Battery Replacement

By Wally Krupenevich, U.S.S. Irex 482 Newsletter, March 2002

It was Jan '53—Irex had returned from a routine overhaul and battery replacement in Portsmouth just before the Holidays. We got underway, and headed south to the Virgin Islands for the very first “Operation Springboard.” I vaguely recall Irex stopping in San Juan on the way down, and the crew gorging itself on fresh pineapple. St. Thomas at the time, although a free port, was an uncrowded, great liberty port.

On the way back to NLon, we hit some rough weather. The new battery cells had not been wedged properly by the Navy Yard, and the rocking and rolling caused some of the cell tops to crack, spill electrolyte, and create grounds. Jim Mudd, EM1(SS), was daring enough to enter the battery wells, and install jumper cables which isolated the bad cells.

When we arrived at the Base, liberty was curtailed until it was decided what to do. There were two options: (1) remain alongside and wait for a 3 week yard availability at EB, or (2) take 8 weeks and do it ourselves, which was the way we went. 24 of the crew were ‘selected’ to do the job, three shifts of eight people. Four or five of the crew were in the well with a senior EM in charge, and three or four were topside with a TM in charge, acting as the rigger. The SuBase assigned civilian crane operators to work with us.

[ battery replacement ] The first task was the removal of the topside walking deck and the “soft patches” over the wells, then removal of parts of the Fwd and After Battery walking decks, and associated “stuff.” There were tracks with a chain fall built into the overhead of the well. The first few cells removed were difficult to get at, but then when the battery well crew were able to stand, it became a bit easier. I was topside rigger from the 1600–2400 shift. When the cell was placed under the hole, I sent the crane hook down and pulled the cell topside, and placed it directly into a wooden crate. It was important that the topside crews tighten the crate around the cell ASAP, because if not, the sides of the cell would “pooch” out and deform. All the old wooden wedges were also removed and discarded as part of the process.

As soon as the last cell was removed, and the well cleaned up, the process was reversed and the cells went back in. Apparently, the well crew did a good job of replacement, and proper wedging because we never had another problem. We saved the government about $80,000. During this entire period, we remained in our usual duty sections, with the only difference being that we did not stand and watches during our assigned shifts.

Those in the above picture, l to r are: Mike Richard SA, Jim Mud EM1, Todd IC3, and Britain ET3.

One bit of trivia about Britain: he rode Irex one day as a school boat while going to Subschool. During a dive, while clearing the bridge, and on the way down through upper conning tower hatch, he caught his ear on a sheet metal screw or something similar, ending up with a nasty tear. It was ironic he was later assigned to Irex.

Sometime after this, the electricians were again involved with a Navy Yard job. A main motor's lower field coil was replaced, with all the pieces removed stowed temporarily in the After Room, and everything going up and down through the After Room hatch.

I don't know the following as fact, but it was related to me by a good friend and former shipmate, who at the time (I think) was on Cutlass. Their ship's company replaced a broken lower crankshaft on a Fairbanks engine in the Fwd Eng Room. The lower flats were cleared, the engine block was tilted inboard and the broken shaft removed. The lower flats of the Aft Eng Room were cleared so the new crankshaft could be brought down through the AER hatch. With a series of chain falls, the crankshaft was worked into the FER and installed. (Boy, if this paragraph doesn't sound like an attempt at one-ups-man-ship, or a sea story.)

Documents index