I learned something new and horrifying today which is… that… no submarine is ever considered “lost” … there is apparently a tradition in the U.S. Navy that no submarine is ever lost. Those that go to sea and do not return are considered to be “still on patrol.”
There is a monument about this along a canal near here its… the worst thing I have ever seen. it says “STILL ON PATROL” in huge letters and then goes on to specify exactly how many WWII submarine ghosts are STILL OUT THERE, ON PATROL (it is almost 2000 WWII submarine ghosts, ftr). Here is the text from it:
“U.S. Navy Submarines paid heavily for their success in WWII. A total of 374 officers and 3131 men are still on board these 52 U.S. submarines still on patrol.”
THANKS A LOT, U.S. NAVY, FOR HAVING THIS TOTALLY NORMAL AND NOT AT ALL HORRIFYING TRADITION, AND TELLING ALL OF US ABOUT IT. THANKS. THANK YOU
anyway now my mother and I cannot stop saying STILL ON PATROL to each other in ominous tones of voice
There’s definitely something ominous about that—the implication that, one day, they will return from patrol.
Actually, it’s rather sweet. I don’t know if this is common across the board, but my dad’s friend is a radio op for subs launched off the east coast, and he always is excited for Christmas, because they go through the list of SoP subs and hail them, wishing them a merry Christmas and telling them they’re remembered.
Imagine a country whose seamen never die, and whose submarines can’t be destroyed…because no ones sure if they exist or not.
No but imagine. It’s Christmas. A black, rotting corridor in a forgotten submarine. The sound of dripping water echoes coldly through the hull. You can’t see very far down the corridor but then, a man appears, he’s running, in a panic, but his footsteps make no noise. The spectral seaman dashes around the corner and slips through a rusty wall. He finds himself at the back of a crowd of his cadaverous crew-mates. They part to let him through. He feels the weight of their hollow gaze as he reaches the coms station. Even after all these years a sickly green light glistens in the dark. The captain’s skeleton lays a sharp hand on his shoulder and nods at him encouragingly, the light sliding over the bones of his skull. The ghost of the seaman steadies himself and slips his fingers into the dials of the radio, possessing it. It wails and screeches. A bombardment of static. And then silence. The deathly crew mates look at each other with worry, with sadness; could this be the year where there is no voice in the dark? No memory of home? The phantasm of the sailor pushes his hand deeper into the workings of the radio, the signal clears, and then a strong voice, distant with the static but warm and kind, echoes from the darkness; “Merry Christmas boys, we’re all thinking of you here at home, have a good one.”
A sepulchral tear wafts it’s way down the seaman’s face. The bony captain embraces him. The crew grin through rotten jaws, laughing silently in their joy. They haven’t forgotten us. They haven’t forgotten.
I am completely on board with this. It’s not horrifying, it’s heartwarming.
Personal story time: whenever I go to Field Museum’s Egypt exhibit, I stop by the plaque at the entrance to the underground rooms. It has an English translation of a prayer to feed the dead, and a list of all the names they know of the mummies on display there. I always recite the prayer and read aloud the list of names. They wanted to live forever, to always have their souls fed and their names spoken. How would they feel about being behind glass, among strangers? Every little thing you can do to give respect for the dead is warranted.
I love the idea of lost subs still being on patrol. Though if you really want something ominous, let me say that the superstitious part of me wonders: why are they still on patrol? If they haven’t been found, do they not consider their mission completed? What is it out there that they are protecting us from?
There’s been something in the water since we first learned to float on it. Not marine life, although there’s more of that than we’ll ever know. Not rocks and currents and sand bars and icebergs either, although they’ve all taken more than their share of human life.
But something deeper. Something Other. Something not natural.
Sailors have always been superstitious.
Not one of them described it right.
You don’t hear about it so much now that we don’t lose ships anymore, really, not like we did at the height of the sea trade when barely an inch of ocean floor didn’t bear some wreck or other. And better ships and GPS and weather satellites have all played their part in that.
But we have protection now that we didn’t before. They don’t interfere with war and battle, even on behalf of what used to be their country, or with rocks and weather and human stupidity. Those are concerns for the living.
But the Other Things, the Things that shouldn’t be there – They can’t get to us now without a fight. It’s a fight They haven’t won in a very long time.
As long as we remember them, as long as we call out to them – not very often, just once a year will do – they will keep protecting us from the Things that go bump in the deep.
More than fifty submarines, Still On Patrol.
I love everything about this, but it’s the last bit that made me say “okay now I’ll reblog it.”