USS Carp's Mascot

by Mike Hemming
 
 

Avast ye scurvy sailors of the deep. Gather around all ye snipes, deck apes, torpeckermen, and even officers and chiefs alike. Listen close ye bubbleheads from smokeboats and glowboats old and new. I'll spin ye a yarn, old but a true No Shitter.

Ever since Noah built his own ship to get rated as an Ensign, there have been stories of animals at sea. There will be no mention here of unicorns, humpty back camels and such in this story. Pirates had parrots we are told. Many a sailing ship took goats and pigs to sea for food. But that was in times long past, with modern refrigeration, it's no longer done. Now and then, a dog or cat became a mascot on a warship of the skimmer fleet.

Now, submarines would seem a foul and cramped place to have a pet. A few submarines have had a dog, none the less. The Blenny had a small dog, complete with a uniform. The Archerfish even boasts of having a goat. It's true, I have seen the photos. But the goat never went to sea and took the down escalator ride to even periscope depth.

But this story is about something even better, Subron Six's Seagoing Snorkeling Skunk. After seeing the Blenny's seagoing and diving dog, the sailors of the USS Carp decided to have a deep diving test depth-rated mascot too. A big discussion was held in the mess hall of what animal would be fitting to have in a submarine. Many ideas from the sublime to the ridiculous were suggested. All were shot down by the COB, a wise chief, I'm sure. Then one of the more demented bubbleheads suggested a skunk. The COB thinking that we would never find one and in one of the sadly for him weaker moments of his career said,

"Okay."

One of the mess cooks went to a New London radio station to put out a call for a skunk. Thinking it was funny the station put the call for a skunk out on the air. Well the rest is history, as a lady donated a skunk to the crew.

The COB, now realizing he had made a mistake but now was unable to figure a way to back out of his agreement. His only comment was,

"If you SOBs name him after me, the Skipper or the XO, I'll keel haul the lot of you."

The question was put to the Captain, who not realizing 'Skunk' had been descented said,

"What about the smell?"

To which a crewmember happily replied,

"Oh he will get used to it, we all did."

With a combination of mirth and disbelief flitting across his face the Skipper said OK.

After 'Skunk' became accustomed to the boat including the smell, I presume, he was let out of his cage. He made his home in a box under the Taylor Ice Cream machine by the After Battery ladder. He did travel through the boat but did have to be lifted over the sill of the water tight doors to fore and aft. He did stay mostly in the After Battery feeling safe and secure with the other animals that resided there. 'Skunk' gained weight rapidly from being fed by one and all. Like a true boat sailor, he would eat anything he could get into his mouth.

On our return to Pier 22 in Norfolk, all hands on the tender and other subs lined the rails to see 'Skunk'. Weird news travels fast even when the rule is to run silent. Also there to greet us was the Squadron Medical Officer who said 'Skunk' would have to go to a Vet and get all his shots, which was soon done. Nothing was too good for our pet.

One time we had to pull into Charleston N.C. for some repairs to our hydraulic system. A couple of the crew put 'Skunk' in his harness and leash to take him for a walk. His sea legs quickly adjusted to land travel again. However the local police lacking any admiration for a sea going snorkeling skunk brought all 3 back to the boat.

The cops said,

"You will not take a skunk for a walk in this town!".

I don't see what they were riled up about, 'Skunk' was far prettier than 75% of the Charleston bar hogs I saw and even smelled better than some of them.

Another time 'Skunk' was sleeping in the bottom After Battery rack just inside the air tight door when the rightful owner rolled in to sleep. Needless to say there was much commotion in the After Battery for a while.

All the crew didn't love 'Skunk'. The mess cooks especially didn't care for when he missed his litter box under the ice cream machine. Or even when he hit it, as they were the ones that had to clean it out. This was something not normally a job specification on the normal Watch, Quarter and Station Bill for a mess crank.

The thing that cut 'Skunk's' career short as the world's only snorkeling skunk was just that, snorkeling. He couldn't equalize to the pressure changes when the head valve shut. This caused him to go a little berserk and he would run around in circles shaking his little head. This condition would also cause him to nip the ankles of crewmembers if he bumped into them. Sadly, 'Skunk' had to have his sea duty tour cut short. Kind of like an early out or a 'Kiddy Cruise' for skunks. But where should we transfer him too? We couldn't degrade the poor animal by sending him to the skimmers. After all it wasn't his fault he busted his physical. Besides, a Med Cruise was coming up and we didn't want him molested by a Frenchman and having him end up talking like Pepe Le Pew.

While at the Degaussing Station before our cruise started we gave him to the crew of the facility for a tour of shore duty. A fitting end to the story of 'Skunk' and his tour of duty in the United States Submarine Service aboard the USS Carp SS-338.

 

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