It seems that the world’s most advanced nuclear submarine ran aground. HMS Astute was launched in August as the first of a new class of high-tech British Navy attack subs designed to be very dangerous and stealthy. According to The Telegraph online, the sub was transferring sailors just off the Isle of Skye when the stern grounded. Instead of powering the sub loose and possibly damaging the special acoustic tiles that make the sub inaudible underwater, the skipper waited for the tide to turn. Astute floated free and was towed back out to sea to resume its sea trials. In the meantime, it was a spectacle to onlookers on the Isle and on the water. According to the Daily Mail online, a tourist boat was even running people out to look at it.
When I lived in Berkeley some years ago, the U. S. aircraft carrier Enterprise ran aground on a sand bar in San Francisco Bay. It was visible from all the high-rises and skyscrapers in the East Bay and San Francisco. Since the incident happened on a weekday, tens of thousands of office workers watched as attempts were made to refloat the carrier. Finally almost the entire 3,000- man crew was ranked on one side of the main deck. Their weight tilted the big ship. With tug boats pushing from the other side, it slid loose. The procedure made for a fabulous page-one picture in the San Francisco Chronicle.
The then-Captain of the Enterprise subsequently got a demotion. In the Navy, it’s disastrous for your career to either run into another vessel or to run aground. The Daily Mail suggests that the skipper of HMS Astute might face a court-martial depending on what the investigation discovers. In any event, the most advanced ships (or planes or computers) in the world are only as smart as the people designing, building and running them on a given day.