently departed friend Christopher Bates, with a little song. I invite you to join along to a song to the tune of an obscure ditty done by The Beatles.

It was twenty years ago today,
Captain Self brought the sub to play
They’d been going in the Barents Sea,
The U.S. representatives of the bourgeoisie.
So may I introduce to you
The sub filled with all these mates,
Captain Self’s Only Bubblehead Band
We’re Captain Self’s Only Bubblehead Band,
We hope you will enjoy the show,
We’re Captain Self’s Only Bubblehead Band,
Sit back and let the course change go.
Captain Self’s only, Captain Self’s only,
Captain Self’s Only Bubblehead Band.
Not so wonderful to be there,
It was certainly no drill.
You’re such a bubbly audience,
We’d like to keep the dome with us,
We’d love to undent the dome.
I don’t really want an emergency blow,
But I thought that you might like to know,
That Chief Singer’s going to cuss real long,
And he wants you all to cuss along.
So let me introduce to you
The one and only Norm Bates!
And Captain Self’s Only Bubblehead Band.

6 Responses leave one →
  1. 2013 March 20

    Hi my names Dinkie Carnley i was the IC Chief on board i just happened to be the C.O.W. At the unfornate time of the bump along with TMC/SS Singer as the dive it says was lost Norm Bates ? What happened he was a good kid while he was onboard i really like him he never caused me any trouble sorry to hear that hes gone. Thanks ICC/SS Dinkie Carnley

  2. 2013 March 20
    Don Hammack permalink

    Chief, Norm was murdered in South Africa in January. He was working in IT for the State Department. There’s a link in the post where you can find more information.

  3. 2013 March 21

    Chief Singer is an animal control officer with charleston county sheriff dept. married, NOT drinking…or cussing anymore. I even think he goes to church… Still looks exactly the same as he did in the Navy. Enjoyed my time as a QM on board… Would have stayed in longer if it wasn’t for the skipper trying to make me do the Caribbean run for 5 months in 04.

  4. 2013 March 21
    Joseph Allen Hilliard permalink

    I came on board early in 95 and a lot of the veterens were still talking about the bump. Both Subs I was attached too were involved in collisions, the Grayling 20 years ago and the Montpelier earlier this year.

  5. 2013 April 26
    Larry Ward permalink

    I had just been relieved as dive by “Stan the Man” had my breakfast and entered the CPO quarters when I felt the bump. I remember the ride back, we all watched Gray Lady Down, how sick was that? I was COB on the KEY WEST and retired after 32 wonderful years in the canoe club.
    Great web site!!

  6. 2013 May 31
    Donald Mook permalink

    I was the “Bull Nuke” and Steve Turko was the COB. That run was set up for something to go wrong, there were only a few of us onboard that had ever made a northern run, so we were destined for trouble due to lack of experience. I was asleep at the time, and got knocked to the deck. Thank God we hit 3 feet higher on his centerline and 3 feet lower on ours, so we glanced up instead of down, or we would be fish food. I gave it up after 28 years, that was my last patrol.

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