The USS Archerfish (SSN-678) was a U.S. Navy attack submarine, a member of the Sturgeon class. It was the second naval vessel named after a type of fish known for its unique way of hunting its prey – by spraying water on them with its mouth.
The Archerfish was ordered in June 1968, and her keel was laid down the following year, in June 1969, at the Electric Boat Division of the General Dynamics Corporation in Groton, Connecticut. She was launched in January 1971, sponsored by Mary Conover Warner, and commissioned in New London, Connecticut – her original home port – in December 1971 under Commander Ralph Gordon Bird.
The Sturgeon-class attack submarine measured 292 feet in length and weighed more than 4,300 tons full. She traveled at a speed of more than 30 knots while submerged and carried a complement of 112, including 14 officers and 98 enlisted men.
The Archerfish served the Navy for more than a quarter-century, from her commissioning in 1971 until 1998. Following her commissioning, she took part in a series of sea trials and tests, and in 1973 she was sent on her first deployment to the Mediterranean Sea. During her time there, she visited Spain and Italy, conducting two special operations. A second deployment in 1974 took her to the North Atlantic, visiting Faslane Naval Base in Scotland. Later that year, she participated in a number of tests for new sonar and naval mine equipment.
The following year, 1975, took the Archerfish to the western Atlantic Ocean, where she was involved with torpedo tests and tactical development exercises. After another deployment to the North Atlantic in 1976, she was moved to Portsmouth, Virginia for an extensive overhaul. Her home port was officially changed to Norfolk, Virginia in 1977.
In the late 1970s, the Archerfish deployed again to the Mediterranean and also went on her first voyage to the Arctic. She traveled more than 9,000 nautical miles on her cruise there, traveling under the polar ice cap and surfacing through it 23 times – including once at the North Pole. After a stay in England and Belgium, she returned in 1979 to New London, which was once again made her home port.
In the 1980s, the Archerfish continued to deploy to the Mediterranean Sea and the North Atlantic, and in 1986 she met up with the USS Hawkbill (SSN-666) and USS Ray (SSN-653) for the first tri-submarine surfacing at the North Pole. The Archerfish continued to take part in local operations until 1987, when she deployed to the Mediterranean once again.
In 1988, the Archerfish took part in under-ice operations at the North Pole before receiving an overhaul in Puget Sound, Washington. She did four more deployments to the Mediterranean between 1992 and 1997, until she was finally decommissioned and struck from the Naval Vessel Register on March 31, 1998. She was scrapped through the U.S. Navy’s Nuclear-Powered Ship and Submarine Recycling Program at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton, Washington. Scrapping was completed in November 1998.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Archerfish (SSN-678)
Today, the word “asbestos” is associated with a serious health threat; the use of the mineral is heavily regulated, and anyone who comes into contact with it is strongly encouraged to wear protective gear. It is hard to believe that just a few decades ago, asbestos was used in a wide number of applications and industries without so much as a second thought – including aboard U.S. Navy ships.
Ironically, asbestos was used aboard these vessels in order to make them safer. Asbestos is comprised of long, crystalline fibers that provide the mineral with exceptional strength and resistance to heat and fire. This made asbestos a popular ingredient in insulation and other products that needed to withstand high temperatures. In submarines, asbestos was used in pipe covering, insulation, gaskets, tape, fireproof cloth and in other places – both in the mechanical areas of the ship and the living quarters.
When these products aged, or when they were torn or repaired, they released fine particle matter into the atmosphere. This resulting dust was extremely dangerous and had the potential to affect anyone who came into contact with it, such as mechanics, sailors, deckhands and shipyard workers; even people who lived downwind of a shipyard may have inhaled this toxic dust. Unfortunately, these individuals are now at risk for debilitating respiratory diseases like mesothelioma cancer and asbestosis.
There is no cure for mesothelioma cancer, but steps can be taken to improve a diagnosed person’s quality of life – and you may also wish to explore your legal rights with an attorney. For information on how to proceed in both these areas, request a mesothelioma information packet today.Sources
Wikipedia – USS Archerfish (SSN-678)
Deployments & History – USS Archerfish (SSN-678)