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USS Flying Fish (SSN-673)

The USS Flying Fish (SSN-673) was a Sturgeon-class, nuclear-powered attack submarine that served the U.S. Navy from 1970 to 1996. She was the third Navy ship to be named for the flying fish, a general name used for a number of tropical and warm-water fishes whose long fins allows them to “fly” through the air for short distances.

Construction

In July 1966, the Navy awarded the contract for the Flying Fish to the Electric Boat Division of General Dynamics Corporation in Groton, Connecticut. Her keel was laid down at the shipyard in June 1967, and she was launched in May 1969, sponsored by Mrs. John W. Harvey. The Flying Fish was commissioned on April 29, 1970 with Commander Donald C. Shelton in command.

Naval History

The USS Flying Fish served the U.S. Navy from 1970 until 1996. During her career, she was honored with the prestigious Marjorie Sterrett Battleship Fund Award for the United States Atlantic Fleet. The Marjorie Sterrett Award is generally awarded to the ship with the highest score in her fleet’s annual Battle Efficiency Awards, meaning she was considered her fleet’s most “battle-ready” ship.

In 1977, the Flying Fish traveled to the Arctic Sea along with a SCICEX (Science Ice Exploration) project, surfacing through the polar ice at the North Pole. In June of 1983, she conducted sea operations in a far different climate off the coast of Florida.

The Flying Fish was decommissioned on May 16, 1996 and was stricken from the Naval Vessel Register the same day. She was scrapped by workers at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton, Washington, as part of the Nuclear-Powered Ship and Submarine Recycling Program. The process was completed just five months later, and on October 15, 1996, the USS Flying Fish ceased to exist.

Asbestos Risk on the USS Flying Fish (SSN-673)

Asbestos, a naturally occurring mineral, was an important element in shipbuilding for much of the 20th century. The mineral’s long, crystalline fibers was used throughout submarines starting in the 1920s – mainly in insulation to protect the mechanical areas of the ship, such as engine and boiler rooms, from fire. However, asbestos could also be found in gaskets, adhesives and fireproof cloth in mess halls, living areas and other parts of the ship.

They didn’t know it at the time, but sailors and shipyard workers who worked aboard the USS Flying Fish and other submarines of its day were frequently exposed to asbestos in the course of their work. Airborne asbestos fibers pose a significant threat to anyone who inhales or swallows them, as they can become lodged in the lining of a person’s lungs or abdomen, making breathing difficult. Years, even decades, later, those tiny particles can lead to devastating and incurable diseases, including mesothelioma cancer.

Mesothelioma can occur in three types. About 70 percent of cases are pleural mesothelioma – the most common form, which occurs in the lining of the lungs, also known as the pleura. Less commonly, the cancer can occur in the lining of the abdominal cavity (peritoneal mesothelioma) or in the lining of the heart (pericardial mesothelioma). Regardless of type, the only known cause for mesothelioma is exposure to asbestos – and unfortunately, no cure has yet been discovered.

Sources

Sources

Wikipedia – USS Flying Fish (SSN-673)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Flying_Fish_%28SSN-673%29

NavSource – USS Flying Fish (SSN-673)
http://www.navsource.org/archives/08/08673.htm

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